January 10, 2014
By Benét J. Wilson
Members of the AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society are funding projects that are helping to keep flying affordable, safe, and accessible. The society was named for World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker’s 94th “Hat in the Ring” Squadron, the first American squadron to fight on the Western Front in World War I.
AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg stressed the importance of pilots taking action by joining the Hat in the Ring Society. “Hat in the Ring Society members have seen how general aviation has been devastated in other countries by massive regulations, taxes, and fees,” said Landsberg. “And they understand that, if accidents continue to plague the headlines, if the pilot population continues to decline, and if community airports close, AOPA will not be able to maintain the strength to prevent a similar collapse here in the United States.”
Hat in the Ring members include actor and GA advocate Harrison Ford, actors Morgan Freeman and Dave Coulier, aviation author Stuart Woods, airshow star Michael Goulian, and celebrity chef Alton Brown. Their contributions, along with the hundreds of other Hat in the Ring Society members, allow the AOPA Foundation to continue its efforts to rebuild general aviation’s pilot ranks and bring flying within reach of more Americans. Efforts to encourage local support for community airports are also funded by members.
Among the many efforts supported by Hat in the Ring Society members are the Flight Training Excellence Awards, the AOPA Flying Club Network, the Air Safety Institute, and the AOPA Foundation’s Giving Back program.
The awards help provide national recognition to the finest flight schools and instructors in the U.S. The winners serve not only as success showcases, but they can help other schools copy the techniques and methods that contribute to student success.
The flying club network is helping to make flying more affordable as members share costs and camaraderie. The network helps existing flying clubs grow stronger and in areas where clubs don’t exist and works with local pilots to launch new flying clubs from the ground up, providing practical, financial, and legal help to start from scratch.
The Air Safety Institute, part of the AOPA Foundation, serves all pilots—not just AOPA members—by providing free or low-cost education programs to pilots and flight instructors nationwide, analyzing safety data, and conducting safety research. It offers quality training, education, research, and analysis, along with dissemination information that helps all pilots.
The Giving Back program allows the AOPA Foundation to provide modest but vital financial support to worthy charitable flying organizations. These funds can help them grow their programs and provide pilots with rewarding flying opportunities by helping others in need.
Hat in the Ring Society members are taking on general aviation’s most difficult, long-term problems by making an annual donation of $1,000. These pilots have come together because they believe that GA is a cause worth fighting for and a national treasure that must be protected.
AOPA membership dues alone are not enough to take on the challenges facing general aviation today. For more information on how to join the society and take a leadership role in fighting for GA’s future, click here or contact Hat in the Ring Society membership liaison Justin Biassou at 301/695-2268 or Justin.Biassou@aopa.org.
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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