President's Position: New dues, new choices

Creating the future we all want

June 4, 2014

mark baker

I arrived at AOPA less than a year ago with a lifelong passion for aviation and a vision of sharing that passion, not only with pilots like myself, but with countless others who may not even know that flying is within their reach.

Right now, we are working to create an environment where many more people can share in the experience of general aviation, where we can reverse the rising cost of flying, and where all of us can fly more often and much later in life than we ever imagined. With you, we are working to create a general aviation community that is stronger and more vibrant than ever before. We can achieve that by fighting hard to protect our freedoms, by opening the hangar doors to anyone who wants to experience aviation, and by removing the barriers that prevent people from starting or continuing to fly.

To create the future we want, we have to start by managing the present. When I came on board as AOPA president, I promised to make aligning resources and expenditures a top priority. And that’s what I’ve done, listening to you and focusing our energy on the programs and goals that matter most.

To ensure that our focus is where it belongs—on your priorities—we’ve made many changes inside your association, from increasing our advocacy efforts to cutting costs. Through that process, I reached the difficult decision to raise AOPA’s dues for just the second time in 24 years. Beginning September 1, a basic AOPA membership will be $59 a year. Let me share with you how and why we decided to take this step.

I believe strongly that you must have your own house in order before you ask others to contribute more. So we started by cutting costs—bringing this year’s operating budget lower than it’s been since 2006. As part of that cost-cutting effort, we eliminated four executive positions, sold the Cessna Caravan, reduced mailings to save on postage, and made sure we’re making smart and efficient use of AOPA aircraft.

Aligning our resources with your priorities also means we’re more heavily, and successfully, engaged in advocacy than ever before. We’ve stood up to federal agencies such as Customs and Border Protection to make sure the rights of law-abiding pilots are respected. We’ve worked closely with regulatory agencies to prevent rules that are unreasonably expensive or restrictive. And we’ve worked with friends in Congress to stop user fees, promote legislation that supports general aviation, and get long-overdue action on medical reform.

This type of expert advocacy—and everything we do to serve our members—comes at a cost. Typically, member dues account for some 30 percent of our operating budget. Other revenue streams, such as advertising and sponsorships, pay the rest. Difficult economic times have hurt every industry, and GA is no exception. We appreciate that so many companies continue to spend their advertising dollars in AOPA publications, but we can’t ignore the fact that overall spending has decreased, reducing an important revenue stream. The credit industry also has changed, decreasing returns from the AOPA credit card. And the cost of doing business in America is going up. Technology to run the websites and postage to mail the magazines have risen in recent years.

We have long avoided passing these costs on to our members, but despite refocusing our resources and cutting our spending, we’ve reached the conclusion that we need to raise dues. Before deciding to take this step, we got input from more than 2,000 members like you. They told us how much they believe in what AOPA does. They also told us they want choices that reflect the way they fly. So we’ve added new membership options that offer bundled pricing and let you pay only for the services you need. The cost of these options varies from $49 for an e-Membership to $179 for a Premium Plus membership, which includes Pilot Protection Services Plus at a discount. We have discounted lifetime memberships that provide excellent value, are a great way to show your commitment to GA, and let you enjoy member benefits without ever paying dues again.

I don’t have space here to answer every question that may come up, so if I haven’t answered yours, please check out our FAQ online (www.aopa.org/membership) for more details. I know some of you also will have comments and ideas, and I want to hear from you. Contact us via email (dues@aopa.org) and share your thoughts. While I can’t promise to respond to every comment, I can assure you that we’ll read every message we receive.

All of us at AOPA share your passion for aviation. We are committed to strengthening GA, growing our community, and protecting our uniquely American freedom to fly. We pledge to be good stewards of your dues dollars, and we appreciate the trust you place in us. Thank you for your membership and your commitment to a strong future for general aviation.

AOPA President Mark Baker is an active general aviation pilot who has more than more than 7,500 flight hours logged in 35 years of flying.

Email mark@aopa.org