Airplane capital launches Fuller's intro to industry
AOPA President Craig Fuller kicked off his General Aviation Leaders tour in the city often called ”the airplane capital of the world,“ Wichita, Kan. The weeklong sweep of the Midwest will have Fuller meeting with industry leaders to brief them on AOPA’s 2009 initiatives and to hear their concerns and challenges to better understand opportunities for collaboration in supporting GA during difficult economic times but to also position GA to soar longer term as the economy turns around. Fuller’s meetings with pilots and industry leaders will continue throughout the coming year in various regions.
First stop in Wichita was the AOPA Insurance Agency where Fuller shared with the 34 AOPA employees some of the groundwork already laid by the Frederick, Md., headquarters staff to support the growth of general aviation. From the establishment of the AOPA Foundation to launch of the Let’s Go Flying initiative, AOPA is working nonstop to support GA.
”We’re building alliances and working on major issues to assure the future of general aviation,“ he told the employees.
Founded by AOPA 15 years ago, the agency has grown to be the largest in providing insurance to business and pleasure pilots. Revenue from the firm helps AOPA pay for the many services the association provides, including its renowned advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., and work protecting local airports. The employee lunch was Fuller’s first visit to the agency since he became AOPA president on Jan. 1.
The American Bonanza Society, one of the most respected aircraft type clubs, is located nearly across the street from the AOPA Insurance Agency on Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport. There, Fuller met with ABS Executive Director Nancy Johnson, Manager of Technical Services Thomas P. Turner, and the rest of the staff. Keith Kohout, board member and treasurer, was there strategizing with ABS staff on future projects. The organization’s 10,000 members own some 85 percent of the airworthy Beechcraft Bonanzas and Barons. Fuller and the ABS staff plan to continue discussions on ways the two organizations can collaborate on such important issues as aging aircraft and increasing the pilot population.
Later in the day, Fuller met with Molly McMillin, senior aviation/aerospace reporter for The Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com. The Eagle is one of the few daily newspapers with a fulltime aviation reporter. In a wide-ranging interview, Fuller noted that chief among AOPA’s initiatives is the education of ”influencers“ about the importance of GA.
”General aviation is vulnerable because influencers don’t understand it,“ he said. If members of Congress, state legislators, mayors, and economic development officials, among others, understand the utility and versatility of GA, we can begin to change the public’s perception, he said.
The day closed with Fuller’s in-depth meeting with Cessna CEO Jack Pelton and Bob Stangarone, vice president of communications. AOPA and Cessna have a long history of working together, going back to the early 1990s when the two organizations collaborated on solving the product liability crisis that was crippling GA.
The leaders strategized ways that the two organizations can work together to assure that an FAA reauthorization bill passes soon—and without user fees. They also discussed ways to collaborate on other major initiatives that will face GA in the coming year.
On Jan. 28, Fuller addressed the Wichita Aero Club at only its second gathering after being formed last fall. More than 200 industry leaders attended the event.
January 28, 2009