Nearly two years ago, AOPA created a new regional program to help bring the association’s resources in all things aviation out of Washington D.C. and directly into the regions where our members live and fly. Since then, the seven regional managers—including me, have attended more than 125 events that AOPA otherwise would not have been able to attend. This included events like aviation conferences, airshows, fly-in breakfasts, airport open houses, and other AOPA-sponsored local events.
While the program allows AOPA to have a presence at many events, most of what the regional managers and the Airports and State Advocacy team does is interact with state and local lawmakers to ensure general aviation pilots and aircraft owners are represented in statehouses and city halls across the country. During the last two years, this increased interaction on the state and local level has saved AOPA members more than $100 million across the country—including the enactment of legislation providing industry stimulating sales tax exemptions, quashing registration fee increases, and reducing fuel tax burdens.
Of particular note recently for the great lakes region was AOPA’s successful effort in Indiana to lower the state’s aviation fuel tax rates, which were the highest in the country, by $0.50 a gallon. By using flying clubs as an example, AOPA was able to demonstrate how the increased savings would result in lower flight costs, leading to more flying, and greater economic development. You will hear more about this and how flying clubs were part of the discussion in an upcoming issue. AOPA also is active in discussions to adjust Michigan's fuel tax rate to ensure a viable long-term aviation industry.
As a member of a flying club, I can speak from personal experience about flying clubs and their importance to our advocacy efforts across the country. As we know, flying clubs are central to attracting and retaining a strong pilot population and act as a critical linkage to keep the businesses that rely on general aviation travel fully stocked with pilots. I use my first hand knowledge as a flying club member to illustrate this point to state and local officials across the Great Lakes region.
As the Great Lakes Regional Manager, I am frequently asked during my travels to local aviation events and statehouses, “How did you get here?” With a smile on my face, I’m usually able to show a picture of or point right to my flying club’s Piper Archer or Cessna 172—which, of course, leads to questions about learning to fly from non-pilots or a session of hangar flying from pilots. Being a member of the M.A.N.G. Flying Club not only gives me the ability to affordability take club plane on an overnight trip, but also has given me an opportunity to better understand aircraft ownership and maintenance issues I had not been exposed when I was renting aircraft from an FBO. I can easily say my job would be nearly impossible without my flying club, it’s great members, great camaraderie, and the flexibility it offers me as I travel across the region.
To learn more about your regional manager or to get help on a local issue, go to AOPA’s Airports and State Advocacy Page.