Those who fear change must have hated 1992. It seemed that with every turn of the calendar page last year, there was a change in the political winds — changes that meant new challenges but also new opportunities for general aviation.
America called for a clean slate and got it by voting in a new President and the greatest number of new members of Congress in decades. And while Presidential candidates came and went, and one came back again, your AOPA staff was there, communicating with the campaign staffs, letting the candidates know the role general aviation plays in the nation.
Of course, many of them already knew that as general aviation airplanes whisked them from stop to stop on the campaign trail — frequently, at smaller cities, the airport itself becoming the stump.
As the dust settled on the November elections, AOPA's Washington, D.C., staff began the long task of educating the winners about general aviation, identifying the likely leaders of tomorrow, and trying to determine who the next secretary of transportation and administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration might be.
While the campaigns commanded the nation's attention, the economy struggled on, unfortunately taking a big toll on aviation. Airlines — even traditionally strong carriers — reported record losses quarter after quarter. Military aviation programs were slashed. General aviation aircraft production hit record lows since World War II. The number of pilot starts continued its slow decline. The pilot population slid downward once again.
Yet despite the glum aviation universe, your association had a record year, and I don't mean a record bad year. We ended 1992 with 303,756 members, a record. Or at least, it *was* a record, until January 1, 1993. You see, the membership keeps right on growing, and we ended the first quarter of this year with 306,733 members. Financially, 1992 was just as strong for AOPA. We ended the year with a $940,000 surplus. Some of that was tucked away for the proverbial rainy day, but most went right back to work for each of you, the members, in the form of benefits and services.
The growing membership is important to AOPA for a number of reasons. The most obvious one has to do with political clout. With a membership that represents some 50 percent of all pilots, AOPA gets results when it calls on a member of Congress or a federal agency. Likewise, advertisers in _AOPA Pilot_ know that their messages reach a very defined readership of aircraft owners and pilots. And companies selected to participate in AOPA's Partner Services programs, which generate a substantial percentage of the association's revenues yet cost no dues money, are willing to pay a premium for access to such a large audience.
On the other hand, a larger membership means ever larger demands on the association staff. To meet the requirements, we have not increased staff size, but we have learned to work smarter, all the while delivering better service, we believe. If you disagree, I'd like to hear about it.
And the better we get at handling member requests, the more often you call on us. In 1992, the Membership Services Division alone took more than 271,000 requests for assistance and information, a 27-percent increase over 1991. Some days, the specialists handle more than 200 calls per person per day. To better serve your frequent needs, the staff introduced several new information booklets and revised some existing publications such as the aircraft purchasers kit, the co-ownership information packet, and the booklets on U.S. Customs and renters insurance.
The flight operations department provided information and assistance on domestic and international flights to more than 35,000 callers. To improve communications between U.S. and Mexican pilots and to make it easier for pilots to fly from one country to the other, the staff met with the FAA, U.S. Customs Service, and Mexican aviation officials. Meanwhile, the medical certification department took more than 20,000 of your calls and answered questions on everything from how a pilot reapplies for a medical after a heart attack to how to answer the questions on a medical certificate application.
While the membership services personnel handle many of your needs on a one-to-one basis, AOPA's Government and Technical Affairs Division looks out for you, the aircraft owner and pilot, on a broader scale. The G&TA and legal staffs worked together on one of the association's biggest challenges of 1992 — convincing Congress that the FAA's Civil Penalties Assessment Demonstration Program was a failure. We set out to show that a system where the FAA acts as judge and jury when prosecuting a pilot for a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations is blatantly unfair and unjust. Under the demonstration program, which expired July 31, 1992, the FAA could charge a pilot with a violation of the FARs. The pilot could appeal but only to the Department of Transportation, the FAA's boss, and ultimately, the case went right back to the FAA administrator himself — hardly an impartial ear. The FAA wanted to continue the system once the demonstration program was over.
We proposed that appeals instead be heard by the impartial National Transportation Safety Board, and armed with evidence, we lobbied Congress for the change. I'm pleased to report that on August 26, President Bush signed the new FAA Civil Penalty Administration Assessment Act of 1992, which transfers adjudication of pilot civil penalty cases to the NTSB. Pilots now have an objective panel to hear their appeals.
Another big victory for AOPA in 1992 was the repeal of the proposed rule that would have required recreational pilots and private pilots with fewer than 400 hours and no instrument rating to have an annual flight review. Just as onerous was a proposal to require pilots to have a flight review in every category of aircraft they fly, which would have drastically raised the cost of a biennial flight review for pilots rated in several categories of aircraft such as floatplanes and multiengine aircraft. AOPA convinced the FAA that accident statistics did not support a need for an annual flight review for low-time pilots. In addition, we were successful in our argument that pilots are concerned enough about safety to fly only aircraft in which they are current.
Of course, there were hundreds of issues last year, as there are every year. Day in and day out, your staff is busy addressing issues not only at the federal level, but also at the state and local level. Increasingly, we are finding that local pilot groups, organized and supported by AOPA, can very effectively address issues in their own backyards. An important goal of ours is to cull these groups, and our most valuable asset there is our team of respected regional representatives. These 11 dedicated and experienced representatives around the country coordinate with the headquarters' staff and local pilot organizations to head off onerous legislation in the states and urge governments and agencies at all levels to support general aviation. We even do natural disasters. When Hurricane Andrew wiped a clean streak across two of south Florida's busiest general aviation airports, AOPA's Florida Regional Representative John Reid was on the scene, helping AOPA members deal with their losses and protect their property.
As you can read each month in the "AOPA Direct" section of AOPA Pilot, the reps and the headquarters' staff work diligently on a wide spectrum of issues from state fuel taxes and registration fees to product liability, the luxury tax, airworthiness directives (ADs), and changing aircraft certification regulations.
These and myriad other projects and issues demand constant attention and a heavy demand on employee time. Like those in other businesses, the AOPA staff knows that in the competitive 1990s, we can no longer afford the luxury of lots of extra personnel and overhead. We're facing the realities of the 1990s just like any other business.
To handle the bigger work load, we've equipped every staff member with the tools — both educational and physical — to do a better, more efficient job. In 1992, we developed a plan to do away with the headquarters' outdated mainframe computer system and replace it with a sophisticated, efficient, and easy-to-maintain personal-computer-based network. Once this "smartsizing" program is complete, the staff will be able to respond better to any question you might have about your membership.
To answer your technical questions and to better represent you, members of the staff are constantly attending classes and seminars. For example, in 1992, some of the Membership Services staff attended courses on FAA enforcement procedures, aviation maintenance, and insurance. In some cases, the AOPA staff attends courses at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, right alongside the FAA's own staff.
And as we do everything we can to serve the membership in the most efficient way, some members have helped us out, too. About 12,000 of you have taken advantage our auto-renew program. Just check off the box on your next renewal statement and provide your credit-card number, and your membership will be billed to your credit card each year without us having to send out renewal forms. It saves us time and money and helps keep the clutter out of your mailbox.
With your continued support, we can keep providing the level of service you have come to expect. If you like what AOPA is doing and the way we're doing it, tell a pilot who's not a member and convince him or her to sign up. We need each and every pilot. If you don't like what we're up to, tell us. Write us, fax us, call us toll-free at 800/USA-AOPA, send me or any staffer a message on AOPA Online, or tell me personally when I'm out and about. We're always conducting surveys and focus groups to learn what you're thinking, but nothing beats personal communication.
Finally, I'm pleased to report that throughout a tumultuous 1992, your association maintained its position of strong leadership. So far, 1993 is turning out to be just as challenging, but as in years past, AOPA is changing to meet the needs of its members while still remembering the goal set by the founders 53 years ago of making flying safer and more affordable.
Recognizing that general aviation pilots travel more than the general public, AOPA in 1992 teamed up with McDonnell Douglas Travel Company to form the AOPA Travelers Club and to offer members, their families, and friends the guaranteed lowest fares on commercial airlines. In addition, the club provides a full range of other travel services, including hotel discounts up to 40 percent and other special benefits and savings. For example, one major airline currently is offering discounts of up to 50 percent on companion tickets. Unlike some other travel clubs, enrollment in the AOPA Travelers Club is free to AOPA members by calling 800/888- AOPA. Most important, part of the club revenues return to AOPA, yet members are still guaranteed the lowest airline prices. This and the other Partner Services allow AOPA to continually improve its services without increasing member dues. With the AOPA Travelers Club, members can support general aviation even when they are flying commercially.
One of AOPA's biggest member-service projects of 1992 was the launch of AOPA Online. After nearly a year of planning, the electronic information service was introduced at AOPA Expo '92 in Las Vegas. This sophisticated information resource came about because AOPA recognizes the importance and acceptance of electronic communication. Surveys show that nearly 75 percent of members use PCs. A PC and a modem is all that is needed to tap into the vast AOPA Online information database. Members are free to exchange messages with each other or with the AOPA staff — privately or publicly. The system also contains extensive data libraries, such as the complete FARs, ADs, advisory circulars, recent articles from AOPA Pilot, and a wide variety of aviation reference lists and materials — all searchable and available for viewing online or for downloading anytime of the day or night. An extensive list of subject-specific message areas provides opportunities for an exchange of information and views from and between members of all interests. The AOPA PC Access software, developed by Jeppesen DataPlan and available through AOPA (telephone 800/462-2672), speeds message retrieval and file manipulation, reducing connect time and cost.
AOPA Expo '92 in Las Vegas last October was the most successful in the history of the event. A record 5,700 members and guests attended the three-day affair. The exhibit hall featured the most booths ever — 238 — and the aircraft display in the hotel parking lot sported a record 44 aircraft. The highlight of the event was the "Parade of Planes" when all of the display aircraft were taxied from McCarran International Airport down Las Vegas streets to the hotel. Attendees and exhibitors rated the Expo highly in surveys, and many have pledged to visit AOPA Expo '93, scheduled for November 3 through 6 at the Dolphin Hotel in Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
While AOPA uses lots of methods to communicate with members, one of the most important is the old-fashioned way — face to face. In 1992, there was no shortage of that. AOPA representatives spoke to a collective audience of nearly 30,000 at 205 engagements in 39 states and three foreign countries. AOPA President Phil Boyer personally appeared at 41 engagements. Many of these events are coordinated by AOPA's Communications Division, a dedicated group of professionals who have dramatically increased AOPA's presence in the media. Thanks to their hard work, AOPA has become a major and accepted source of news on general aviation. In 1992, AOPA forged a new relationship with the Aviation/Space Writers Association, and at the Radio-TV News Directors Association annual convention, the staff had a booth and conducted demonstration flights for media representatives. One result was a national story on AOPA's famous Pinch-Hitter Course by the Associated Press. That story snowballed into a feature in Esquire and a spot on CBS Radio's The Osgood Files. Another big project for the Communications Division in 1992 was the launch of the new AOPA Title and Escrow Newsletter for aircraft dealers and brokers interested in AOPA's growing title and escrow services. The Fly-A-Teacher and APPLE (America's Pilots Participating in Local Education) programs reached 1,000 educators and 6,000 students in 1992. In addition, AOPA's "A Teacher's Guide to Aviation" was distributed to 20,000 educators as a classroom teaching aid.
The first AOPA Fly-in, in 1991, was planned as a small gathering — a Saturday where members could fly to the association's headquarters at the Frederick (Maryland) Municipal Airport, tour the building, and meet the staff. It was a success by every measure. But the second annual AOPA Fly- in last June was a huge hit. More than 1,500 attendees flew some 300 aircraft to the day-long affair, which included product demonstrations, new aircraft displays, contests, and seminars. This year, the third annual AOPA Fly-in is scheduled for June 12.
One of the association's most promising sources of new revenue and one of the most important new services for members is AOPA Insurance Agency, Inc. First announced at Expo '92, the new venture between AOPA and Rollins, Hudig, and Hall of Kansas will offer aircraft hull and liability insurance policies for Standard-category aircraft up through light twins. As experience is gained, additional categories may be added later. The goal of this "AOPA Protection Program" is to offer members the very best in aircraft insurance; a policy that lives up to the AOPA standard of excellence. In developing the program, AOPA listened to its members, selected established aviation insurance underwriters, and jointly developed a comprehensive coverage plan that is provided by outstanding aircraft insurance companies. Look for more on the project this summer as the new company begins writing policies in some states.
As it did in 1991, AOPA Pilot once again bucked the general magazine advertising trend in 1992. While most magazines struggled to maintain advertising levels, Pilot last year set new records in advertising revenues and in total pages published, and that despite the stagnant general aviation market. Recognized as the leading general aviation publication in the world, Pilot was the only magazine invited to cover the world's first around-the-world air race, organized by the French group, Arc en Ciel. Also in 1992, the magazine launched "New Pilot," a special section in about six issues per year dedicated to covering subjects especially important to student pilots and those who have recently earned their pilot certificates. In reality, the sections have become popular with pilots of all levels, particularly flight instructors. The goal of "New Pilot" is to present good, practical information and flying tips from experienced pilots — the sort of advice not available from textbooks. "New Pilot" is an important part of the aviation industry's attempts to spark interest in flight training. Another project of the Publications Division in 1992 was development of the 1993 edition of AOPA's Aviation USA, which was mailed earlier this year. The new publication is the most complete single guide to aviation ever and includes an airport directory, price guides to aircraft and avionics, and the "Pilot's Source Book," which, among other useful information, contains selected portions of the FARs.
For several years, AOPA has advocated the funding and development of satellite navigation, recognizing that the falling cost of Global Positioning System receivers and the savings from not having to maintain expensive ground transmitters — VORs and NDBs, for example — will ultimately make flying cheaper, safer, and easier. In 1992, AOPA put its money where its mouth is, so to speak, and offered its Beech A36 Bonanza, already equipped with a GPS receiver, and a dozen staff members who are instrument-rated pilots for a series of FAA tests of GPS approaches. Last summer, Phil Boyer and FAA Administrator Thomas C. Richards signed the agreement, and the ball was rolling. The FAA equipped the Bonanza with some test gear at its technical center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The AOPA staff pilots, with FAA observers on board, then flew nearly 100 test nonprecision approaches to the Atlantic City International Airport. The results were impressive, and AOPA is encouraged that the FAA is proceeding full speed ahead to publish at least some GPS approaches this year.
In most things aeronautical, there are evolutionary changes. Just as aircraft designs adapt to the times, so do organizations. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is evolving, sharply focusing more on the three key areas of our mission statement: education, research, and training.
The methods for accomplishing this are changing as rapidly as the marketplace and the technology. Effective communication, always a challenge, has been a particular goal of the foundation. The ASF worked to ensure that our message of safe flying was communicated in 1992. Throughout the year, our emphasis was on providing pilots with pertinent aviation safety information, and news of new and continuing ASF programs.
The business side of the foundation was in good health last year. The ASF is a nonprofit, charitable organization, but only a small portion of our funding comes from AOPA membership dues. In 1992, $309,858 — less than 10 percent of our budget — came from member dues, so the ASF looks in many areas to raise the needed funds to perform our public service programs.
Grants of $310,853 were raised from the aviation industry and other foundations in 1992. Much of this was used to defray the cost of sponsoring safety seminars and research projects. Through direct mail and telephone solicitation, we raised $1,335,339 from 38,329 individual donors. Thanks to your generosity, this was more than $100,000 above our goal and enabled us to invest in some of the new initiatives you'll be hearing about in the coming months.
The annual ASF Benefit Auction, conducted each year in conjunction with the AOPA Expo, was the largest yet, yielding more than $33,000. The auction items donated by industry sponsors ranged from trips and avionics equipment to simulator training and aviation art. The companies that support us in this way are dedicated to the dissemination of safety information.
One special group that deserves an honorable mention is the Hat- in-the-Ring Society. This group was founded in 1991 to provide leadership in aviation safety, and each member donated at least $1,000 to show their commitment. We are pleased to report that since its inception, the society has more than doubled in size, to 94 members.
Also, 1992 was the first year for a new Christmas-card program for the ASF. Aviation-oriented and traditional cards were offered. The resulting $50,000 in royalties was used to fund safety education programs.
Through donor generosity and careful control of expenses, the foundation was able to make some investments in improved programs and a contribution to its endowment fund. This is much like a savings account, and it is essential for any nonprofit organization to fund such an account on a regular basis to ensure long-term program development and to plan for contingencies.
Some of our biggest assets do not show up on the balance sheet. Much of the ASF's success in 1992 must be credited to the hard work and dedication of the headquarters' staff and our field instruction team. They were the backbone of one of the leading general aviation safety efforts in the country. And thanks very definitely go to our individual, corporate, and institutional sponsors who provided the financial backing to make it all happen.
With communicating safety information to pilots one of the biggest goals of 1992, the ASF introduced a series of videotapes — "Single Pilot IFR," "Airspace Reclassification," and "The Flight Review." The Federal Aviation Administration, recognizing the importance of videos in disseminating such information, placed an order for 400 copies of the joint FAA/ASF project, known as trigger tapes. This concept, pioneered by the ASF, shows a short video scenario of pilots getting into potential accident situations. The videos are screened at pilot safety seminars. The outcome of the developing accident situation depicted on the tape is unknown, and it is up to the audience to supply the ending and discuss why the pilot got into difficulty in the first place. As anyone who has attended the seminars knows, this concept sure beats hearing a lecture. Videos are an effective way to present safety information, but print has its place, too. Along those lines, we introduced a series of pamphlets to help pilots learn about changes in the airspace system and in high-risk operations. The titles include: Airspace Reclassification, Coping with Fog, and Flying Light Twin-Engine Aircraft.
Flight instructors are one of ASF's most important target audiences. The foundation provided more than 60,000 CFIs with complimentary copies of the Flight Instructor Safety Report, a quarterly publication on topics ranging from weight-and-balance review and aerodynamics to common accidents during instruction flights. Perhaps the most visible foundation programs for CFIs are the renowned Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics. More than 80 courses were conducted across the country last year. New curriculum units included information on airspace, FAA compliance and enforcement procedures, analyses of aircraft performance, FAA practical test standards, and why pilots have difficulty on check rides. In addition, the Flight Instructor's Handbook was completely revised. But we did not just concentrate on educating flight instructors. We conducted many safety seminars for all pilots. Many pilots confuse ASF seminars with the FAA's Accident Prevention Program. While we are the largest industry supporter of that excellent effort, the programs that the ASF runs are developed by the foundation. The ASF instructors' costs and transportation are funded by industry grants and donations. The FAA helps us in arranging the meeting space and getting the word out to pilots. Last year, some 25,000 pilots participated in more than 160 public service programs, ranging from Alaska to Montana to Tampa. ASF has a tradition of providing flight training programs, and while these efforts have been curtailed from previous years, several clinics were held in 1992. The Pinch-Hitter Course, where flying companions learn that flying isn't so mystical or frightening after all, received new emphasis. The curriculum was revamped with new visual aids, and considerable effort was put into writing a new manual, which became available early in 1993.
One of the foundation's unique capabilities is to quickly and cost effectively study accident causes. Through the Emil Buehler Center for Aviation Safety, the ASF has the largest non-government general aviation accident database in the world. With more than 19,000 accidents dating back to 1982 indexed, we are able to direct pilots, flight instructors, and the government toward the real causes of serious accidents. The annual Joseph T. Nall Report, dedicated to the late National Transportation Safety Board member and general aviation enthusiast, provided us with an early look at 1991 accidents using a preliminary accident database with information supplied by our friends at the FAA and NTSB. The message was clear. Certain flight operations are very high-risk, and they don't get safer with the passage of time. The pilots at greatest risk are those who haven't studied the history of those who have gone before.
Two new uses of the ASF's accident database emerged in 1992. First, a safety review of the Cessna P210 was completed. This was a prototype study looking at a specific aircraft and how pilots who fly it get into trouble. Additionally, accident reviews of threatened general aviation airports were performed for several locations to inject reality into discussions about the perceived hazard of flight operations to the general public. Safety should not be a political tool, yet the reality is that some groups will use dubious means to achieve their desired ends. Our approach has been to look at the facts as shown by actual accident histories and provide them to the interested parties.