AOPA members heard updates on a variety of association programs and initiatives during this morning’s “Team AOPA” general session at AOPA Expo. A new weekly e-mail newsletter, AOPA ePilot, will include industry news, AOPA activities, and information on upcoming events. It will debut the week after Expo and be e-mailed to members early every Friday morning.
The association also unveiled a new trial membership program for student pilots. Student pilots will receive free six-month subscriptions to AOPA Flight Training magazine, as well as access to the AOPA Web site and toll-free Pilot Information Center. How does this benefit student pilots? “Statistically, student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their certificates,” explained Karen Detert, AOPA’s senior vice president for membership marketing. After they earn a pilot certificate, trial members can upgrade to a full AOPA membership. And any AOPA member can subscribe to AOPA Flight Training for the discounted rate of $18 per year.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation launched its Project V educational effort. “The ‘V’ is for video,” said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. “If they won’t come to seminars, we’ll bring seminars to them.” Free videotapes will soon be sent to 15,000 new private pilots and 15,000 with recent instrument ratings. ASF also announced a new Life Associate Program that includes a lifetime membership to AOPA.
AOPA President Phil Boyer commented on the anti-GA fervor that followed John F. Kennedy Jr.’s fatal aircraft accident. “It was all caused by a media feeding frenzy” involving sensationalism and second-guessing, he explained before describing AOPA’s media efforts and congressional testimony on its members’ behalf. Boyer entertained the audience with a videotape showing Dan Rather’s mispronounciations of the name of Drew Steketee, AOPA senior vice president for communications, during early television coverage of the accident.
The preservation of airports is a key concern of AOPA members, second only to user fees. The AOPA Airport Support Network, established late last year to help protect GA airports and access to them, has already seen many success stories. At the end of September, ASN had enrolled 703 volunteers—well on its way to a 1999 goal of 1,100.
Congressional debate surrounding efforts to take the aviation trust fund off-budget was characterized as a “turf battle” by Bill Deere, executive director of AOPA legislative affairs. He credited member support for the Senate’s recent reversal of its 1998 vote against the “Hoover bill” and asked for help in AOPA’s trust fund efforts. Deere asked members to call their senators on Monday morning—by calling the Senate switchboard at 202/224-3121 or obtaining the direct telephone number from AOPA Online—and ask them to support the “unlocking” of the aviation trust fund in the AIR-21 legislation.
AOPA is a founder and strong supporter of the industry’s Be A Pilot program to increase student pilot starts, and Boyer said that the effort was on track to generate 70,000 new student pilots this year. “And for the first time in many years, the active pilot population has grown” by a small—but very significant—0.3 percent, he said.
Boyer also mentioned AOPA’s involvement with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000 software package. “It’s been estimated that 25 to 30 percent of [ Flight Sim users] are interested in learning how to fly—we just have to get to them,” he said. The Microsoft Flight Sim 2000 booth saw heavy traffic in the exhibit hall. Microsoft’s built-in help function and software manual direct to AOPA those flight simulator customers with an interest in learning to fly, and an increasing number of flight instructors are using the program to introduce and reinforce certain piloting concepts.
It was announced that AOPA membership dues will remain at $39 next year, the eleventh consecutive year without an increase. Member support of AOPA’s Certified products and services provides the association with additional revenue that helps to keep dues low. In 1998, 34 percent of AOPA’s revenue came from member support of those products and services—without that income, membership dues would have to be $70 per year to provide all current services. The products and services are intended to provide good value to members who choose to use them, as well—for example, in two years the FBO Rebate Program, part of the AOPA Credit Card Program through MBNA America Bank, has returned $2 million in rebates to AOPA members.
October 23, 1999