While AOPA efforts to restore general aviation after the September 11 attacks have dominated discussion at AOPA Expo this week, the association has been busy on many other fronts throughout the year. President Phil Boyer and a team of AOPA senior managers used this morning's Team AOPA general session to bring members up to speed on important initiatives and new benefits. "These are the real people that get the work done," said Boyer.
Boyer stressed the vitality of the association, noting a new membership record of nearly 380,000 members hit last month. With dues stable at $39 for more than 11 years, few can argue the value of an AOPA membership. But AOPA's next priority, educating the American public about the economy and safety of general aviation, will require something more. Boyer announced the General Aviation Restoration Fund, "to calm American fears about GA," with the ambitious goal of raising $1 million in the next 60 days for a media campaign to begin in January 2002.
The association offers so many benefits that members often found the printed guide to member services to be confusing. To help put a face on the benefits, AOPA this year is replacing the printed guide with a Membership Guidebook on CD-ROM. Using audio and video presentations, the CD leads members through all of the important benefits and provides a host of resources for use on a personal computer. The CD-ROM also links to AOPA Online, the association's robust Web site that has proven so valuable in recent weeks for communicating last-minute airspace changes to members. The site contains tens of thousands of pages of information, much of it updated regularly.
Besides those most tangible benefits, Boyer explained to this morning's crowd some of the association's successes on Capitol Hill. Representation at the federal and state levels is one of the most important services AOPA provides. From helping to draft legislation beneficial and supportive to general aviation to fending off onerous regulations at the FAA, the association's Washington staff has never been busier or more effective.
Andrew Cebula, senior vice president of government and technical affairs, explained his division's role in working with the FAA to make sure that only reasonable regulations are promulgated by the agency. In addition, he praised the AOPA members participating in a new initiative, the Board of Medical Advisors. The team of physician pilots assists AOPA medical staff in reviewing medical regulations and in helping individual AOPA members with health issues affecting pilot certification. Cebula, speaking at his first Expo as an AOPA staff member, recapped the association's efforts in evaluating future air traffic technology, such as ADS-B, which may someday replace ground-based radar as the primary means for separating aircraft. "We need to ensure system benefits and find creative solutions, with incentives to equip rather than mandates," said Cebula.
Boyer turned to Tom Haines, editor in chief and senior vice president of publications, to explain how the association communicates all of these efforts to the members. Haines updated the crowd on the success of AOPA Pilot magazine, the world's largest and most influential aviation magazine. A sister magazine, AOPA Flight Training magazine is the only such publication devoted strictly to the needs of student pilots and flight instructors. While the magazines will remain the association's primary communication vehicles for the entire membership, AOPA is using electronic publications to efficiently meet the needs of individual members. Among the most successful of the electronic publications is AOPA ePilot, the association's weekly e-mail newsletter. Celebrating its two-year anniversary last week, the publication's circulation topped 200,000 readers. In addition to regular weekly mailings, special editions of ePilot have been used to provide members with last-minute information on airspace changes in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Ten such bulletins have been mailed in the last eight weeks—some to the entire readership. Others, such as the notification of the temporary flight restrictions around Phoenix for the World Series games, were sent to only specific regions. Haines called ePilot "a critical communication device in these changing times." While ePilot currently provides readers with regional aviation event information and other forms of personalization, the level of customization will be ramped up over the next year.
Another electronic publication that has proven to be extremely popular is AOPA's Airport eDirectory. Members may download the application from AOPA Online or from a CD-ROM for use on their personal computers. There, the airport data can be sorted, searched, and printed as desired. In addition, selected information can be ported to a Palm-based personal digital assistant for use in the airplane. Airport and FBO data for both the PC and PDA versions can be updated from AOPA Online.
Last year at AOPA Expo, Haines announced the posting of approach procedures, free for the downloading from AOPA Online. Since the service debuted early this year, some 500,000 procedures have been downloaded.
Karen Gebhart, senior vice president of products and services, used this morning's general session to discuss a number of new initiatives, including a special AOPA edition of the Flight Explorer flight tracker. After signing up for the service at the discounted AOPA rate, members can track aircraft in flight, determine traffic flows at airports, and perform a number of other functions. Another new service for members is the TurboMedical® Web resource. This interactive form helps pilots prepare for their medical exams by prescreening questions from the medical form. Answers that may cause a delay in medical certification issuance cause the program to respond with flags and explanations.
Gebhart announced that the AOPA Insurance Agency is the first in the United States to offer customers the opportunity to receive aircraft, renters, and CFI insurance quotes 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Internet.
Revenues from the AOPA Insurance Agency and other products and services—including a new patriotic logo shirt in cooperation with Sporty's—account for more than $14 million a year of the association's revenue. Advertising revenue from the Publications Division also provides another $12 million. The remainder, about a third of the total revenue, comes from member dues.
Like AOPA itself, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has focused heavily on using electronic products to provide better services to pilots. Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the foundation, reported that in addition to the live programs, videotapes, and printed materials ASF is famous for, his staff has introduced three new interactive online programs. The first is a runway safety program that teaches users how to taxi safely in a busy runway environment. With runway incursions a major safety threat, the program is well timed to be of assistance for pilots at all airports.
Brand new at AOPA Expo this year is the SkySpotter program. This online program teaches pilots how to provide more pilot reports, which are essential to improving weather forecasts and helping pilots to make go/no-go decisions. Finally, ASF, working with Jeppesen, earlier this year introduced an online renewal program for flight instructors. An alternative to the weekend recertification courses that ASF still offers, the online course gives instructors the chance to renew their certificates right from home.
Landsberg stressed that the foundation is able to provide these first-class materials only through the contributions of individual pilots. He encouraged attendees to become an ASF Life Associate for a $2,500 contribution, most of it tax deductible. Besides helping ASF fund its programs, the donor also receives a lifetime membership in AOPA. "It's more important than ever for GA to fly safely," concluded Landsberg.
Boyer wrapped up the session by opening the floor to questions from members. To answer some of the questions, he leaned on other senior managers, including Keith Mordoff, senior vice president of communications, and Dave Speer, vice president of advertising. Members inquired about AOPA Online services, noted as a great resource during recent weeks, and AOPA's current action on Capitol Hill.