The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) is celebrating its fortieth anniversary in February. IAOPA was founded on February 2, 1962, by the Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations of the United States, Canada (COPA), Australia, South Africa, and the Philippines. By the end of 1962, Germany, Mexico, Italy, and Venezuela had joined. Today IAOPA boasts 56 member countries.
"Today's freedom of mobility and full exchange of general aviation information across national boundaries are very much the legacy of the formation of IAOPA, said Phil Boyer, IAOPA president. "To a large extent, general aviation/aerial work (GA/AW) would have been left behind had IAOPA not been there to represent general aviation/aerial work interests in the international fora, particularly the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)."
The seeds for IAOPA were planted in the early 1950s when AOPA-U.S. became interested in international aviation; more and more pilots were flying all over the world, not just in the Western Hemisphere. Officials of AOPA-U.S.'s international flight-planning service soon realized that ICAO-developed standards and practices were biased toward the airlines.
Airspace, customs facilities, airports, and rules of the air often neglected to note that such a thing as general aviation even existed. Furthermore, facilities and customs provisions for international general aviation were practically nonexistent in most countries.
As groups similar to AOPA-U.S. sprang up around the world during the 1950s, the need for singular GA/AW representation internationally was becoming evident. General aviation needed observer status at ICAO—airlines already had observer status—to enter discussions with representatives of the sovereign states with voting privileges.
An international aviation consultant was hired in 1959 to organize the effort, and IAOPA's charter members approved a constitution and bylaws in February 1962. ICAO, which is based in Montreal, recognized IAOPA on May 25, 1964.
Most of the world's aviation regulations stem from ICAO provisions: rules of the air, operations, personnel licensing, airworthiness, air traffic service, and meteorology all have ICAO connections. Few, if any, aspects of aviation escape the purview of ICAO, so IAOPA's observer status allowed it to participate in the formation of important provisions.
IAOPA quickly sought better facilities and smoother procedures for GA/AW flights at international airports in 1963. ICAO adopted the requests. In 1964, IAOPA sought, and ICAO adopted, reciprocal agreements to accept pilot certificates and radio licenses internationally.
Similar efforts continued through the years, and in 2001, IAOPA focused on demands for increased airport security, pilot training standards, and other issues that affect GA/AW.
The governing IAOPA authority is the executive board, consisting of the chief executives of all accredited member organizations. IAOPA's president and the regional vice presidents are elected for four-year terms. IAOPA offices are located near Washington, D.C., and in Canberra, Australia. Its Web site is www.iaopa.org.
IAOPA board members and interested parties meet biennially to evaluate general aviation and aerial application activities around the globe and to outline IAOPA action plans.
The 21st World Assembly of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations will be September 30-October 4, 2002, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, sponsored by the Brazilian Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (Associacao de Pilotos E Proprietarios de Aeronaves Brazil).