AOPA President Phil Boyer
AOPA senior management: Andy Cebula, Tom Haines, Karen Gebhart, Bruce Landsberg, Harvey Cohen, Dave Speer, and Warren Morningstar.
Frank Eldridge and Phil Boyer
Phil Boyer, Lessing Stern, and Harvey Cohen
AOPA President Phil Boyer kicked off the third and final day of AOPA Expo 2003 answering FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's critique of the association in her remarks at the opening general session on Thursday. Blakey said then she was surprised that AOPA did not take part in a Washington, D.C., news conference on Wednesday in support of the FAA reauthorization bill. "We didn't take part because we can no longer support it," Boyer told hundreds of pilots at this morning's Team AOPA general session.
The latest version of the bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed on Thursday, contains absolutely no protection to keep the government from privatizing the air traffic control system. "The original bill would have made all jobs at all levels of ATC government jobs," said Boyer. "This current bill leaves all jobs open for privatization. And the two things you members have told us over and over again are your biggest concerns are a privatized ATC system and user fees. This bill makes both possible. And so we don't support it." The audience applauded in response to the AOPA stance.
Team AOPA is an opportunity for AOPA's leadership to let members know what's going on inside their association and to answer members questions.
AOPA Senior Vice President of Publications Tom Haines received rousing applause when he demonstrated AOPA's newest free member benefit, the Real-Time Flight Planner. He also reminded members of the customizable ePilot weekly electronic newsletter.
AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula explained the nuts-and-bolts relationships that AOPA has developed not only with the FAA, but with security agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House Council on Homeland Security. He explained the daily behind-the-scenes work that helps protect pilots' rights.
Karen Gebhart, AOPA's senior vice president of Products and Services, told members that every time they use AOPA Member Products, they help keep the annual dues down. Working with its partners, AOPA receives a portion of the proceeds from every Member Product sale. Gebhart also highlighted AOPA's medical certification staff, who annually help thousands of pilots resolve medical issues with the FAA. As she sat down, Boyer introduced the secretary of the Georgia State Senate, Frank Eldridge, a pilot and 40-year AOPA member, who praised the work of the medical certification staff in helping him sort out a medical problem.
AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg dispelled a common misconception about ASF—that AOPA provides most of the foundation's funding. "Only 10 percent of the foundation's funding comes from AOPA," said Landsberg. "Almost all of the rest comes from donations from individual members." He presented an award to one of ASF's major individual donors, Lessing Stern, saying that his generous gift allows ASF to offer a number of important safety programs.