AOPA staff gather for a group photo celebrating more than 400,000 AOPA members!
|"Wilbur" (David Speer, AOPA senior vice president for publications marketing) and "Orville" (AOPA President Phil Boyer) puzzle over a solicitation from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. It was part of skit for AOPA staff members celebrating the achievement of the goal of 400,000 AOPA members.|
|Frederick, Maryland, Mayor Jennifer Dougherty congratulates AOPA President Phil Boyer on the association's record-breaking 400,000 members. AOPA, based at the Frederick Municipal Airport, is one of city's most important corporate citizens.|
|"Orville" and "Wilbur" pose below the electronic tote board tallying the number of AOPA members (400,156 at 1:30 p.m. July 29).|
|"Orville Wright" (AOPA President Phil Boyer) addresses AOPA staff on achieving 400,000 members.|
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association surpassed 400,000 members today, a new record for the world's largest civil aviation organization. That also places AOPA among the top 100 associations of any kind in the nation.
"The significance of 400,000 members is what it really means to general aviation pilots," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It means that pilots have an extraordinarily powerful advocate before the regulators and the legislators. They can't ignore 400,000 committed, passionate aviators and voters. And AOPA is their voice."
Today, more than 61 percent of all of the nation's pilots—and three quarters of the general aviation pilots—are AOPA members.
AOPA President Boyer announced the new membership record to AOPA's 210 employees gathered at the association's Frederick, Maryland, headquarters and its offices in Washington, D.C., Oklahoma City, and Wichita, Kansas. As Boyer unveiled an electronic tote board with a new membership number of 400,156, the announcement was carried live via an Intranet to all of AOPA's staff.
The association has enjoyed remarkable growth in the last quarter-century, even during periods when the total pilot population was declining. In 1977, AOPA had 200,000 members, about 26 percent of the total pilot population. By 1989, membership grew to 300,000, about 43 percent of all pilots.
Even in the uncertainty following the September 11 attacks, AOPA membership grew by more than 25,000.
"I think that demonstrates two things," said Boyer. "General aviation pilots remain optimistic about the future of aviation in this country. A January survey of AOPA members showed that 67 percent were optimistic about GA's future. And pilots believe that AOPA can help ensure that future."
The secret of AOPA's strength on issues is its large membership of individuals—pilots who care about national and community affairs. And AOPA members are voters—more than 93 percent voted in the last presidential election, compared to 51 percent of the general population.
"Politicians and bureaucrats do pay attention to numbers, validating the old adage that there is strength in numbers," said Boyer. "When we go to Congress, the FAA, TSA, or any of the regulators, 400,000 has a special ring. Speaking with one voice for so many members—particularly members who vote and contribute to political campaigns—gains AOPA access and special credence. No other organization can match that."
Such a large member base also gives AOPA extra buying power when working with AOPA Certified partners. Knowing that they have such a large potential pool of customers in a single place means vendors are willing to cut better deals.
"When AOPA's founders launched the association 64 years ago, they probably could not have foreseen such a large organization," said Boyer. "What they did foresee was a vocal advocate for general aviation, keeping GA fun, safe, and affordable. With 400,000 members backing us up, that's definitely what we've become."