AOPA's newest publication, Take 'em Flying! encourages pilots to share their love of flying by providing a firsthand flying experience to people unfamiliar with general aviation.
AOPA member Robert Bullock recently learned the value of such a flight. Bullock had helped with a search-and-rescue operation following a fatal accident near Shreveport, Louisiana. A local television station asked to do a follow-up story a couple of days later. Bullock talked with the reporter about his training, currency, recurrent training, and mandatory maintenance. Then he took the reporter and videographer up in his Cessna 182. "It was totally positive and I think they were pretty thrilled with it all," Bullock said.
"Pilots are the best ambassadors for general aviation, " said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "In addition to writing letters to the editor and contacting legislators, pilots can help general aviation at the local level by giving others the opportunity to learn about the benefits and the thrill of GA by experiencing it firsthand."
Take 'em Flying! offers suggestions about who to invite for an orientation flight, how to contact potential guests, what to talk about, and how to conduct the flight.
Start with a friend, someone who's expressed an interest in aviation, the brochure suggests. Pilots might also consider taking a reporter, a teacher, a business or government leader, or an air traffic controller up to experience a flight.
"Tailor your comments for your guest," Take 'em Flying! says. "If you are flying a teacher, point out how the study of aviation includes...math, science, geography, and history. An air traffic controller will likely be more interested in communications...or the effect of ATC procedures on your flying. A reporter might be most interested in safety, while a political leader might want to know about the positive impacts of the airport on the community."
The brochure also walks pilots through the steps of a successful orientation flight, from cleaning the aircraft before the flight, to choosing the right weather, to conducting the flight itself and providing the guest with printed information from AOPA. It points out the importance of remembering the purpose of the flight through every phase: to demonstrate the joy of flying and the safety and utility of general aviation aircraft.
Once a first-time GA passenger has taken an orientation flight, the GA Serving America Web site is a valuable resource for answering questions about general aviation. The site is geared toward the non-flying public and explains the many ways even nonpilots benefit.
"The more people we introduce to GA, the more accurate the public's perception becomes," said Boyer. "Whether you fly a friend, a community leader, a reporter, or a teacher, you'll be doing valuable work on behalf of general aviation."
Take 'em Flying! is part of AOPA's continuing proactive effort to improve the non-flying public's understanding of general aviation. Simply put, every flight that is not military or a scheduled airliner is GA. From two-seat trainers to giant cargo aircraft used by companies like Federal Express or UPS, police helicopters, air ambulances, blimps over football games, crop dusters—they are all part of general aviation.
General aviation generates $102 billion for the economy, rivaling the petroleum industry. It is responsible for 1.3 million jobs in the United States.
With more than 390,000 members, AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, working to protect the interests of general aviation. Nearly two thirds of all U.S. pilots are members of AOPA.