Cliff Robertson, Phil Boyer, and Bob Woods
at the Tennessee Airports Conference
AOPA's efforts to protect and defend general aviation were applauded at the Tennessee Airports Conference in Nashville Wednesday. AOPA President Phil Boyer spoke before an audience of some 250 airport owners and managers, FBO operators, and government officials. The crowd was particularly appreciative of AOPA's Airport Watch program.
Many states gather airport managers together annually for such a conference, and Tennessee has traditionally had one of the best. Tennessee Director of Aeronautics Brig. Gen. Bob Woods (USAF Ret.) introduced Boyer, who concluded the first morning event after an opening speech by writer, actor, pilot, and AOPA member Cliff Robertson.
In his remarks, Boyer acknowledged the service of native Tennessean Bob Minter, who will complete 20 years as AOPA's Southeast regional representative in October, and who received the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission's "Career Contributions to Aviation Award" at the conference two years ago. "Bob was a founder and one of the deans of the 13-member AOPA regional representative program providing state-level advocacy in all 50 states," Boyer said.
Through videotape [ high resolution | low resolution; broadband connection recommended], Tennessee Congressman John Duncan, Jr., a member and past chairman of the House aviation subcommittee who represents the Knoxville area, praised AOPA and Boyer for the association's effectiveness in working with Congress.
"Phil Boyer has always been one of the best witnesses of the several thousand witnesses I've heard while serving on three committees and numerous subcommittees," said Duncan, a longtime GA supporter "AOPA has always provided me with facts, not just rhetoric. It's good information that has assisted me and the aviation subcommittee in so many ways."
"AOPA has worked closely with Rep. Duncan on issues like the Kennedy and Jessica Dubroff accidents," said Boyer. "He brought sanity to situations where Congress was thinking of outlawing night VFR and prohibiting young people from starting flight training."
The crowd applauded Boyer's presentation of AOPA's Airport Watch program and a demonstration of how effective the program concepts are. Boyer replayed an attempt by an NBC news crew to show how "vulnerable" general aviation is. The crew tried to charter a helicopter in St. Louis and to sneak weapons on board. Instead, they aroused the suspicions of the charter operator, who called the police. The TV crew was detained. NBC acknowledged in its newscast that the attempt to breach GA security had been thwarted.
And AOPA's Airport Watch isn't the only program that's helped GA pilots manage the aftermath of 9/11. In a discussion with Boyer, Robertson, who flies a Baron, said he was over New York City at 8,500 feet at the moment the first World Trade Center building collapsed. He saw the second twin tower come down as well. Air traffic control ordered him to land immediately at the closest airport, which was Lehigh Valley International (ABE) in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Robertson recently joined the AOPA Legal Services Plan. In a letter to Boyer, Robertson said, "This program is a winner. Just hope I don't ever have to use it; but if I do, I feel confident that with more than 600 aviation attorneys, my legal needs would be met."
The unique program provides important legal counsel and representation to member-pilots on a variety aviation matters, with airspace restrictions being of greatest concern in today's TFR-ridden sky.
August 19, 2004