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Donations, presidential award highlight AOPA Pilot Town MeetingDonations, presidential award highlight AOPA Pilot Town Meeting

Donations, presidential award highlight AOPA Pilot Town Meeting

Click for larger image
Boyer presents an AOPA Presidential
Citation to FAA Regional
Administrator Cecelia Hunziker.
Click for larger image
Norm Grant and Holly Georgell
made donations to the
AOPA Air Safety Foundation.

Phil Boyer called it the "night of the envelopes." The 425 pilots attending last night's Chicago-area Pilot Town Meeting were treated to not only the latest information on the world of general aviation, but also witnessed the recognition of significant service to GA and presentations that will help the cause of general aviation safety.

AOPA President Phil Boyer issued a rare Presidential Citation to Cecelia Hunziker, the retiring FAA regional administrator for the Great Lakes Region, for her years of dedicated service to GA. Equally unusual were two donations to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.

Holly Ann Georgell of GoalPageSet presented Boyer with a $1,000 check for the Air Safety Foundation. She has a particular interest in the foundation's research and education into the use of GPS. ( See ASF's online GPS resources.) GoalPageSet has published a comprehensive training manual for the Garmin GNS 430 (see the review in AOPA Pilot magazine).

Another donation came from Norm Grant, the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for Clow International Airport (1C5) outside of Chicago. The airport serves Bollingbrook, Illinois, and unlike an unnamed nearby big-city mayor, Bollingbrook's mayor has recognized the importance of an airport to his community, working to buy it from a private owner so that it wouldn't be overrun by developers (see " Illinois mayor saves airport").

When Boyer presented the AOPA Presidential Citation to Hunziker, he noted that they got started on the wrong foot when she first took the position in 1996 because she had to present what was then the FAA's "company position" in support of user fees.

"Cecelia is one of the few top FAA officials with a general aviation background," said Boyer. She grew up in Alaska and was part owner of an FBO before joining the FAA. "After we worked out the issues on user fees, we developed a wonderful relationship. She will be sorely missed." AOPA Presidential Citations are few and far between, recognizing extraordinary commitment and service to general aviation. And the presentation to Hunziker marked the first time a citation came with a bouquet of roses.

Hunziker's job will be taken over by FAA Central Regional Administrator Chris Blume, who will now be responsible for both regions. The Great Lakes Region is the nation's busiest for air traffic control, with both Chicago and Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Centers.

Boyer was introduced last evening by Gary Stevens, the Flight Safety coordinator for the Illinois Department of Transportation. Stevens noted how well AOPA works with the states.

During the question and answer session, pilots asked about the future of leaded aviation fuel. Boyer noted AOPA's efforts to find a replacement for leaded fuel, including ensuring continued funding for alternative fuels research at the FAA's technical center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Others asked what were the top concerns for pilots nationwide. Boyer responded with the results from the latest poll of AOPA members, with the top issues being loss of general aviation airports, user fees, and the cost of insurance.

"We can't affect directly what private insurance underwriters charge," said Boyer, "but we can make sure that they have valid data to make their decisions on. That's why we just started our Aging Pilot Study. Some underwriters are surcharging older pilots, we want to see if that's fair."

Another pilot asked about the possibility of an AOPA Expo in the Chicago area. Boyer explained that Expo "has to pay its own way," by attracting enough pilots and exhibitors. Most pilots drive to Expo, and there are only four places in the country - California, Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Northeast - where enough pilots live within driving distance to ensure enough attendance to make Expo economically viable.

Pilot Town Meetings are set for the St. Louis area tonight (Wednesday), and Cincinnati tomorrow.

March 23, 2005

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