AOPA President Phil Boyer and the senior staff -
Bruce Landsberg, Harvey Cohen, Andy Cebula, Karen
Gebhart, and Jeff Myers - report to the members during
the Update From AOPA Headquarters general session.
Boyer receives a standing ovation from members at the announcement of his fifteenth anniversary as AOPA president.
Boyer reveals that Andy Cebula has been
promoted to executive vice president...
...and that Karen Gebhart also has been
promoted to executive vice president.
AOPA members learned just how "One AOPA equals a strong GA" during Saturday morning's general session when AOPA President Phil Boyer and the association's senior management team discussed what they do to protect pilots' freedom to fly and keep general aviation safe, fun, and affordable.
Boyer also took an important step forward to ensure that AOPA remains the world's best general aviation association now and into the future, announcing the promotion of Andy Cebula to executive vice president of government affairs and Karen Gebhart to executive vice president of non-dues revenue during the session.
"AOPA's successful advocacy efforts are a major reason why GA in the United States is still free and affordable, but that is challenged every day," said Boyer. "Right now, six out of 10 pilots across the country are concerned about their freedom to fly, and AOPA is working to protect that freedom, starting with the prevention of a permanent Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)."
AOPA's advocacy efforts range from using local pilots, 1,500 Airport Support Network volunteers, and 13 regional representatives to promote, protect, and defend your local airports, to keeping the cost of flying down by working to prevent the FAA from imposing user fees on GA.
Cebula cautioned members that the battle over user fees is not over, despite a statement made by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta at Thursday's general session. "I can tell you right now, from my perspective, [the future funding mechanism for FAA] will not be a user fee," Mineta said. Cebula pointed out Mineta's use of the code words "from my perspective," and promised that AOPA would keep fighting to make sure user fees don't become law as the FAA tries to solve what it calls a funding crisis.
"We look at FAA funding as a marathon, and we are on mile 2.2," Cebula told members. "We are going to need your help to tell Congress that there is no funding crisis."
The "funding crisis" isn't the only myth plaguing general aviation. AOPA also works daily to dispel misconceptions about the imagined threat posed by "those little airplanes." As part of that effort, the association has created a new television studio at its headquarters that will allow Boyer to instantly appear live on any news program worldwide through a satellite link. Media flights, an information-rich Web site, and new tools to teach pilots how to deal with the media in their own communities are also part of AOPA's initiative to educate the media and the general public about GA.
"AOPA was right there when the two Pennsylvania pilots who violated the Washington, D.C., ADIZ and flight restricted zone (FRZ), causing the evacuation of the Capitol, were escorted to Frederick, Maryland," said AOPA Executive Vice President of Communications Jeff Myers. "We were able to present the facts and our side of the story to the general public nationwide."
And while all of these efforts require tremendous focus and commitment, AOPA hasn't overlooked other issues that are important to GA pilots like the cost of insurance.
During the general session Gebhart announced a new cost savings for renter pilots - a 5-percent discount on new policies. The savings complements an existing program that gives pilots who are accident-free a 10-percent discount on policy renewals.
And AOPA is working to find ways to keep insurance affordable as pilots age. Gebhart updated the audience on AOPA's aging pilot study, which includes a review of the accident statistics and literature related to older pilots, and a survey of these pilots to discover more about the type of flying they do. She pointed to the auto insurance industry as a model. There both AAA and AARP have helped older drivers improve safety and get insurance with special training programs. AOPA's Air Safety Foundation is set to develop a similar program for older pilots.
"In the meantime, the best thing you can do as an older pilot is to stay current, fly simpler aircraft, anticipate that you might face some restrictions, and develop a long-term relationship with your insurance company," Gebhart suggested.
Developing new training programs is one of the things the AOPA Air Safety Foundation does best - and its efforts have contributed to the 7-percent drop in total general aviation accidents from 2003 to 2004.
"Despite the drop in GA accidents, there's still room for improvement," said AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "And the Air Safety Foundation offers a number of courses to help keep your flying safe."
In 2005 alone, the foundation has rolled out five online courses and has another planned for December. Plus the foundation gives more than 200 free seminars nationwide each year. The latest live seminar, "Do The Right Thing" debuted at Expo. Such educational programs are made possible by donations of all sizes.
Updated: November 8, 2005, 1:37 p.m. EST