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AOPA tops 408,000 members!AOPA tops 408,000 members!

AOPA tops 408,000 members!
Boyer announces record to kick off AOPA Day at Pilot Town Meeting

Safety award for Florida's William Ashbaker
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William Ashbaker
and Bruce Landsberg

In a surprise presentation at Thursday's Pilot Town Meeting, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation acknowledged William Ashbaker, state aviation manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, for his dedication to the safety education of pilots in his state.

"Bill has been very supportive of general aviation safety education in Florida," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. "By working together to provide safety seminars, DVDs, and publications to Florida pilots, ASF and the state make it easier for Florida pilots to operate in some of the most attractive but busiest airspace in the U.S."

As state aviation manager, Ashbaker is responsible for statewide aviation planning, developing aviation policy and legislation, airport safety and airspace obstruction regulation, and administration of the state airport grant program. He has served in his current role since 1997 and is a certificated pilot and an AOPA member.

Landsberg presented the award to Ashbaker at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla. In part, it reads: "More than 49,000 Florida pilots are the beneficiaries of your long-term dedication to General Aviation safety and your ongoing efforts to make Florida airports a safe and effective part of the national air transportation system."

Ashbaker has more than 40 years of experience in aviation and public transportation engineering and planning. He has been with the Florida Department of Transportation for over 30 years.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is the nation's only private, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to providing continuing pilot education and safety programs for general aviation. It is funded by donations from individual pilots and organizations, which support the cause of improved general aviation safety.

Click for larger image
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AOPA President Phil Boyer and
Sun 'n Fun President John Burton
Click for larger image

AOPA has reached another milestone - 408,000 members! AOPA President Phil Boyer made the announcement to more than 500 members during the launch of AOPA Day at Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida.

"Members are always telling me, 'AOPA is the best,' but really, it's you - the members that make this organization so strong," Boyer told the crowd. "We have more than two-thirds of the entire pilot population in the United States, and that's why we are so effective on Capitol Hill."

Boyer also celebrated the progress at Albert Whitted Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2003, developers and the mayor wanted to close the airport to turn it into a park or residential area. But Jack Tunstill, Albert Whitted's Airport Support Network volunteer, worked with AOPA and local airport groups to stimulate public interest in the airport. During public elections, St. Petersburg residents voted 3 to 1 to keep the airport open.

"Now the mayor has done a one-eighty," Boyer said. "He's created a council to work with local airport supporters to turn Albert Whitted into a model airport."

In fact, the mayor will be leading a groundbreaking ceremony for the airport's new terminal building. Boyer will attend the April 21 event to thank the mayor for listening to the voters and recognizing the value of Albert Whitted to the National Airspace System.

Boyer then got down to business on users fees and what the FAA claims is a "funding crisis."

"The FAA says it's going to run out of money and needs a 'new funding system,'" Boyer said. "But the numbers don't match what the FAA is claiming. There isn't a shortfall."

AOPA believes the FAA should look at better ways save money without creating a new funding system. Any new system would be burdensome compared to how easily the current aviation fuel tax is collected.

Boyer also touched on the growing concern that the FAA is worried about aging general aviation aircraft posing an increased threat to safety.

Data from 20 years of AOPA Air Safety Foundation accident records show that for GA aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less, the problem of mechanical or maintenance failure due to age is actually declining despite the fleet's increasing age. The number of structural failures has remained fairly constant.

"If age was the sole safety issue, you would expect the number of accidents to increase as the fleet ages," Boyer said. "It hasn't."

AOPA believes that aging aircraft safety can be maintained through owner and pilot education rather than regulation. In fact, the association is in the preliminary stages of developing an online course to introduce pilots to maintenance issues with older aircraft and provide them with multiple resources to help keep their aircraft safe.

But aircraft maintenance is only one part of GA safety. Pilots also must keep their decision-making and aviating skills sharp. Boyer gave members a preview of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's latest online course, " Weather Wise: Thunderstorms and ATC."

Boyer travels around the country giving Pilot Town Meetings to keep members up to date on what the association is doing to keep flying safe, fun, and affordable for them. Find out when Boyer will be in your area next.

April 6, 2006

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