By Nathan A. Ferguson
The third and final General Session at AOPA Expo is traditionally about what AOPA is doing for you. And this year, top management presented initiatives and projects to keep the costs of flying in check, enhance safety, and improve communication resources.
AOPA President Phil Boyer started things off with an update on the FAA funding debate. With the successful passage of the AOPA-backed H.R.2881 in the House, the battle now turns to the Senate.
AOPA is waiting for the Senate version of an FAA funding bill to hit the floor where it could be modified via amendments. Of greatest concern to general aviation is the $25 turbine user fee that could have the potential of trickling down to pistons if a user-fee system of any kind were put in place.
A decade ago AOPA was among the first to launch a commercial Web site when little was known about which direction the Internet might go. AOPA Online grew by leaps and bounds. Members said they loved the content, but they had trouble finding it.
As Karen Gebhart, AOPA executive vice president of communications, pointed out, member input was sought to help revamp the site and organize the information. The site relies on five main tabs at the top of each page to help members navigate the site. "I really implore you to dig down deep on those pages," she said.
Gebhart also mentioned the success of the AOPA Project Pilot program. Besides pairing mentors with student pilots, the program has a media/community outreach component for attracting people to flying. A perfect example was the segment done by reporter Jennifer London on NBC's Today Show last year. Nearly six million Americans tuned in to watch her take an introductory flight in a Cessna 172 under the banner of Project Pilot.
When asked how many in the audience had used flight service in the past year, hundreds raised their hands. When asked how many had experienced a problem, it seemed that the same number of hands went up again.
Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs, provided a rundown on the move to modernize the flight service station (FSS) system. Boyer will be testifying on Oct. 10 before the House aviation subcommittee on the lessons learned from the transition to Lockheed Martin. In its watchdog role, AOPA is in daily contact with the FAA and Lockheed Martin.
To help pilots, AOPA has prepared a briefing card that walks you step by step through the short-cut codes you can enter to reach a briefer in your area. AOPA handed out the cards at Expo and will insert them in the November issue of AOPA Pilot and December issue of AOPA Flight Training.
Unfortunately, two things age in aviation: pilots and airframes. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is attacking both fronts with research and education.
As Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg pointed out, there have been no detailed studies on aging GA pilots. If they are having more accidents, is it because they're older or because they're flying more, he asked.
The foundation along with AOPA's Government Affairs division is also launching a new online course called "Aging Aircraft." The course defines aging aircraft, discusses factors that influence the rate of aging, and suggests inspection and maintenance practices for these aircraft. Manufacturer-specific concerns are addressed in four separate tracks: Beechcraft, Cessna, Mooney, and Piper.
The foundation at Expo also debuted its latest live seminar, "Top Five Mistakes Pilots Make." It focuses on the recurring mistakes that lead to fatalities.
October 6, 2007