By AOPA ePublishing staff
It’s up to you to help save the future of general aviation, AOPA Executive Vice President of Communications Karen Gebhart told a Sun ’n Fun audience on April 10.
She asked the student pilots attending the AOPA Pilot Town Meeting to stand, and said, “These are the most valuable people here tonight. They represent the future of general aviation, and there should be hundreds of them sitting in the audience.” There were six out of a crowd of 300.
AOPA President Phil Boyer had earlier noted that the pilot population dropped from more than 800,000 in the 1970s to just 590,000 today. Gebhart said AOPA was engaged in number of public relations activities to turn that around, including working with “new media,” popular with the younger generations.
“Part of AOPA’s mission is to promote the popularity of flight,” she said. And while AOPA has been extraordinarily successful in placing stories about the fun of flying in newspapers across the country, including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal and on television news programs like NBC’s Today Show, only 5,000 people start flight training each year, and two-thirds of them tend to drop out before they finish. “We aren’t going to turn around the pilot population with numbers like that,” Gebhart said.
The most important thing pilots can do to help is to take someone flying.
“There are men and women out there who want you to ask them,” she said. “Think back to when you took the controls for the first time and you felt this incredible power of flight.” Share that experience with someone new, and watch her face. “You’ll know. If you see that spark, get out of the airplane, go to the flight school, and get her signed up for a lesson.”
Gebhart asked pilots also give AOPA their ideas on how to encourage more people to start flying by sending us e-mails.
“Help us find more people to fly, and let’s save the future of general aviation,” Gebhart said.
April 11, 2008