A new Internet-based flight planner, a campaign to boost the pilot population, and a new charitable foundation were some of the key tools AOPA President Phil Boyer passed to incoming president Craig Fuller during the Nov. 8 Expo general session. And, for the first time, Fuller officially addressed AOPA members.
“Phil Boyer posted a heck of a lot of victories,” said Chairman of the AOPA Board of Trustees Bill Trimble. In the left seat of AOPA, Boyer has successfully helped GA overcome the “greatest attack on our homeland since Pearl Harbor,” record-high avgas prices in 2007, a federal government bent on instituting user fees, and tragic general aviation accidents such as John F. Kennedy Jr., Jessica Dubroff, and Cory Lidle.
“He works harder and smarter than anyone I know,” Trimble continued, calling Boyer “superb.” Trimble explained that Boyer has worked for the past year to successfully transition AOPA to incoming president Fuller, who will captain the association starting Jan. 1.
Boyer, who entered his last general session as president of AOPA to a standing ovation, proceeded to fill a flight bag with resources and new AOPA initiatives that he is passing on to Fuller.
The first tool for Fuller’s flight bag is the new AOPA Internet Flight Planner, still in beta testing.
“I don’t know how many people have come up to me since 2003 when we unveiled Real Time Flight Planner, saying, ‘Phil, it doesn’t work on a Mac,’” Boyer said.
He announced that AOPA teamed with Jeppesen to develop the new Internet-based flight planner, which will work on any computer, including Macs, from anywhere in the world. Because it is Internet-based, pilots will be able to see temporary flight restrictions in real time.
Another tool is a boost in AOPA membership. Boyer announced that the association will soon be partnering with Middle Tennessee State University, just as it is with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of North Dakota.
Perhaps the most important tool Boyer dropped into the flight bag was the new AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization. The foundation’s goal is to raise funds to help increase the pilot population, enhance the public image of GA, preserve community airports, and improve aviation safety. [ See related story.]
The AOPA Foundation is a little more than one year old, and so far $26 million has been raised toward the “Campaign for GA” goal of $58 million.
The national chairman of the Campaign for GA, long-time AOPA member and general avation pilot and business owner Tom Haas, pledged a $5 million matching gift via video during the general session.
“Never before have both headwinds and crosswinds challenged general aviation,” Haas said, encouraging all AOPA members to donate to the AOPA Foundation.
Let’s Go Flying, a new AOPA initiative to boost the pilot population, was also dropped into Fuller’s flight bag.
“Let’s Go Flying on its Web site doesn’t talk about ailerons and rudders,” Boyer said, adding that, “it talks about what you can do once you get your pilot certificate.”
AOPA has been testing new ways to reach pilots. Funds donated to the AOPA Foundation have been used to offer Let’s Go Flying seminars in conjunction with Boyer’s Pilot Town Meetings across the country. Flight-school fly-ins are also being sponsored throughout the United States. [ See related story.]
On the GA advocacy front, Boyer passed on tools to keep airports strong ( AOPA’s Airport Support Network), and an ongoing effort to find a replacement fuel for leaded avgas. While 70 percent of GA aircraft can fly on current unleaded fuels, 30 percent need a fuel with a higher octane rating.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation, also a 501(c)3 organization, received a special gift during the general session to help support its GA-specific research efforts.
Mike Voorhees, representing the Manuel Maciel Trust, presented the AOPA Air Safety Foundation with a $3 million check. “Manny” Maciel was a longtime pilot, aircraft owner, and AOPA member whose trust included directions to donate a majority of the funds for aviation research. Manny died in 2005.
Lastly, Boyer put an engraved nameplate in president-elect Fuller’s flight bag.
“I sat in front here watching this bag being filled with one exciting initiative after another,” Fuller said, thanking Boyer for his 18 years of service to general aviation and 18 weeks of friendship and mentoring during the transition.
Fuller explained that the flight bag reminded him of one he packed when moving to Washington, D.C. It was during his eight years of service in the White House, from 1981 to 1989, that he developed a passion for public policy. Now, he’s ready to put that passion to work for his other great love—general aviation.
“For me, the chance to actually take this campaign around the country and build support and awareness for general aviation is exciting,” Fuller said, later concluding, “My sense of mission is to make the future of general aviation as exciting as the past.”
Fuller has been a pilot for more than 40 years. He learned to fly at Buchanan Field in Concord, Calif., while still in high school, and continued to fly while a student at UCLA. Business travel in his early career led to the purchase of a Cessna 172RG Cutlass. Today, he regularly flies more than 200 hours a year in his Beechcraft A36 Bonanza and holds single, multiengine, and instrument ratings as well as having been a member of AOPA since 1973. Fuller’s wife Karen frequently serves as his copilot in their Bonanza.