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For the New Year: AOPA looks back on its 60 yearsFor the New Year: AOPA looks back on its 60 years

For the New Year: AOPA looks back on its 60 years

Celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, AOPA’s mission, goals, and challenges are much the same as 60 years ago. We continue to work to make general aviation more useful, more safe, more affordable, and more fun.

AOPA today is fighting again for the future of radio navigation, just as we did at the start of general aviation’s modern era after World War II. “What goes around, comes around.”


Technology moved fast after World War II. Competing systems and philosophies (VOR, military tacan, even Europe’s Decca system) threatened to leave us in the dust. Government policymakers ignored the weight and cost implications of systems designed for airliners and military aircraft, not for small airplanes.

As in many other struggles, AOPA stood behind the free-market principle government still misses today: Pilots will buy equipment that makes sense—equipment that offers productivity and safety advantages at a fair and affordable cost. It’s proven true time and again. Throwing away ILS for the microwave landing system didn’t fly in the 1970s. But versatile, affordable GPS in the 1990s? It works!

But just as AOPA in the 1940s fought for a reasoned transition from low frequency radios to today’s VHF and VOR, we now focus on a rational GPS transition plan for the future.

For example, we’ve fought premature shutdown of loran because it can be a versatile and cost-effective GPS backup system.

AOPA led the long educational process that finally got the FAA to accept GPS for civil aviation. It took a decade of hard work (and our 1990 “The Future Is Now” report to Congress), but we did it.

Many in the aviation establishment roundly criticized us at the time, charging that we overestimated GPS’ potential and, ironically, underestimated its cost and weight. Now, handhelds cost a couple hundred dollars and cost-effective panel mounts open up new worlds of efficiency and safety.

Now we have to persuade Congress that its miserly funding of the Wide Area Augmentation System is shortsighted. We’re pushing the FAA to get its act together on WAAS. At the same time, we’re still advising a reasoned transition to fuller use of GPS with appropriate safeguards and backups.

From AOPA’s history of achievement, we can draw this simple, important lesson: We’ve been there for 60 years to preserve your right to fly and to enhance flying’s safety, productivity, and fun for you.

For protecting what’s vitally important to your flying, there’s AOPA, and only AOPA.

December 1999

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