General aviation took off in popularity in the 1920s with barnstormers, and since then, the industry, its aircraft, avionics, and pilots have evolved greatly. But the organization at the heart of it has withstood the test of time without changing its mission to protect GA, AOPA President Phil Boyer explained to pilots Sept. 27 at the American Bonanza Society Convention’s banquet in Lexington, Ky.
Boyer told of one of the association’s earliest battles: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the government sought to ban GA from the skies. AOPA was two years old at the time and had only 2,000 members, but it prevented the ban. The association created and administered a program that would allow civilian pilots to fly in “vital air defense areas” if properly registered with a card showing a certificate number, photograph, and thumbprint.
Then, he told of a recent battle, one that threatened to ground the industry—user fees. Again, AOPA rose to the occasion to protect GA.
“We won in 2008!” Boyer told the audience, referring to recent action by the House and Senate that extends the current aviation taxes and funding until March 31, 2009. However, a new Congress means there will also be a new FAA bill. AOPA will continue working to prevent user fees.
Pilots who heard Boyer’s message of hope in troubled times said their trip to the convention was worthwhile just to hear his message, which garnered a standing ovation.
“I know I was proud for Phil and also proud that I work for AOPA,” said Mike Ferguson, AOPA’s northwest regional representative who also attended the convention.
During the banquet, American Bonanza Society President Art Brock presented Boyer with the “Above and Beyond” award for his efforts to protect GA. The crowd showed its support by giving him two standing ovations.