Local pilots play a vital role in protecting community airports. On that premise, AOPA created the Airport Support Network, the nationwide system of volunteers dedicated to promoting and protecting community airports. And now that “association within an association” has reached an important milestone: AOPA’s Airport Support Network of volunteers is now 2,000 strong.
The ASN program has been growing steadily since its inception in 1997, and this milestone is a credit to all the volunteers who continue to act as the eyes and ears of AOPA. ASN volunteers have alerted AOPA to many local airport issues over the years, a practice that helps AOPA address issues proactively—often before it is too late.
“AOPA has a great team working on airport advocacy issues,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “But without ASN volunteers watching out for local airports, they might not get the inside information early enough to influence the outcome. We are grateful for the critical assistance ASN volunteers provide.”
The AOPA Airport Support Network is a special group of volunteers dedicated to promoting and protecting community airports. The program's goal is to have an ASN volunteer appointed at every public-use airport in the country to serve as an "early warning system" for local airport issues. The sustained efforts of existing volunteers and the recruitment of new volunteers are key to reaching that goal, and topping 2,000 volunteers means the ASN program has eyes at more airports than ever before.
So who is lucky number 2,000? Meet Troy D. Hightower.
Hightower, a private pilot and longtime AOPA member, was appointed as the ASN volunteer for Meadows Field in Bakersfield, Calif. He said he volunteered because he was concerned about the management of his home airport and because protecting airports helps more than just pilots.
It’s great to be a part of the ASN program because it helps him communicate “how important airports are to the community, in addition to the users of the airport,” he said.
Hightower was nominated as Meadows Field’s ASN volunteer by another California ASN volunteer, Rayvon Williams. The two met at AOPA’s Expo in Palm Springs in 2006 and have stayed in touch since.
Williams, the ASN volunteer at Watsonville Municipal Airport, knew that Hightower had been involved in opposing Bakersfield’s request for closure of its other airport, Bakersfield Municipal. He suggested Hightower volunteer at Meadows Field when he found that the airport had no ASN volunteer. Hightower completed the volunteer nomination form online and soon after became volunteer number 2,000.
Hightower says aviation has been a lifelong passion. He is a pilot at the local squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, has worked for airlines, and currently uses airplanes for mapping in his role as a regional planner.
“Most everything I’ve done has been aviation-related or at the airport,” he said.
Now that Hightower has joined the ranks of ASN volunteers, he said he has already spoken with airport users about their concerns over Meadows Field. With the help of Hightower and the rest of the network, AOPA will continue its work protecting general aviation and helping airports thrive.
Visit www.aopa.org/asn to ensure your airport has an AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer. If it doesn’t, consider nominating yourself or someone you know for this critically important role.
While some volunteers go above and beyond the basic responsibilities, there are really two basic duties: to be "in the know" at the airport and to let AOPA know if anything threatens the airport. ASN volunteers are pilots who should be based at the airport (whether they own or rent aircraft) for which they're hoping to be appointed.