What if I told you that well more than 2,000 fellow aviators are at work watching your back today thanks to AOPA? Surprising? Well, not so surprising if you’ve dropped by AOPA online recently. This is a section of our website where we deliver a whole lot of information about general aviation issues and our AOPA advocacy efforts.
There are more than 2,400 Airport Support Network volunteers watching developments at more than half of the public-use airports in the United States. These folks let us know when an airport may be getting into trouble or when support from local authorities may be in jeopardy. This large national network connects to seven full-time AOPA regional managers—staff members who represent AOPA and serve as our professional advocates around the country. You can get to know them by following them on Twitter. To start, go online. Once you see the map, click on your own region and learn about the person covering your part of the country. You will also get a flavor for issues in your state and surrounding states.
Here at headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, a very able team lead by AOPA Vice President Greg Pecoraro oversees the work of our regional leaders. The headquarters team makes sure we arm our advocates around the country with the information they need to be effective. Additionally, Greg and his team travel to many states throughout the course of the year to lend our fellow aviators a hand as they defend the value of their own local airports and the importance of the GA community. Although focused primarily on state and airport issues around the country, this team also plays a vital role in our federal advocacy efforts by sharing information with members and government officials. They also do a great job of encouraging AOPA members to get involved at just the right moment when we need lawmakers and regulators in Washington, D.C., to hear voices from outside the beltway.
Our legislative affairs team is based just a few blocks from the Capitol and is led by AOPA Vice President Lorraine Howerton. She and her team stay actively engaged with a large percentage of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate and 435 members of the House of Representatives. The general aviation caucuses in the House and Senate have grown to be among the biggest on Capitol Hill—in no small measure because of the strong and effective efforts made by these individuals to encourage all members of Congress to recognize the importance of GA and join the caucuses.
Legislation is not our only concern in Washington. The federal government’s reach extends much further, which keeps our regulatory and certification policy team led by AOPA Vice President Rob Hackman and our air traffic services and technology team led by AOPA Vice President Heidi Williams extremely busy. Add to this the demands placed on AOPA’s Craig Spence—who leads our security and border efforts while also serving as the secretary general of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations—and you have a sense of the breadth of areas we cover.
Our entire advocacy operation reports to AOPA Senior Vice President Melissa Rudinger, who has been at AOPA working these issues for more than two decades. Melissa provides the entire team with insights that come from her extensive experience and her strong dedication to the policy and advocacy missions at AOPA.
As we move into 2013, we face uncertainties about the federal budget as well as spending and tax proposals that will impact general aviation. Regardless of the challenges that emerge, you can be assured that we will take our fight to Capitol Hill, and to state capitols as well.
This year, more than ever, we will need your voice and your help in fighting these battles. When we raise our voices together, we are heard and we are effective.
If you are among the thousands of AOPA members who write to, and speak with, your elected officials, we thank you. If you are among the thousands who attend meetings with leaders in local jurisdictions or with your Washington representatives, we thank you. And, if you are among the thousands of AOPA members who donate to our Political Action Committee, we thank you. Through your engagement you are helping all of our members and aviators out there who benefit by our efforts. If you have not engaged with us in advocacy efforts, there is no better time to start than right now.
Throughout the year, I plan to talk more about our advocacy efforts. I hope you will share your thoughts and provide feedback on what’s discussed. Getting engaged in advocacy at AOPA creates an important bond. Regardless of what we fly, or even if we aren’t actively flying at the moment, we all share the desire to protect the freedom to fly. And that unites us all.
AOPA president Craig Fuller is an active general aviation pilot who has been flying for more than 35 years. Email Craig at [email protected].