With this month’s column, I conclude five enjoyable years in the left seat at AOPA. You and I have shared an extraordinary journey through some very challenging times.
During my tenure at AOPA, I wanted to focus both on our external mission and our internal workings so that my successor would find a strong foundation; engaged members; and an excellent team to work with in Frederick, Washington, D.C., and Wichita (see “The Right Man for the Times,” page 42). I believe we have achieved that goal and I certainly am thankful for the wonderful colleagues who have joined me on the journey. We have accomplished much together and had a favorable impact in Washington, D.C., and in states across the country. We’ve worked hard to communicate all we do and shared the best of general aviation in the finest media products in the market today. AOPA Pilot and our legacy efforts, as well as newer communication tools such as AOPA Live and Aviation eBrief, reach people around the world who share our passion for aviation.
The group to whom I owe the greatest thanks is formed by you and members like you! As I reflect on the past few years, I return again and again to one underlying theme—our members make possible all that we do. Your engagement gives our voice strength in Washington, D.C., and across the country. Your participation in our programs and services brings added value to your membership and gives us the resources to develop new and better ways to help you get the most from your flying.
Without a doubt, the most enjoyable part of this job is the time spent meeting members. Over the course of hundreds of events, I have had the good fortune to meet thousands of you. You share your hopes and your concerns. And, almost every time, you express gratitude to those at AOPA who have helped you in some way large or small. You have high expectations around our advocacy activities and you demand the best in our print, electronic, and video presentations.
And although today’s economic reality has been challenging for many of you, you have held on to your excitement about general aviation, sharing it with friends, family, and fellow enthusiasts. You have worked closely with us at AOPA headquarters to protect airports, support new kinds of ownership opportunities, bolster our advocacy efforts, and welcome newcomers to GA.
I know just how many serious challenges general aviation is facing today, challenges that can discourage even the toughest among us. But, by traveling the country and meeting so many of you, I have found countless reasons to celebrate. Whether it’s the development of new forms of flight training that take advantage of modern simulator technology or the creation of pilot communities that thrive through social media, there are many good things happening. Together we have discovered important ways to improve flight training, and learned just how flying clubs can support thousands of aviators. And, we are learning more all the time about how to bring people back into flying.
One small research project taught me that there are literally millions of Americans who would like the opportunity to fly an airplane. Going forward we need to find people of all ages with this aspiration and then help nourish it. We must make the freedom to fly part of more people’s lives, and we are finding new and creative ways to do this through our Center to Advance the Pilot Community.
Throughout my time at AOPA, I have often reflected on the wisdom of our founders. They wanted to create an organization to protect our freedom to fly while also sharing their enthusiasm for flying safely to new and exciting places. I have done my best to further this vision and I will soon return to the ranks of AOPA members certain that, because of you and members like you, our organization will continue to represent us well and share our passion for flight. For this, I am very thankful!
As for the future, if you see a bright yellow Husky on the ramp, come over and say hello. I plan to keep flying, writing, and speaking, and I will support the general aviation community in whatever way I can. I do hope there is a bit more backcountry flying in my future as this group of aviators is filled with some of the best the general aviation community has to offer.
All the best!
You can follow Craig Fuller into the future online (www.TheFullerCompany.com).