Perhaps the most famous group of American pilots in World War I was the 94th Aero Squadron. Stationed in France to clear the skies over Western Europe and led by Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, they shot down more than 50 enemy aircraft. The squadron’s Hat-in-the-Ring insignia was tribute to the fact that the members were volunteers, willing to do battle for what they believed in. The AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society currently has nearly 600 member donors who have thrown their hats into the ring to help preserve our freedom to fly.
So why is more financial fuel needed beyond your AOPA dues? That’s simple. As a more than 40-year member of AOPA, I can tell you that our dues have lagged far behind inflation and that AOPA has been asked to do much more—especially since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Airport Support Network; staffing to push back against overreaching security mandates; more need for airport preservation efforts; and a major expansion of safety programs, both live and online, through the Air Safety Institute are activities that are essential and need funding.
You’ll remember that “little” recession we went through a few years ago. That resulted in two major sources of revenue to AOPA shrinking drastically—print advertising and an affinity credit card program. The need to stand up against overregulation and local misunderstandings that often threaten general aviation airports has increased significantly. Growing the pilot population through the promotion of flying clubs, improving training, and the perception of GA all take time and money to develop and execute.
A last comment on why this is important: If you’ve been to other parts of the world, you’ll know that light GA is regulated almost out of existence. Without AOPA it would be the same in the United States. You’ll hear more in our 75th anniversary issue of AOPA Pilot that’s coming up in May.
It takes your financial support—and that of thousands of other pilots—to support the free world-class safety training presented and provided by the Air Safety Institute. Every contribution makes a difference, and we thank everyone who donates to the AOPA Foundation. Financial circumstances are different, but by contributing at any level you are declaring that GA matters to you.
For those who are able, Hat in the Ring Society members commit $1,000 or more annually to show their support for GA and encourage others to do the same. I’ve been a member for more than 20 years—as long as I’ve worked here—because ensuring the future of GA means investing in the present. (You shouldn’t ask if you don’t give!) It also means immediate benefits that can be seen every day (see “Foundation Focus: What Have We Done for You Lately?” December 2013 AOPA Pilot).
Some society members are well known: Actors Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, and Dave Coulier, author Stuart Woods; celebrity chef Alton Brown; and airshow star Michael Goulian all believe and contribute. Hundreds of other society members are leaders in their businesses and communities, who see the benefits general aviation in their own lives, and want others to have similar opportunities.
But you don’t need to be a CEO or personality to throw your hat into the ring. Very simply, all society members have a common bond—a love for GA and a desire to protect the freedom to fly for themselves and others. Their tax-deductible contributions allow the AOPA Foundation to continue to bring flying within reach of more Americans and help build local support for community airports. They support the Flight Training Excellence Awards, the AOPA Flying Club Network, and the AOPA Foundation’s “Giving Back” program, which provides modest but needed contributions to worthy charitable flying organizations. And they support the Air Safety Institute, which provides safety education, research, and analysis to the entire GA community—not just to AOPA members.
Society members know that it takes persistence to solve aviation’s most longstanding and intractable problems. And they make an annual donation because they recognize that we can’t afford to stand back and hope someone else will take action. If you believe general aviation is a cause worth fighting for and can make the move to a higher level of commitment, you belong here. To learn more about how you can take a leadership role in protecting general aviation, contact Hat in the Ring Society membership liaison Justin Biassou at 301-695-2268 or [email protected].
Bruce Landsberghas been a member of the AOPA Hat in the Ring Society for 21 years.