There's no place I’d rather spend my free time than at the airport, in the company of others who enjoy flying as much as I do. And if the turnout at the AOPA Fly-Ins is any indication, I’m not the only one.
At those fly-ins, I’ve been impressed with the volunteer spirit among our members—impressed but not surprised. AOPA members are always ready to step up and help. In fact, members regularly call us, asking us to help them find volunteer opportunities.
The truth is that general aviation depends on the engagement of pilots, aircraft owners, and enthusiasts. And I count myself lucky to be part of a community that’s so enthusiastic about giving time and energy to making GA better.
AOPA relies on volunteers, and every member benefits from their efforts. The AOPA Airport Support Network depends on more than 2,500 volunteers based at airports around the country. These individuals serve as our eyes and ears, keeping us apprised of what’s happening at their airports and making sure small issues don’t become big problems. Our ASN volunteers are tireless. They work with airport management, pilot groups, neighbors, and others to help bring prosperity to the airports where they fly. They may weigh in on land use and planning, host safety events, and hold open houses to showcase their fields.
Local pilots are better positioned than anyone to understand the issues that could affect their airports. They’re alert to concerns about noise, traffic, security, development, maintenance, infrastructure, and more. And they understand the culture of the communities where they fly, making them outstanding advocates. AOPA can’t have employees everywhere, but with the help of our volunteers, we can provide the support local pilots need to build better flying communities and keep airports open.
But you don’t have to make such a big commitment to be an asset to GA. During our inaugural fly-ins last year, close to 1,500 people volunteered to help with everything from setup to cleanup. Our volunteers—wearing bright green T-shirts and smiles—set up tables and chairs, flipped pancakes, parked airplanes, answered questions, directed traffic, set out cones, handed out water and programs, and did hundreds of other jobs large and small.
I’ve worked with lots of volunteers in my life, and I couldn’t help but notice something special about the many members who turned out to help at our fly-ins, often bringing family and friends to pitch in, too.
Not only did they happily do anything we asked of them, being pilots they took the initiative to do
much more—and we frequently found that tasks we expected to take hours were completed in a fraction of the time.
Individually, our fly-in volunteers typically gave a few hours of time and told us they enjoyed the camaraderie of being with other pilots. Together, they contributed thousands of hours and played a huge role in the success of each event. We just couldn’t have done it without them.
Of course, it’s not just AOPA members who have the volunteer spirit, and we appreciate the tremendous efforts of EAA chapters and others who make volunteerism an integral part of the GA experience. We were fortunate to have many EAA chapters help with our AOPA Fly-Ins, and anyone who’s been to a big aviation event such as AirVenture or Sun ’n Fun can tell you how important volunteers are to creating a great atmosphere.
And we all can appreciate the contributions of the thousands of pilots who volunteer with charitable organizations. These organizations, and the pilots who serve them, do everything from delivering humanitarian relief supplies to helping veterans get home, from bringing patients to specialized medical care to flying rescued animals to new homes.
All of us at AOPA spend our days working to protect and grow general aviation. But the truth is that our efforts would be in vain if it wasn’t for the many ways our members get engaged and give of their time and talents. With every hour you give, you’re creating a better present—and future—for GA. So to all of you who give so much back, a big “thank you.” We couldn’t do it without you.
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AOPA President Mark Baker has more than 7,500 hours in 35 years of flying GA aircraft.