AOPA Foundation donors were invited to a breakfast at the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo April 7, where they were updated on a wide range of AOPA activities.
“We’re here to say ‘thank you’ today,” said Mike Tompos, AOPA Foundation vice president of philanthropy. “You provide support that goes beyond what dues can do.”
AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President George Perry told the donors about some of the things that the institute is doing to make flying safer. The institute and AOPA have been working with the FAA to unblock TIS-B traffic information from aircraft not equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out. “That’s a big win that’s in the works,” he said, adding that making the information available to all pilots will help to prevent midair collisions.
The Air Safety Institute is also taking advantage of newer ways to share safety information, Perry said. “Our online courses are popular, but the videos are going through the roof.” It’s quick and easy to produce short videos to fulfill that new demand, he explained.
Perry also shared the general aviation accident rates from the latest Joseph T. Nall Report.
“It’s not a precipitous decline, but the trends are generally positive,” he said—noting that GA flight activity increased in 2014 and 2015. “2015 was one of the safest years for GA safety, ever.”
Katie Pribyl, AOPA senior vice president of communications, discussed AOPA’s efforts to increase the pilot population. “You Can Fly is a message we want to deliver to everyone in aviation,” she said, encompassing programs to support flying clubs, improving the student-pilot completion rate, and high-school students.
The You Can Fly programs seek to make flying more accessible and affordable. “And I’d like to add one more—approachable,” she said.
“We know that in some cases, time and money are an issue,” she said. “Through our own research, we found the customer experience—or lack thereof—was an even bigger problem.” Efforts to identify and share effective best practices with flight schools will continue.
The Rusty Pilots program has been successful at getting inactive pilots back into the cockpit. “When the third class medical [reform] gets completed, we’re primed to double or triple the number of seminars across the country,” she added.
AOPA President Mark Baker discussed the latest on third class medical reform, which is embedded in the FAA reauthorization bill. “Every U.S. senator agrees that this process does away with something that is inefficient and ineffective.”
The association continues to monitor any efforts to introduce user fees. “I think we’re going to be successful at getting no user fees at all in the final bill,” Baker said.
AOPA also is involved in efforts to integrate drones and other unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System. “Frankly, I think it can be a gateway drug for general aviation,” he said.
Other areas of emphasis Baker cited include unleaded avgas, the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control system and ADS-B, recreational use of backcountry airstrips, and pathways for the use of non-TSOed avionics in certified aircraft.