AOPA launched its Airport Support Network in 1997 to identify an AOPA member at each public-use airport in the country who would be willing to serve as the organization’s eyes and ears regarding threats to the airport. The program was immediately successful, with Airport Support Network volunteers providing critical information at threatened airports across the nation. These timely updates helped AOPA staff intervene with information to airport sponsors about the value of the airport, the airport’s grant obligations if it had received federal or state funds, and guidance on best practices for land use or airport management that would keep the airport free of operational restrictions.
AOPA has a long history of fighting to save the country’s public-use airports from closure, but a lack of timely information is a serious impediment to effective airport advocacy. Too often, local pilots called the association for help just as the local government was meeting that evening, or in the next few days, to discuss closing the airport. Receiving information early on and partnering with local pilots is more effective. Engaging local members in the fight is vital to a positive outcome. Local politicians are much more likely to respond to the concerns of their constituents. Providing a series of “how-to” guides on everything from airport open houses and understanding planning and zoning to talking to the media, AOPA equips its Airport Support Network volunteers and other airport supporters with the tools they need to become effective advocates for their airports.
The airports listed online are those for which AOPA is specifically recruiting Airport Support Network volunteers. These airports are all public-use, part of the FAA’s National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, and federally obligated either through receipt of grant funds or land transfers.
Today, there are more than 2,500 Airport Support Network volunteers throughout the country and 2016 launches with a new, invigorated initiative.
According to Adam Williams, AOPA manager of airport policy, the Airport Support Network program will be more active than ever. “We’re delivering new tools to volunteers,” he said. These include helpful summaries of complex airport topics, webinars, and a video for volunteers to present to the public. Going Higher: America’s Community Airports will debut at the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In in April. Airport Support Network staff will be present at Sun 'n Fun, EAA AirVenture, and all of the AOPA Regional Fly-Ins this year. There will be presentations at each fly-in as well as free breakfast for volunteers. The launch of a new website section is also planned.
“Since the middle of last year, my staff and I have been working to revitalize the Airport Support Network, one of AOPA’s most valued programs,” said Dawn Veatch, AOPA senior director of government affairs. “Our volunteers can soon expect an array of new resources to assist them in protecting their airports.”