Overall, GA is strong: The numbers of aircraft operations and pilot certificates are up, and the aircraft market continues to be hot. “Try finding a used aircraft for sale!” Baker said.
Protecting your freedom to fly
Baker recapped several of AOPA’s advocacy wins and ongoing efforts.
- Nearly 80,000 pilots have qualified to fly under the alternative medical path we advocated for known as BasicMed in just six years. The FAA recently released a report that looked at three years of data and determined that “BasicMed is just as safe as the third class medical,” Baker told the audience.
- Helped reverse the FAA directive requiring a letter of deviation authority for flight training in experimental aircraft.
- Championed efforts to push real-time status of military operations areas and special-use airspace into flight decks.
- Twenty-five years of promoting and protecting GA airports through the AOPA Airport Support Network program.
Baker highlighted some of the key advocacy initiatives that are ongoing.
- Help the GA fleet transition to all unleaded fuel by 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing an endangerment finding against leaded fuel, so we must transition quickly, but in a safe, smart manner, Baker explained. General Aviation Modifications Inc. has received approval for its G100UL fuel that covers almost the entire piston aircraft fleet and is currently selling supplemental type certificates for the fuel. Swift Fuels should have approval later this year. And, two fuels are showing progress in the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative.
- Provide more transient parking at public-use airports and stop charging pilots for parking in transient spots when using no services. “When you go to a publicly owned airport paid for by taxpayers, there should be a place to park for a reasonable price for as long as you want and not buy any services that you didn’t want to buy or need,” Baker said. He explained that our advocacy team is working to get a measure in place regarding the fees in the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill.
- Invest in GA hangar development at airports nationwide.
- Reform the designated pilot examiner system to reduce checkride wait times. Baker said the United States had about 1,500 DPEs in 1980, when about 45,000 to 50,000 private pilot certificates a year were issued. “We fell all the way down to about 700” examiners with just 17,000 to 20,000 private pilot certificates issued annually. However, “now we are headed back to 45,000 to 50,000” private pilot certificates a year and the number of DPEs is around 900. According to Baker, the FAA has said it doesn’t have enough people to manage the DPEs. Baker pledged to continue working to correct this issue.
Building a stronger, safer GA community
AOPA continues to grow the pilot population through its You Can Fly program.
- You Can Fly High School Aviation STEM Curriculum engages more than 16,000 students in 1,500 classrooms across the country in ninth through twelfth grades. Nearly half of these students come from minority backgrounds, and more than 20 percent are female. Nearly 60 percent of the program’s first graduates report that they are actively pursuing an aviation career.
- Nearly 12,000 inactive pilots have returned to the left seat through our Rusty Pilots program.
- Helped launch more than 220 flying clubs to make aviation more accessible and affordable.
- Created the AOPA Flight Training Advantage app to enhance the training experience. More than 1,500 flight schools and 1,000 CFIs have registered in the app, and students have logged 7,500 hours.
GA is enjoying a tremendous safety record, and the AOPA Air Safety Institute continues to develop award-winning educational material to make pilots even safer.