I have been a member of AOPA for numerous years, and I am also the Airport Support Volunteer (ASN) for Scottsdale Airport SDL). Previously I served as the ASN of Phoenix Deer Vally Airport (DVT), the worlds busiest General Aviation airport.
I am fortunate to have many friends that have worked for AOPA over the years. Whenever I have encountered a situation I needed support for, AOPA is always there for me. The ASN program only works if you have a strong ASN at your airport. I have seen both marvelous ASN’s and poor ASN’s. If your airport does not have an ASN think about volunteering.
AOPA has had three President’s since I have been a member. Phil Boyer was the most energetic person I have ever worked with. My phone calls and emails were always answered promptly. I, along with a ballroom full of aviators, thoroughly enjoyed attending his presentations when he was in Phoenix. When Phil was finished he always took questions on a 1 to 1 basis.
AOPA had two major events they sponsored under the Boyer regime. Expo was a gathering of Aviators, Vendors and Manufactures. It switched between the East and West coast each year. Attendance was very good at all the West Coast events I attended. These also took place before the economy went into the tank. The other event was a fly in each June at AOPA headquarters. I was able to attend 2 of these and visited my daughter who was a doctor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
The next President was Craig Fuller who came aboard when the economy soured. He did not have the charisma that Boyer had and many members felt alienated from AOPA. Fuller would hob nob with the rich and famous and ignore the general membership. Upon his one visit to Phoenix there were less than 100 to hear him speak. The amount of mailers members received where overwhelming asking for money or to join a wine club. At Boyer’s height there were 415,000 members at AOPA. Today I do no know how many members AOPA has.
New regional directors were appointed and to this day I have never met and do not know our regional directors name. His predecessor was always active at Arizona events.
Now AOPA has a new President, Mark Baker. I have to admire Mr. Baker for having his first interview with ANN who was highly critical of everything Craig Fuller did at AOPA. Mr. Baker was evasive on some questions, but in all fairness after being on the job for only 3 weeks, I do not know how much knowledge Mr. Baker has of various situations. He sounds like a man that will be up to speed quickly.
I am very disappointed that AOPA has cancelled future Summits (EXPOS) after Mr Baker was only on the job for 5 days. I considered Summit to be one of the big 3 aviation gatherings, the others being Sun ‘N Fun and Air Adventure at Oshkosh. I will miss Summit as will my wife. The knowledge extended by educational classes and vendors was extensive. I do not know how this will ever be addressed in the future. AOPA states that they will have regional meetings in the future to replace Summit. I do not know how these will differ from Mr. Boyer’s meetings across the country. Phil was on the road over 35 weeks a year making presentations to the membership.
Mr. Baker has a tough road ahead of him. The general pilot population is at an age where pilots are dying at an alarming rate, losing their medicals, fed up with the costs associated with flying and government regulation. There are not enough new pilots entering our ranks as there is not a lot of discretionary income for flying when a young person is just out of college and handling expenses and debt.
I, along with those I have talked to, are excited about Mr. Baker being AOPA’s new President. The hope is that he will be more transparent with the membership than Mr. Fuller was. I know I wish Mr. Baker nothing but success.