By AVweb Staff
As AOPA President Craig Fuller announces his departure, a survey of AVweb readers reveals that about half - 53 percent -- think AOPA has done a good to exceptional job of promoting and protecting general aviation. But almost one in five -- 17 percent -- say just the opposite; AOPA has done a poor to mediocre job, in their view. Readers are less generous in rating Fuller's job performance. Some 32 percent say Fuller has done a fair to satisfactory job, while 38 percent rated his performance as poor or mediocre. Our survey revealed that while Fuller has some fans among the membership, only 5 percent think he's done an exceptional job, while 24 percent grade him as good. The findings are the result of an online survey AVweb published during the week of March 4 in which we asked 13 questions across a range of topics related to AOPA's performance as a member organization.
All told, 851 readers responded to our survey, the vast majority of them members of AOPA. Sixty-nine percent said they were aircraft owners and another 9 percent said they hoped to be. Many respondents were longtime members of the organization. Readers seem most pleased with AOPA's efforts in general to promote aviation, although many said they were confused about just how effective the association has been in this effort. "I have to ask myself: If there was no AOPA, what would be different today regarding regs, airspace and FAA/GA relationship and cooperation?" wrote 30-year-plus AOPA member Steve Biggs. There's also a degree of resignation in understanding just how influential AOPA can be. Or not. Wrote life member Art Woods: "Using TSA as an example, I think there is no advocacy group that could overcome the system in place -- FAA, DHS, etc. However, I do feel that there are some small victories like ADs. The medical exemption would be significant."
We also asked what members thought of AOPA's efforts to promote pilot starts. The short answer is not much. About 44 percent of readers rated AOPA's efforts in this area as poor to mediocre, but again, many aren't sure what exactly the association has done or is doing. And some members -- 21 percent, to be exact -- rated the association's work as good in this area. "I rate it good. It's not AOPA's responsibility to do this. It's all of our responsibility. They work hard in this area, smartly, to ensure they exist as an association in the future," said one member. "Mediocre: EAA's Eagle and Young Eagle programs seem much more effective. Maybe because the magazine is not compelling to read, I can't recite the specifics of AOPA's program," said Roy Thoma, a 23-year member.
Readers give higher marks for AOPA's efforts to hold off government regulation, with 42 percent saying the association is good or exceptional at this task. Only 10 percent rated it poor, although there were some complaints that AOPA hasn't done enough to eliminate the third class medical nor prevent the proliferation of temporary flight restrictions that impinge on GA activity.
We also asked reader opinions about AOPA's aggressive efforts to enhance revenue by targeting members for both donations and sales of related products and services such as insurance, medical services and flight planner apps. This question tapped a wellspring of ire, with 61 percent saying that AOPA should stick to its core mission, but only 7 percent saying these are a good idea and benefit members. Readers wore us out with comments about the association's ill-starred idea to start a member wine club. This was mentioned dozens of times. "Wine club? Really? Another reason why AOPA needs to get back to grassroots with its mission," said Andrew Elwood, in a comment typical of many on this subject.
We also asked respondents if they planned to remain a member of AOPA and most -- 58 percent -- said they would, while 9 percent said no and 26 percent were undecided, some saying they wanted to see in what direction a new president will take the association.
There's also very little support for merging AOPA with EAA, the other major GA association. Only one in five thought this was a good idea, while more than half -- 53 percent -- said no to the proposal. "The missions of AOPA and EAA are markedly different. That said, there has been far too much wasted overlap in recent years. Craig Fuller has represented this as a good thing, but I disagree. If the overlap gets that extensive, then either we don't need two organizations or the two organizations are not sticking to their respective missions. I favor the second scenario," said Jim Herd.