Former AOPA Chief, John Lee Baker, Passes

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John L. Baker, former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and second AOPA president, passed away March 11. Baker once served as assistant administrator in the FAA's office of general aviation affairs and headed AOPA from 1977 through 1990. At AOPA, he worked for fair distribution of a then $4 billion surplus in the Aviation Trust Fund, eventually influencing how money was distributed to some 3,000 general aviation airports. Baker's time at AOPA saw challenges that arose from the 1978 fatal midair of a Boeing 727 and a Cessna 172 near San Diego, GA issues surrounding the then newly established Terminal Control Area, and advancement of the first bills regarding changes to product liability law. In the words of his successor, Phil Boyer, "He was a highly qualified leader who transformed AOPA from a large flying club to one of the world's most successful membership organizations."

Among Baker's successes, AOPA counts the positive control airspace limit, which Baker helped hold at 18,000 MSL, when proposals attempted to lower it to 10,000 MSL. He also established AOPA's Political Action Committee in 1983, and negotiated cancellation of a proposed annual tax on GA aircraft, according to AOPA. Current AOPA president Craig Fuller said, "John Baker was an extraordinary advocate for our freedom to fly and his passion for defending the interests of the general aviation community never waned." Said Fuller, "his work has had a lasting impact on our industry." Services for Baker will be held March 14 at the Bryan-Lee Funeral Home in Angier, N.C.