AOPA's New Direction

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Last week's reader survey on AOPA and outgoing president Craig Fuller drew a surprising number of written comments—easily several thousand. As I pored over them last weekend, I had to wonder what the AOPA board will think of all this. We would like to ask them, but the association declined our request for an interview with the board. And therein lies the problem, one of several.

My impression of the survey results—and you can read most of them yourself here —is that as organizations tend to, AOPA has lost touch with the core interests of its members. Everyone in GA understands there's been a sea change, but the perception is that for AOPA, it's business as usual. There's a strong sense that AOPA's leadership manages with the association's concerns first, those of the membership second. This is hardly surprising; it's the first law of organizations. They quite naturally become institutional victims of sclerosis, driven more by the momentum of tradition than the reality of an evolving world.

In compiling the survey data and reading the comments, I concluded that members don't think AOPA is irretrievably broken, but just that it's wandered off course and needs new leadership to steer it back where it belongs. I agree. This isn't a catastrophe by any means. It's fixable.

For me personally, it's mostly about fiscal transparency and cost control commensurate with the realities of the rest of the world. This I think AOPA simply does not have. So through that lens and my interpretation of what others have said, here's what I hope for in AOPA's new direction:

A More Transparent Board:The board needs to be both more visible to members and have better membership representation. Further, the board's intent should be known by members. If the current board fired Craig Fuller, why shouldn't members know why? If he quit over dissatisfaction with their direction, tell us. The board or organization itself should have an independent ombudsman.

An Open Balance Sheet: As a non-profit, AOPA's public IRS filings give the barest glimpse of its finances. Yet the filings list large-sum line items that AOPA declines to explain. Why shouldn't members know this? Further, the association's commitment to retirement payouts to management should also be transparent.

Demonstrated Cost Control: While the rest of general aviation has been ravaged by mass layoffs and closings, AOPA appears to have remained largely untouched. Many comments we read complained about high salaries for AOPA top management while the industry it represents suffers downsizing and salary reductions. Why shouldn't AOPA show it understands belt tightening? It needs to learn to live lean, just like the rest of us. It also needs to learn it will have fewer customers, just like the rest of us.

Demonstrated Wise Use of Resources: AOPA maintains large cash and asset reserves. Why? The association should demonstrate that it knows how to and is willing to invest these resources in GA growth and activity, not just hiring a fund manager to make the investments grow.

Better Performance on Pilot Starts and Ownership: AOPA is on the right track with its new flying club and partnership initiatives. But to prove these, it should be willing to aggressively market these ideas by applying the aforementioned reserves, not just have them as web site tabs. Even though no one should assume this will produce dramatic results, no organization is better positioned to try it than AOPA. This may be the single most potent way to reduce the cost of aircraft ownership, a goal that's otherwise a mirage.

Forceful Fuel Leadership: The cost of and worry about the availability of fuel may be the single biggest drag on aviation activity. AOPA's leadership on this issue has been lukewarm, at best, following the path of least resistance in jollying along the feds. First, it should form a strong coalition with EAA to encourage mogas as an option for some owners. This has happened in Europe and with mogas, the price delta against avgas can be considerable. Yes, I know all about ethanol mandates and blender credits, but that's no reason not to try. A 100-octane replacement will find its way to market unbidden, but it will cost more than 100LL does now. Owners who don't need the octane should have a lower-cost option. AOPA has a role to play.

Second, AOPA should use some of its large financial reserves to sponsor an AOPA Fuel Prize to the first company or companies that devise market-ready 100LL replacements. This might encourage innovation and allow smaller companies to recoup investment. Even research grants from that $70 million the association is sitting on might not be a bad idea, although it would have been a better idea three years ago.

No More Cannibal Competition: Many—including me—complain about AOPA's penchant for launching business lines that compete with companies in the industry. With its tax-free status, it enjoys a competitive advantage. It should cease or dial back this process. It sours the relationship with many members and companies who feel they're being betrayed by the very association they're urged to support. Instead of constantly seeking new revenue to support high embedded costs, it should look to the expense side of the ledger. (See cost control, above.)

Go for Broke On Third Class: AOPA's proposal to conditionally eliminate the Third-Class medical is another right-track idea. But several commenters suggested AOPA has been too timid with the FAA in pursuing it. While it's true that the rank-and-file don't grasp the political realities AOPA works under, it's also true that members still expect more aggressive action. Many believe that's what they're paying for.

Lose the Jet: There, I've said it. We in the aviation press, ever stooges for the industry, often sing the praises of GA aircraft for business travel. And while they definitely have their place, most of us also know that on some trips, the airplane simply isn't cost efficient, but is just a tax-deductible excuse to go flying. As a few readers noted, with its jet, AOPA has an appearances problem. It often approaches members for more donations while simultaneously seeming to fly executives around in turbine luxury. In the current economy, that sends the wrong message. When AOPA maintained pistons—as it still does—and a turboprop twin, we heard no such complaints.

If it needs a jet on some trips—and it probably does—the association should consider a fractional position or partnership with other companies. To me, that sends a more fiscally responsible message without abandoning a commitment to GA. Lots of companies that use—and need—jets, don't own jets.

That's my short list. Will the AOPA board be receptive to any such ideas? Beats me. But I surmise that Fuller's early departure suggests dissatisfaction of some sort between the president and the board. If the board continues to drive in the direction it has been, in my view, it can expect fewer members and more disaffection from those who remain.

Comments (70)

Paul, as an AOPA member, I fully agree with your opinions. The organization should be accountable to its members. I support the recommendations you have made regarding its new direction.

Posted by: FRED GERR | March 13, 2013 6:28 PM    Report this comment

If they need a jet, they should fly commercial. Screw the one solution drop in replacement and get with the program on ethanol free mogas. Provide full accountability on finances/investments. But hey, no need to listen to me. I'm no longer a member. I was. I would like to be again. Perhaps if they become more receptive to what I hear most pilots are concerned about I will be a member once again.

Posted by: jay Manor | March 13, 2013 7:16 PM    Report this comment

Oh, and quit pushing against user fees. Does anyone really think the tax we pay on our annual fuel usage is enough to fund our utilization of the system?

Posted by: jay Manor | March 13, 2013 7:20 PM    Report this comment

Paul, spot-on with every recommendation. I'd like to add one of my own: stop hounding members for money! It seems like there's an exponential increase every year in phone calls and junk mail asking for more donations to fight the latest big scary GA-killing monster. I'm not saying that AOPA shouldn't fight these battles, but with the amount of cash they have in the bank, why do they want more of my money so badly?

Posted by: Aaron Fettig | March 13, 2013 8:20 PM    Report this comment

Add to the list: Objections to Craig Fuller/BOD's resolution to allow Michael Skarzynski develop and lead an AOPA holdings investment scheme using membership funds.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | March 14, 2013 12:47 AM    Report this comment

I've been an AOPA member for 10 years and admit that there does seem to be a change. One example, the fight against user fees. When Boyer was president, the association was against the fees, but was willing to go along with an increase in the fuel excise tax, which I thought was a great example of compromise. Now, they just seem to be against any type of new fee or tax increase and it contributes to the "us vs. them" mentality, and doesn't help aviation's public image. Another disappointment for me was the Colgan law. To my knowledge, AOPA did nothing to prevent it. There was no call to action to their membership to contact their Congressman. It may not have prevented the law, but it was better than doing nothing. And now because of the law, I've cut way back on my flying because it will take several years for me to get the hours I need, and I just can't justify the expense anymore. Flying has become an expensive once a month hobby for me, to the point that I'm considering hanging up my headset.

Posted by: EJ Gonzalez | March 14, 2013 7:24 AM    Report this comment

Great short list Paul, but it is just the beginning. Add to this devote more resources to pilot education programs, instead of being in the GA insurance business, help create an insurance cost reduction program that brings together lawmakers users, manufacturers and insurers to lower fees and put realistic limits on liability for owners and renter pilots. New pilot starts should be a high priority and AOPA should bring together the interested partied such as trade schools, colleges, airlines, to work out a framework for a "pilot pipeline" that addresses the coming shortage as the boomers age out of the business and foreign workers start filling those jobs. AOPA should be a focal point, not a business looking to perpetuate itself, that sets short and long term goals for GA and its members future. How about an aviation short story or book contest? Awards or cash prizes for the CFI that solos the most students? ALPA has Air Safety awards to pilots that saved the day somehow that year, sponsor seminars on improving GA safety with local FAASTeams, international Human Factors experts, and on and on.....most of all host a review such as this blog to solicit ideas from members, you will find there's a lot of smart folks like Paul that can help fix the problems without hiring an outside consultant....

Posted by: Phil Graves | March 14, 2013 7:26 AM    Report this comment

Paul,

I have submitted your name as a candidate for the presidency of AOPA.

Best of Luck.

Posted by: Geoff Reid | March 14, 2013 7:47 AM    Report this comment

All good points except one. The jet, really? Aren't we the ones, the aircraft owners and pilots, who get upset with the current administrations's crusade against biz jets? Aren't we the ones touting the use of airplanes as business productivity tools? It seems peculiar to take the stance that the representative organization of aircraft owners should be denied the use of a jet.

Posted by: James Kabrajee | March 14, 2013 8:09 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I think you are right on with these suggestions and will be interested in seeing all the other comments. However, I also think our 'reality' of what the organization should be and the 'reality' of what the BOD wants the organization to be (to justify their salaries and benefits) will be very difficult - if not impossible - to accomplish.

As you noted above, AOPA (the BOD and members) needs to redefine its image, purpose, and goals then make these clear to the members. The problem with this is getting aggreement from the BOD, president, senior managers, etc that AOPA needs to be redefined - even if that means salary and/or benefit reductions, refocusing on services, etc. I can't imagine that happening without a significant number of members dropping their membership and the possibility of the government coming in to 'check' on their non-profit status.

Regretably, in almost every case, money, power, and presitige will win over truth and what really needs to be done.

Posted by: Richard Norris | March 14, 2013 8:15 AM    Report this comment

Paul - good points. I have a real concern about AOPA's stance on the contract tower. Issue - seems to me, much like flight service, perhaps some of these need to go to prevent user fees. Also, the third class medical exemption & easing certification requirements on Part 23 aircraft would help save big $$$$ and could prevent user fees as well.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | March 14, 2013 8:31 AM    Report this comment

Wow… despite all the time I spend reading AOPA Pilot, I never knew about the jet. Did I miss those pages? I side with those who think the jet is wretched excess. For most trips, a high-performance piston plane works just fine, and a King Air is even better. And I don't give money to organizations that aren't frugal. Jet ownership isn't frugal.

Posted by: John Schubert | March 14, 2013 8:41 AM    Report this comment

Keep the jet, but put it into a program where it can generate some revenue through use by others. I agree with the statement about not competing in the Aviation Industry. I would much rather have a cooperative agreement with an industry leader than have AOPA in the business. More like the AOPA credit card, and less like FlyQ.

Posted by: Michael Vance | March 14, 2013 8:45 AM    Report this comment

Paul - Excellent editorial but for gosh sakes, lay off us jet owners. There are an awful lot of us, and we count too. We are an important segment of general aviation and AOPA represents us as well. Besides, production of jet aircraft is an important an essential part of our economy.

Posted by: Howard Tobin | March 14, 2013 8:48 AM    Report this comment

The US definitely does not need user fees. Take a look at the countries (all of them) who have them and see how GA is either stagnant or worse.

AOPA may not need a jet but I would not "inflict" airline transporation on anyone. Trips of up to around 700NM can beat the airlines in a small piston aircraft such as a Bonanaza. Basically only non-stop transcons cannot be beat in turboprop or less capable GA aircraft and a transcon GA jet is very expensive and not owned by AOPA to by knowledge.

Posted by: William Zollinger | March 14, 2013 8:58 AM    Report this comment

The jet is N4GA, a 2005 Citation CJ3. It can be seen on FlightAware. It is registered to a leasing company, not AOPA.

Posted by: JAMES MEHLING | March 14, 2013 9:33 AM    Report this comment

I've been an AOPA member since 1986 and I never heard of "The Jet". Where do they hide that stealth aircraft? I'm feeling really used about right now...

Posted by: A Richie | March 14, 2013 9:34 AM    Report this comment

Oh, and ditch the "Wine Club"! Flying and Drinking do not mix!

Posted by: A Richie | March 14, 2013 9:36 AM    Report this comment

Excellent work Paul. I do not know if AOPA can be fixed but we do need an organization to fight the ongoing destruction of general aviation. AOPA is a bloated organization with outrageous salaries. They continue to up sell the membership to finance their excesses. Look at IRS form 990 available on the AOPA website under governance. Fuller has a pay package in excess of $800,000 per year with many other managers and former managers feeding at the trough. Sorry but the Citation and Caravan has to go. They are not cost effective and send the wrong message. I tried to get the addresses of the board of directors but AOPA would not give them out. The problem is most AOPA members do not know about the excesses. The board is ultimately responsible and they are obviously are remiss in their duties. AOPA needs a new board and new management but this will be difficult because they stifle communication. I really do not want to renew my membership but I will because I can't fight from the outside. I Googled William C. Trimble and found the address of his business and I plan to write him even though he will likely be of little help. Somehow we need to expose AOPA to the membership. By the way another example of AOPA not serving the membership is the high cost of Jeppesen databases. I have asked for years if AOPA could help but since the get so much advertising money from Jeppesen they ignored the problem. Keep up the good work Paul.

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | March 14, 2013 9:55 AM    Report this comment

I believe that they should keep the jet, as long as there is a true need to visit several locations in one day or many over the course of a week, and especially if there are two or more folks traveling at the same time. If they can also develop other business for it when not being used and help defray costs, that would be fine, too. Going commercial is a short-sighted and off-the cuff comment, usually made by folks who do not have serious and frequent travel needs. I have avoided "going commercial" for more than a year now and will do whatever it takes to continue avoid that "experience" whenever possible.

Posted by: Randy Davis | March 14, 2013 10:07 AM    Report this comment

IF AOPA wants Jet Speed transport, they should fly an Aerostar. NO TURBINE for AOPA. International Flyers feel really let down. No fuel on Midway Island, GA route to Japan dead, there are so many things where AOPA failed to deliver. When scandals like the threat to "shoot down" the Glider pilot happen, their reaction looks like they are in bed with the security apparatus out of control. Same with "exit permits" now required to depart, which again discriminates GA compared to airline PAX.

Posted by: ROBERT ZIEGLER | March 14, 2013 10:08 AM    Report this comment

I am one of the "international" members of this organization, which simply adds up to zilch in terms of benefits to me personally as a pilot. I also concur with Paul on all of his salient points. Right now I can't even get a soft loan as an AOPA member because there is no such thing as "international" benefits and I have been a member since 1997. US70M in reserves and a private jet for a non-profit puts AOPA in the same category as some of the tele-evangelists like Joel Olsteen who live like kings while their members enjoy the crumbs that fall from the master's table. I removed my membership once before and was approached and invited back with promises of "international" benefits. Of course I now know all they were interested in was my wallet. I wish the new president well, but he's either got to shape up, or ship out. Keep writing Paul, something may crack open in the future, hopefully soon.

Posted by: David Christmas | March 14, 2013 10:09 AM    Report this comment

Hey Jay, if you think user fees is ok, then you might as well kiss GA good bye as we know it. Once that door is open, the bureaucracy will swallow us whole. Government is not the solution, they are the problem.

Posted by: JOHN KAZICKAS | March 14, 2013 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Regarding the jet, it's never been a secret. Phil Boyer wrote an article in AOPA Pilot detailing the rationale behind the switch to a CJ before they even took delivery of the airplane. Basically it improved productivity and didn't cost any more than the older and slower turboprop it was replacing. Read the article for yourself:

http://www.aopa.org/prez/prespos/pp9806.html

Posted by: Ron Rapp | March 14, 2013 11:04 AM    Report this comment

The link didn't take, but it's at:

www.aopa.org/prez/prespos/pp9806.html

Posted by: Ron Rapp | March 14, 2013 11:05 AM    Report this comment

Paul I agree 100% with everything you are saying. Especially your comments on 100LL and 3rd Class Medical. Those issues affect the bread and butter slice of the AOPA membership, Gerry 20+ year member.

Posted by: Gerry Coon | March 14, 2013 11:16 AM    Report this comment

Although I have been a member for 20 years now I have "stuck" (in more ways than one ) with AOPA. This is in spite of a TOTAL lack of support for a new airport in my own county. It would have been a regional airport serving the Summit county ski areas about 4 months out of the year and been a superb GA airport 12 months per year. 150'x12,000' runway, terminal and room for a crosswind runway for a grand total of 15 million back in 1995. UPS and FedEx also had interest in the airport. I guess DIA influence with AOPA killed that one even though the numbers would not have significantly, negatively impacted DIA. On another subject, fuel taxes are the single best way to fund GA. It is simple, equitable and easy to adjust for changes in funding needs. Unless, of course, the agenda is for killing another of our freedoms is the real agenda.

Posted by: David Loring | March 14, 2013 11:23 AM    Report this comment

AOPA's letting the class 3 medical issue go to the "back burner" has me wondering if it cares about us members. It is leaning toward a self-perpetuating entity only interested in is own empire building.

Posted by: Charles Kettering | March 14, 2013 11:29 AM    Report this comment

Ron, I kind of doubt the economics in that analysis, given that it's almost 14 years old. But stipulating that it's fair and correct, here's the thing: You don't see the jet mentioned or featured much in AOPA coverage. We wanted to do a video on it a few years ago and there was a real sensitivity there.

Why? I suspect it's because AOPA understands the appearances problem. For a $30M organization, even one in GA, it looks like flashing the wad. If the jet is such a great idea, put it out there and let us see the numbers and how it's used. Maybe the appearance reverses itself. But we don't get those questions answered. We should. In fact, maybe they should post the expenses on the web site. (How N4GA is working for you...)

Many members complain about being buttonholed for donations to support a high overhead organization. It's easy to say, well, just don't donate. But those drives costs money. It takes money to raise money. My point is to look on the expense side rather than asking members for yet more money. In business, we often ask, is this trip necessary?

Should AOPA do the same? Perhaps.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 14, 2013 11:52 AM    Report this comment

Paul ... excellent analysis.

I'll be frank - IF the AOPA doesn't get the medical petition passed soon - especially post sequestration - my membership will end. I'm tired of reading page after page in AOPA Pilot talking about airplanes I can NEVER hope to afford or own. I'll be damned if I'm going to spend more than $150K for a 'pipsqueek' LSA airplane while the prima donnas at AOPA are flying around in a jet.

I have been a member of AOPA for 30 years and I can't readily think of one issue it has done to make MY flying or ownership cheaper or easier. AOPA is incessantly asking me for money while they simultaneously look for a "fund manager!" They seem to roll with the punches from an FAA that all of us pilots know is totally out of control and run by unelected bureaucrats who are both myopic and parochial in their viewpoints while wielding merciless power none of us can defend against without still more lawyers.

Phooey. I just went to a car show and saw the new Corvette - I can have one of those for 1/3 the cost of a LSA, use it more often and put up with - well - ZERO BS !!

AOPA BOD ... get off your you know what's and DO SOMETHING! Otherwise, sell the jet, lay off the staff and give all of tha money in your "funds" back to current AOPA members in a percentage based on years of membership. 'We' don't need you.

Sorry, folks, but I'm mad - MAD! Just yesterday I got STILL ANOTHER letter from AOPA asking for money. DO SOMETHING AOPA!

Posted by: Larry Stencel | March 14, 2013 12:00 PM    Report this comment

Doesnt the NBAA represent the jet crowd? I think that somehow, AOPA, EAA and NBAA need to coordinate efforts and not overlap so much. I'm at the EAA end of the aviation food chain but keep my AOPA membership active primarily because of the safety programs.

Posted by: Jim Lo Bue | March 14, 2013 12:06 PM    Report this comment

Paul -- Great blog as usual, but I guess I'm in the minority when I say for AOPA to keep the jet.

As others have said, do we really want to be like the current Administration and say "Jets are bad, get rid of them"? My brother is a mechanic and head steward on a fleet of jets and this company OWNS them...they keep a roof over his head and bread on the table.

Other than that, a person who LIVES GA needs to be in the AOPA President's office, not another person who will insitiute the AOPA "beer of the month" club.

I wonder if AOPA's BOD takes outside names for consideration, or is it all up to the executive research firm they hire?

Posted by: R. Doe | March 14, 2013 12:13 PM    Report this comment

Paul, excellent analysis and suggestons. Re: "the jet," I'd say AOPA ought to be evaluating its aircraft needs every 2-3 years, and explaining to the members why it keeps or disposes of any of the fleet. I think the jet burns some of us because AOPA isn't a profit-making corporation... uh... or is it? I hope the BOD reads the op-ed and comments. Associations can wither away, and AOPA is at risk.

Posted by: Hunter Heath | March 14, 2013 12:29 PM    Report this comment

Right on, Paul. Thanks for callin' it like you see it. I think AOPA does a lot of great stuff - I use their insurance services, I'm constantly on the site for safety training and i occasionally use some of their other online tools, but transparency is non-negotiable and must be addressed, as well as competing with for-profit products and services. NOT what a non-profit association exists for. The jet is just a subset of the cost control issue - the members should demand more fiscal responsibility (if they could with a little more transparency), and its hard to believe that owning a jet is the way to do that.

Posted by: Joe Goebel | March 14, 2013 12:49 PM    Report this comment

Paul, your comments on right on. I have been a member of AOPA for 48 years and I remember so well the influence of such notables as Max Kurant who refused to pull aritcles in Pilot about the inherent deficiencies of the V-Tail Bonanza even when Beech threatend to cease advertising. In today's organization environment poor Max would find himself on the unemployment lines.

Posted by: saul hyman | March 14, 2013 12:53 PM    Report this comment

One more time on the Jet. They do not need it and it looks bad when most of GA is in the tank. Jets are not cost effective in most cases despite what Boyer's analysis said. A Citation costs about $2500 an hour to operate. Although I am a retired airline pilot I have thousands of hours flying and managing corporate jets including Citations. The vast majority of AOPA members could not afford a ride in one much less own one. Somehow I get the "Turbine " edition of AOPA magazine. It is full of articles about multimillion dollar turbine aircraft; most of them have Haines or another staff member getting a demo flight. The NBAA is the voice of corporate jet aviation. AOPA needs to get back to their roots. When I was a Marine Officer I learned leaders eat last and take care of their troops. AOPA management eats first and does not care about the average member.

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | March 14, 2013 1:09 PM    Report this comment

Patrick McBurnett, that is the most perceptive and on-target post on this subject I have seen. Agree 100%. Thank you for your service, sir.

Posted by: A Richie | March 14, 2013 1:28 PM    Report this comment

Or get Phil back. I remember when he started as pres, he made a comment in AOPA Pilot that the Mooney PFM wasn't 'meeting the mission' of the organization. I was incensed and wrote to Boyer for using an aircraft that flew 6 kt slower than its Lycoming powered counterpart and cost 66% more. He actually bothered to write back. I never got the feeling Fuller would have done so.

Posted by: David Rosing | March 14, 2013 1:38 PM    Report this comment

One thing is certainly clear: You have spent a great deal of time and intellectual effort on this article. Your logic, objectivity, and ability to communicate clearly are what draws me to AvWeb and its advertisers, twice weekly. Kudos to Paul Bertorelli!

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | March 14, 2013 1:45 PM    Report this comment

When you look at all of GA, you see that fundamentally, it’s about four stakeholder groups: 1 Users (pilots, owners, operators). 2 Providers (manufacturers, FBOs, MROs, airport owners/operators, lenders, insurers, etc.). 3 Regulators (FAA, FCC, EPA, etc.). 4 The public (as taxpayers, and in all ways as non-members of the other three groups).

Not one of these groups can survive without the approval of – if not the help of – the other three.

AOPA needs to figure out, and then say in plain English: 1 Who it represents. 2 What it does for them. 3 How all of that is going to advance the survival of all four groups, and thus, of GA.

If it does that, it should have little difficulty defining the qualities it seeks in its next leader. If it fails to do that, it probably won’t matter very much who they pick.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | March 14, 2013 2:07 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the expose, though after 35 years as a member I quit AOPA about 20 years ago for the same reasons; because they had nothing to do with the piston segment. Today, the piston segment is on the ropes with extinction threatened. T(turbine)AOPA apparently has never considered a war time effort to save the piston airplane in N. America. Nothing. I love the magazine, but it costs barely $3 per copy, so the rest of the $39 went to fluff all those years, while the pistons died. I'm a part of a large group of aging pilots that will not be replaced in nearly the numbers of the past. I think it is a sure assumption that new pilots will get their info from places like this site and excellent minds like Paul...for free.

Posted by: Bob Smith | March 14, 2013 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Paul, your comments about AOPA's current situation/malaise are very thoughtful and represent a balanced summary of all responses to the survey.

I personally feel AOPA dropped the ball on the 100LL avgas problem, i.e. the threat of it becoming unavailable or being outlawed. This is where AOPA should have taken a leadership role. As you suggested, AOPA could use some of its cash reserves for research grants or Prize monies, instead of passively letting the FAA manage this fuel transition as a member of their UAT-ARC. I am concerned that the FAA may not be able to continuously fund the technical work to test/approve unleaded replacement fuels,hence the need for AOPA (and EAA)to support this work more actively.

I was surprised that the work of the Air Safety Foundation (now AOPA Foundation)did not get much more positive recognition. In my view, their free interactive courses and seminars are among the best ways for pilots to stay safe and earn credits under the FAA WINGS program.

Finally, I would like to see the potential of a merger of EAA and AOPA examined in some detail. I feel these two organizations represent just about all GA activities and interests, and their individual activities/interests are complementary in my opinion. The two of them together would represent a formidable force to fight for GA's survival and its continued access to the National Air Space.

Posted by: ROLF SCHOLZ | March 14, 2013 3:55 PM    Report this comment

EAA/AOPA merger? Ain't gonna happen. Too much "turf" to protect. And, who would get the jet?

Posted by: A Richie | March 14, 2013 5:05 PM    Report this comment

My response to the reader survey was to question why AOPA ended actual GA flying by its members (and probably also by its employees for AOPA travel). My wife began her pilot training with two AOPA spouse flying courses that used local CFIs. She went on to an instrument rating and bought a C-172. My question was: is AOPA more sensitive to its attorneys that to its members?

Posted by: Gordon Hughes | March 14, 2013 7:21 PM    Report this comment

Thank you, Paul, for another exhaustive effort to keep us informed. Muchas gracias.

Posted by: David Miller | March 14, 2013 7:47 PM    Report this comment

I've been an active dues paying member since 1993 and I still keep getting membership requests in the mail. ??? It's no wonder I haven't won anything from this organization. Why hasn't the class three medical exemption been resolved? "Lose the CJ" I know you jet guys can't stand the thought of going back to flying real airplanes.

Posted by: Mark Coats | March 14, 2013 8:40 PM    Report this comment

" Real Airplanes " you know, the one's with the prop thingy up front.. : )

Posted by: Mark Coats | March 14, 2013 8:47 PM    Report this comment

Paul Bertorelli for AOPA president. Seriously. He knows how to communicate, he knows aviation and he has an excellent plan.

Posted by: Kenneth Katz | March 14, 2013 10:34 PM    Report this comment

1. The "turbine" section of AOPA Magazine is a total waste. 2. AOPA only takes on issues that have a 99% chance of winning. Obviously one has to choose battles wisely, but there are difficult issues out there that need to be addressed and AOPA turns a blind eye.

Posted by: Randy Coller | March 15, 2013 5:40 AM    Report this comment

Apparently, the AOPA board may be reading this board. Here's a brand new statement from Chairman Bill Trimble about AOPA's search for a new leader. He addresses the $80 million reserves, the "core" member being a owner/renter of piston singles, and the price of avgas. But no mention is made of the 3rd class medical or the Jet.

...www.aopa.org/membership/letter-to-aopa-members.html?WT.mc_id=130315epilot

Posted by: A Richie | March 15, 2013 8:48 AM    Report this comment

I read the letter to aopa members from Trimble. My reaction? The tap dance does not end but at least aopa has responded. I expect another fire fight upon the selection of the next aopa president. I doubt Trimble is accepting our criticism in acquiescence as there is just too much aopa nonsense to unload.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | March 15, 2013 9:34 AM    Report this comment

I love AOPA for what it does and what it stands for. I encourage all of my students to become AOPA members. The Turbomedical, the flight planner the easy to use website and the awesome free training resources are great. The American Dental Association dues are about $1400 per year vs $49.

I agree that there are a lot of things that need fixing. I agree that there is too much focus on new planes, new avionics and "value-added" services. I really liked Phil Boyer's approach to keeping everything affordable and wish that he were back.

I do agree that Paul would be an awesome president. I really appreciated his approach to aviation in IFR Magazine. I would like to see more emphasis on us little guys.

Posted by: LYLE BROOKSBY | March 15, 2013 9:36 AM    Report this comment

I am close to receiving my 50 year pin. I felt part of a good group of pilots during the first 40 years or so. These last few years have seen big changes that has upset many AOPA members. Others in this blog have covered most of my concerns. I like the idea of Paul for President. I have enjoyed his comments on the many subjects he has discussed.

Posted by: Bob Leonard | March 16, 2013 1:30 AM    Report this comment

A lot of comments have been submitted illustrating the shortcomings of AOPA. However, I think AOPA is smarter than most of us. After having watched AOPA the last few years it is clear the real objective of AOPA is basically to create a comfortable lifestyle for certain AOPA staff members. An important vehicle in this endeavor is to take hold of a hot issue with the objective to keep the issue “alive”. One way of doing this is by “defining” a solution making sure that you stay well away from the real solution but out on “fringes” of the issue, but cleverly defined so it will appear authentic. After a while when the picked “fringe issue” is getting “worn out” another sub- issue on the fringes is defined. This has the benefit that the main issue is never resolved –creating an endless opportunity for fund raising. Additionally, it prevents any hard work and may be complicated negotiations with the potential for failure and even worse upsetting power full golf buddies. Typical examples are user fees and diminishing number of start- up aviators, both issues ingeniously kept alive.

Posted by: HELGE SKREPPEN | March 16, 2013 6:20 AM    Report this comment

Bravo!

To the jet question: All of AOPA's rationalizations for owning the jet would apply in spades for NBAA. NBAA does not own a jet. Maybe we should recruit someone from NBAA to run AOPA and clean the stables.

Posted by: GEORGE ANDERSON | March 18, 2013 8:31 PM    Report this comment

Yes, Mr. Trimble is watching this blog. He crafted his letter after reading it. Obviously. He read every one of your posts. He gets it. All together, the pilots of America have collectively caused AOPA to rethink their flight path, not just with this blog, but nationwide with their new and renewed open ability to speak freely about the attrocities of AOPA. Ironicaly, none of those boys had the courage to speak up at Penn State about Mr. Sandusky's attrocities until someone else did. Then they all did. When we fear AOPA, this stuff happens. When AOPA fears its members, you will see things get done the right way. We have the power to MAKE our organization fly right. Thank you everyone for having the courage to speak up on this and tell the truth. AOPA heard you. Guaranteed.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | March 19, 2013 12:20 PM    Report this comment

"We have the power to MAKE our organization fly right."

Dan, I hope you're right in your optimism. However, to say that members have "power" is really not accurate. AOPA's scheme for collecting proxies as memberships are renewed has been very successful. The insiders hold enough proxies that they are, in a legal sense, completely bulletproof. No mass uprising can accomplish anything beyond sound and fury in the press and on the forums.

That said, my impression of the invisible board has been that they are lap dogs selected by the insiders and that they would do nothing but to pass the annual resolution approving the prior year's management actions. I'm hoping I was wrong on this one, although the Trimble letter did regurgitate much of the usual BS. For example, justifying the dues increase based on the CPI when even a casual look at the public tax returns shows that they did not need the money.

Posted by: GEORGE ANDERSON | March 19, 2013 12:34 PM    Report this comment

This is why this will be my last year as AOPA member. I already paid my dues at the start of the year, so I'll just let it ride. I'm curious about people's experience with EAA. The shiny brochure seems nice, but I personally don't want to join another group that behaves like AOPA

Posted by: Keith Mendoza | March 19, 2013 5:34 PM    Report this comment

"Any" time a group of people of common cause band together (see world history)then there is power in those people. As an example, this was called a UNION when unions began under similar prevailing conditions that caused unions to come into existence. It is just ironic that we have now in essence formed a union to revolt against our union?!?! "We" the Aircraft Owners and Pilots that have been members of a perfectly good "union" that "used to" represent us in the old days, are now remnant members of a union that flies themselves around in a jet and represents themselves. We do not have the power to hire or fire individuals at AOPA, BUT we do have the power to not renew our cards, and in now growing numbers. Advertizers have stopped buying big ads in a thin pulp based production with rapidly declining subscription base. Ads and membership renewals have already taken a hit. We have already started on this restoration project. Lets take it down and rebuild it back right. If we dont fix this, we wont fix this. We can all rejoin when AOPA "decides" to fly right. I see a new AOPA pin. One that has been severed, welded back, and stronger than ever. Only those that helped take it apart get to wear it.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | March 19, 2013 5:45 PM    Report this comment

Paul, Great comments. I have been an AOPA member for over 30 years (SEL IFR >4,000 hours) and agree with all of your comments. I would have made some myself, but I have grown weary of the complete lack of representation that I feel from the current (and past) management. Real representation of at least a majority of the membership would be nice.

Posted by: Michael Hoover | March 19, 2013 7:45 PM    Report this comment

Here's where AOPA is out of line: 1) Abnormally high cash pile. 2) Raising membership dues. 3) Own a jet for AOPA execs only. 4) AOPA Execs dont fly their own jet. 5) Abnormally high salaries. (>$500k) 6) Openly compete against members. 7) Hiding the financials. 8) An unapproachable non communicative board. 9) No membership vote for President. 10)Very poor credit card and pilot medical help. If AOPA is to survive, the members are not stupid. There needs to be some course correction before its too late. Eastern Air Lines failed when no one ever thought that giant could ever topple. AOPA has built themselves a perfect storm. These comments from these pilots (two AvWeb blogs on the topic) tell the tale. Sometimes it's OK to be out of line. This aint one of them. There is no other surviving association doing these ten things that is still around. Its now just down to Bill Trimbles ability to make massive corrections before its too late and were all gone. Frankly I dont read the magazine anymore anyway.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | March 20, 2013 6:07 AM    Report this comment

Geo. Anderson Is alluding to that there is a lack of actual independence between the leadership and the current Board of Directors. As there are indications that this may indeed be true, appointment of a new CEO by the current board will be symbolic at best and nothing more than just “moving the deckchairs” and AOPA will be right back to the same “self- serving performance”-- just with another “star performer”. In order to restore credibility within the membership meaningful participation of the membership in electing a new Board of Directors is required. The new Board of Directors should then appoint a new CEO. We appear to have several candidates for board membership with certainly Paul out front.

Posted by: HELGE SKREPPEN | March 21, 2013 9:55 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the reinforcement Helge, but I am not optimistic. I am not a historian but I do not recall any instances in world history of a dictator or an oligarchy voluntarily resigning. The insider foxes control an entirely adequate number of proxies to guarantee themselves free run of the hen house. That's why, for example, the Yodice law firm takes the legal services chicken breast on a sole-source, noncompetitive basis. Other similar pieces of the pie are probably being consumed inside the opaque for-profit subs. I'd expect to find nepotism there, too, at least as blatant as the hiring of the Yodice daughter.

Posted by: GEORGE ANDERSON | March 21, 2013 10:22 AM    Report this comment

Heige is correct.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | March 25, 2013 5:29 AM    Report this comment

Help me choose my dress!!

Posted by: dukang andeson | April 4, 2013 7:19 AM    Report this comment

I would love to see AOPA take on the FAA over obstructionist and out of date regulations regarding what avionics we can put in our legacy airplanes. Any plane older than 25 years should be able to be designated experimental and allowed all the leeway of a home built. And also idiotic stc rules that are clearly illogical. GA is crushed by antiquated regs that cost the FAA money while towers and runways close.

Posted by: tod williams | April 4, 2013 7:23 PM    Report this comment

Help me choose my dress!!

Posted by: dukang andeson | April 4, 2013 8:22 PM    Report this comment

Help me choose my dress!!

Posted by: allen John | April 5, 2013 1:12 AM    Report this comment

Help me choose my dress!!

Posted by: green John | April 5, 2013 1:29 AM    Report this comment

Help me choose my dress!!

Posted by: dukang andeson | April 5, 2013 11:41 AM    Report this comment

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