Mark Baker Stepping Down As AOPA President


AOPA President Mark Baker told staff today that he will be leaving his post when a suitable replacement has been found. Baker, who joined the organization more than 10 years ago, said in an internal email to staff obtained by AVweb that he will be staying on until that process plays out. “I have promised the Board (of Trustees) that I will stay in the left seat for up to two more years, ensuring we have plenty of time to find the right person and make an orderly transition,” he said in the email. He said it will be business as usual as the search goes on.

Other aviation group leaders wished Baker well and thanked him for his work to date. Mark Baker is a world-class aviator with a passion for aviation that is second to none,” said NBAA President Ed Bolen. “It comes as no surprise that he and the AOPA board are taking the time and the appropriate steps to ensure that the current standard of excellence carries forward for many years to come.” General Aviation Manufacturers’ Association President Pete Bunce called Baker a “staunch advocate for general aviation and a great friend – I look forward to flying more with him in the future.” 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Having only been an AOPA member since 2006, I can’t say how his tenure was in the grand scheme of things, but I do have a few thoughts. He did seem to be more accessible than his predecesor, Craig Fuller, at least initially, but he also put an end to the AOPA Summit/Expo and replaced them with the Fly-Ins, which I found quite underwhelming and disappointing. My overall impression was that he was just ok: not great but not terrible, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  2. Mark did a credible job as AOPA boss. He guided us thru the process of the pandemic, with minimal losses. Thanks. The next step in leadership should be to bring in a more youthful focus. Yes LSA, basic med, and MOSIAC are helping but not the young and/or potential pilots.
    LSA did not result in the cost benefits expected. 100LL replacement is still not here. The ability to use autogas went away with ethanol gas. We need focused leadership to help the GA public.

  3. Can’t be gone soon enough. He ran AOPA as if it was a publicly traded company and not an non profit advocacy organization. Corp America was his background so no doubt it was in his style. Craig Fuller was just a place holder after Phil Boyer. Phil was the best AOPA President ever. Baker acquiesced to every typical woke feel good mandate or political wind that came along just like a typical publicly traded CEO would do. Membership has fallen a full third under his tenure. His $1.65 million dollar salary was found by many of us former members as obscene for what he brought to the table. I was a member from 1972 to 1978 then again from 1992 until I withdrew my life membership in 2022 at which time I pulled AOPA from our legacy planning.

    • I agree, Miles. I was a member from the 80’s until this year when I joined the 1/3 of membership who also gave up theirs. I, too, view Mr Baker’s salary as obscene. I USED to feel that anyone who is a pilot needed to belong both to EAA and AOPA but this year I’d had enough. I’m going to become a life member of EAA and that’s that. THEY represent my interests while AOPA just talks a lot. They DO do a few good things but when they raised their membership fees, I decided I didn’t need ’em anymore after I checked out his compensation. Now, I’d like to know what retirement compensation he’ll be getting …

      • Thank you, Larry. I’ve read all your comments on this article, and I find that I agree with all of them. AOPA lost its way, horribly so. All we can do is point out their failures in a comparitive manners. They are starkly obvious to anyone who opens their eyes.

    • Yup! The senior staff is a paid retirement gig. Having dealt with AOPA on local airport & runway closures leave a person highly underwhelmed. My $89 annual membership was given to a local scholarship fund for student pilots. 4 a year are awarded. EAA gets my money each year too.

      Much better use than the $1.6M for AOPA’s CEO salary.

      • Then there is the old adage–“If you pay peanuts, you get Monkeys!”

        Baker made AOPA what it is today–an association that represents ALL aspects of aviation–and does takes the battle right to where the problem is–WASHINGTON, D.C.

        I can’t think of an aviation organization that is as effective in representing ALL ASPECTS OF AVIATION THAN AOPA. Homebuilders have EAA–Ag operators, helicopter operators, gliders, balloons, skydivers, corporate operators, seaplane pilots–all have their own organizations–BUT NONE ARE AS EFFECTIVE AS AOPA.

        • “If you pay peanuts, you get Monkeys!”

          But is the AOPA President position really worth $1.5M? I’m not sure it is. Even a $500k salary seems like a lot, and certainly isn’t peanuts.

  4. (AOPA) Expenses totaled $46 million, with the largest expenses reported to be compensation ($25 million), fees for services – primarily other with no detail provided ($5 million), printing, mail, magazine, and dues ($5 million), office-related expenses ($4 million), and advertising and promotion ($2 million).

    213 employees received $25 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $117,000. However, only 61 employees received more than $100,000 with the 10 most highly compensated reported to be:

    $1,628,359: Mark Baker, CEO and President
    $ 570,138: James W Coon, SVP, Government Affairs
    $ 455,699: Justine A Harrison, SVP, General Counsel (from 8/19)
    $ 437,782: Thomas B Haines, SVP, Media and Outreach
    $ 372,645: Gregory L Cohen, SVP, Administration
    $ 346,049: Erica Saccoia, SVP, Finance
    $ 305,582: Richard G McSpadden, Executive Director, ASI
    $ 287,378: John D Hamilton, VP, Information Technology
    $ 281,113: Elizabeth A Tennyson, Executive Director, You Can Fly
    $ 271,740: Kenneth A Mead, EVP, General Counsel (to 12/19)
    The 10 most highly compensated employees received $5 million in compensation, which means the remaining 203 employees received $20 million, which equates to an average of just under $100,000 each. 7 of the 10 most highly compensated employees are male while 3 are female.

    Mark Baker was the most highly compensated employee at more than $1.6 million, and more than $1 million higher than the next most highly compensated employee. In previous years, the Form 990’s report Mr. Baker received the following compensation:

    $1,517,015 (2019)
    $1,412,275 (2018)
    $1,468,517 (2017)
    $1,212,014 (2016)
    $ 960,461 (2015)
    $ 782,702 (2014)
    Since 2014, Mr. Baker’s compensation has more than doubled although revenue has only increased about 15% (from $39 million in 2014 to $46 million in 2020).

  5. Meanwhile, over at EAA with nearly identical revenues of $44.3M:

    Key Employees and OfficersCompensation Related Other
    Jack Pelton (Ceo/Chairman Of The Board) $320,124 $172,375 $79,687
    Brian Wierzbinski (Executive Vp/Cfo) $243,777 $81,259 $62,351
    Rick Larsen (Vp Communities & Memb Program) $241,306 $4,925 $47,723
    Sean Elliott (Vp Advocacy & Safety) $222,219 $0 $48,296
    Karen Kryzaniak (Vp Risk Management & Hr) $213,783 $0 $32,582
    James Busha (Vp Memb, Marketing, Publications) $206,224 $0 $41,309
    Douglas Macnair (Vp Government Relations) $181,944 $0 $27,271
    Thomas Moule (Director, It) $163,606 $0 $33,479
    David Goelzer (Attorney Thru 7/20) $154,130 $0 $27,276
    Dennis Dunbar (Director, Aircraft Ops. Thru 7/20) $120,216 $0 $25,530
    Tony Wihlm (Director, Finance) $116,653 $20,586 $42,569
    Charles Becker (Director, Communitites & Chapters) $101,656 $0 $23,819

    • I missed some of that, too. I think he was stepped on 🤣😂🤣.

      Well done, Larry.

      EAA seems to be a labor of love, and AOPA more of a service company with not really great performance. I liken it to the NRA which was actually pretty ineffective long before it finally blew up. It wasn’t their lobbying that was effective, it was the sheer number of voters that were members.

      We can only blame ourselves. Stop sending them money, folks. They aren’t winning many battles for piston owners and renters. It was only after the NRA started failing that better and more effective 2A organizations were able to attract money and attention.

      • “EAA seems to be a labor of love, and AOPA more of a service company with not really great performance.”
        BINGO and superb way of putting it, Eric. THAT is EAA’s “Secret Sauce” and what separates them from AOPA.
        2024 will be my 42nd year in attendance at Airventure since 1977; I’ve only missed five years in all that time. Anyone who has ever been there even just once knows the magnanimity of the event … I’d bet you could light bulbs with the “electricity” in the air for that week. But there is SO much more that they do throughout the year. For ME, their educational webinars — alone — justify my membership dollars. Just looking at where the similar revenues go speaks volumes for each organization.

  6. We all have our own Experiences with AOPA. I for one think Mark did a bang up job. Far better than the prior 3 presidents. Mark is a real down-to-earth stick and rudder pilot and I won’t forget that right after he took over he loaded up a bunch of staffers and flew them to Blakesburg, IA for the Antique Aircraft Association Fly-In. First time AOPA gave the AAA the time of day and the staff did videos and wrote articles. The AAA officers were stunned speechless that an AOPA president was enthusiastic enough about the AAA to do this. I had a chance to talk to him as he was inspecting a Cessna 180 that was for sale. He has never lost touch with grass roots aviation. A breath of fresh air compared to the prior decades when AOPA was all about new expensive airplanes and turbines. As opposed to other opinions I opted to become a lifetime AOPA member after he changed the organizational culture. All these type of organizations have their cycles. I am also a lifetime EAA-er and can remember in years gone by where EAA pandered to corporate sponsors and big airshow promoter leaving it’s homebuilt roots. I knew people who donated rare and remarkable aircraft to the EAA Museum only to hear they sold them to buy dump trucks or the like, in violation of the donation stipulations. That’s all water under the bridge and Jack Pelton has doing a mighty fine job of getting EAA back on track.

    • Agree. This is my 63rd year as a pilot–and I’ve been an AOPA member for perhaps 40 of them.

      AOPA USED TO BE “EAST COAST-CENTRIC”–most of the magazine content used to be mostly for East Coast destinations. Like him or not, Baker truly made AOPA a nation-wide organization–not only for the magazine, but taking on regional issues across the country.

      As for salaries–if an organization truly want to be an effective advocate for General Aviation, you need people that can get your message out–and Baker put together a top-level staff.

      Many commenters compare AOPA with EAA–but EAA mainly represents a narrow constituency–homebuilders, private pilots, and recreational pilots. AOPA also represent those, but also corporate aircraft operators, FBOs, charter companies–the entire spectrum of aviation.

      While we all love EAA for representing “the little guy”–AOPA is far more widespread in the industry. While EAA does a wonderful job from HQ in Wisconsin–to be really effective–you need representation in the place where the problems are–the rats nest in Washington–and you need a staff that is experienced in how to carry your message there.

      I’ll continue to be a member of both AOPA and EAA–EAA for fun–AOPA to represent the entire aviation industry. I feel we get our benefit from BOTH organizations.

  7. I too am not a fan of Baker or AOPA. Still a member, but I don’t think for much longer. I am a lifetime member of EAA. It seems like every time they report on some event, they find some way to give themselves credit. Even if it wasn’t their lead, they still take credit. I recall going to one of their fly ins, they had a good speaker do some kind of presentation and then one of their senior people gets up and starts begging. (Won’t say his name.) I got up and walked out. To me they across as money grubbing, and the results are less than positive in my view. As someone else said, the lack of progress on unleaded fuel is a huge one. How many times have they created some user group to get that approved? Still no progress. Let’s not even bring up the “Wine Club.”
    I will expect his retirement package to be over seven figures.

      • I think we all over reacted to the wine club thing. AOPA wasn’t the only ones that tried to jump on that money train.

        I’m a huge critic of the organization, but if they had been succeeding would we all really care about wine clubs? Give me back a couple area airports, the old tax rules, and ASTM on planes up to 4 seats/500hp, then you can have all the wine, cheese, polo matches, and Grey Poupon you want!

  8. I was a member of AOPA for most of my life. When the membership fee more than doubled, I gave them one more year and then opted out.
    I made EAA and AOPA an offer to become a lifetime member that would have netted them more money, NOW, than if I continued yearly up to the age of 110. EAA accepted my proposal. AOPA did not!

  9. Good riddance. Nothing but a politico.

    “The move to unleaded fuel is absolutely critical to the future of general aviation.”

    Really????? What a bunch of BS. Just one example of the many public comments that Baker has made in support of a government out of control. Add to that the addition of self serving staff writers with very little experience in aviation and the general direction of AOPA is and has been steadily going downhill. I’m not renewing.

    On the fuel issue- I Could not state the real case any better than another reader did on 9/8/23-
    “What is completely missing from this discussion is what prompted the search for a lead-free fuel in recent years. It wasn’t to lower the cost of private aviation, or to reduce lead deposits in engines, both major concerns for most owners of light aircraft. No, the motivation was the false premise that our tiny consumption of leaded fuel was an environmental risk and dangerous to humans. Finally, with an administration controlled by radical enviros, the writing is on the wall and just about anything will be found acceptable if the greenies will just go away. Including increasing the cost of fuel beyond the already staggering prices charged for 100LL.”

    • Tetraethyl lead is not viable in aviation fuel… or anywhere else. In the six thousand year history of human use of lead, there has never been a time when its use did not result in lead toxicity to someone in the path from production to end use. You can express your tribal rage at “radical enviros” and “greenies” but doing so just says more about you than about the hazards of lead.

      • But I’ll say the exact same thing about the people who refuse to admit the tiny threat by so few engines burning so little leaded fuel. Most the people here lived through a time when we were nearly awash in the stuff (it was common to use leaded gasoline to clean other nasty things off of your skin!), so you’ll not get anywhere with us by over stating the case.

        It also doesn’t help that many of the people attacking leaded fuel are doing so simply as a weapon against fossil fuels in general, or light aircraft specifically, or even as a proxy for class warfare.

        • Whine about it all you want, but aviation will NOT be allowed to continue running leaded AVGAS. Period. If you think there is a magical out for leaded AV fuel moving forward, remove your head from the sand.

          • I did not whine nor complain.
            I’m not denying the likely outcome.
            I need no magic, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that this head is taller than yours and worn better hats.

            Perhaps you meant to reply to another comment? Maybe you thought this was X or Facebook?

            What I’m all about is constructive and polite conversation without people making claims of opinion while denying the opinions of others have merit.

            Yes, lead is dangerous. That’s a word we use for things that are harmful in pretty small doses. However, those things in very tiny doses generally are not harmful. Which is why there are legal dose limits for all sorts of toxic things in your drinking water.

            That’s the only settled science, if there is such a thing, in this subject. Studies on environments around GA fields are mixed, and it’s all been discussed here many, many times over the years.

            Now, if you think I’ve said something not factual, please feel free to respond, but I’d suggest without the derogatory color.

        • “… the tiny threat by so few engines burning so little leaded fuel. Most the people here lived through a time when we were nearly awash in the stuff (it was common to use leaded gasoline to clean other nasty things off of your skin!)”

          So, of course, only aviation should get to use the “but we use so little of the poison that everyone else had to abandon that you should just give us a pass because we have… old technology engines.”

          Not gonna fly. Literally.

          Also, the “but we used to bathe in the stuff and look at us, we’re fine” is an old and invalid argument. Tobacco companies tried it for a while as did the manufacturers of benzene and lots of other hazardous stuff.

          There has never been an industry that produced lead that did not poison someone in the supply chain. So, give it up. Manufacturing, transporting, and dispersing tetraethyl lead in in the environment is at an end. And, other than among people who own airplanes with very old technology engines, the rest of the world agrees.

          • Oh, you think because I called out your post and rhetoric that I’m pro lead avgas? Why? What could be going on in your head to make you think that?
            I’m pro truth. The truth is, no one WANTS lead in our fuel. Never did. It was foisted upon us.
            The truth is, the current state of affairs is not as hyper dangerous as is being portrayed by people who all have different reasons, messed up perspectives, and/or messed up logic. None of it adds up to any dangers taken by driving cars or building swimming pools.
            So we don’t “get to use it” we HAVE to continue to use it because government and because stupid voters.
            Also, if someone in the supply chain is being poisoned, and you want something done about it, then do something. If you want to chuff yourself up because you are some sort of crusading or righteous guy by simply demanding lead begone, then please just sit. There’s already too much of that going on. No effort or risk on your part means no credit or karma gets bestowed upon you.
            The truth is the logic you use is terrible. It can easily be used to deny any of us the right to use our skies. Which is really what’s behind most of it in my opinion.
            Otherwise, moderate your rhetoric, and help there be a reasonable and fair resolution. Absolutism isn’t helping one bit.
            It’s like people didn’t even notice all the money owners recently had to invest in antique airplanes to keep using them only to have to continue all their former diligence since not everyone else has been forced to comply with the same requirements.
            It wouldn’t be so bad if we had modern and reasonably priced alternatives, but we do not. The same government that forced the 100LL Avgas solution to be the only option long past the time they prohibited it elsewhere virtually destroyed the industry that had been evolving better solutions and producing new planes.
            None of this is about keeping lead. It’s all about how we move forward, and how that will work, who will pay, and how badly our avocation is once again damaged.

  10. A member since 1966, I emailed Baker a couple of years ago suggesting members with over 50 years of paid membership get free or reduced dues…much like other organizations do.
    Never got a response

    • AOPA NEVER responds to individual member communications, unless it’s to bequeath your estate.

      Remember when they switch to the community friendly Red board forum to their completely custom and difficult to use new website forum? Lots of people wrote them… Crickets. Not even a mass message. Just silence in face of member protests.

      One of many examples of the deaf ear AOPA has to it’s members.

  11. This is my last year of AOPA membership. I’ll stay in the EAA and NAFI… not joining AOPA will nearly pay for both memberships.

  12. This is my 63rd year as a pilot–and I’ve been an AOPA member for perhaps 40 of them.

    AOPA USED TO BE “EAST COAST-CENTRIC”–most of the magazine content used to be mostly for East Coast destinations. Like him or not, Baker truly made AOPA a nation-wide organization–not only for the magazine, but taking on regional issues across the country.

    As for salaries–if an organization truly want to be an effective advocate for General Aviation, you need people that can get your message out–and Baker put together a top-level staff.

    Many commenters compare AOPA with EAA–but EAA mainly represents a narrow constituency–homebuilders, private pilots, and recreational pilots. AOPA also represent those, but also corporate aircraft operators, FBOs, charter companies–the entire spectrum of aviation.

    While we all love EAA for representing “the little guy”–AOPA is far more widespread in the industry. While EAA does a wonderful job from HQ in Wisconsin–to be really effective–you need representation in the place where the problems are–the rats nest in Washington–and you need a staff that is experienced in how to carry your message there.

    I’ll continue to be a member of both AOPA and EAA–EAA for fun–AOPA to represent the entire aviation industry. I feel we get our benefit from BOTH organizations.

  13. I have worked in very large not for profits, in leadership positions, (significantly larger than AOPA in both membership, number of employees and operating budget), and I am absolutely appalled by the salaries listed in the comments. Yes AOPA is housed on the east coast where cost of living is higher, BUT, those salaries across the board are way out of line for an organization with the number of members. I am kicking myself for not looking at Guidestar or the AOPA filings close enough over the years….$1.6M? and for 2 more years? Talk about a sweetheart deal…..I guess the next 2 years represent his “golden parachute”…..I have been a member for decades and now sadly, I will be not renewing my membership.

  14. I’ve been a member of AOPA and EAA for nearly fifty years. We need them both for the good of General Aviation. I own a Cessna and an experimental helicopter. I’m an EAA lifetime member because of its support for experimental aircraft and Airventure, at which I volunteer two weeks a year. I do not attend any AOPA events because of, well, suits. I read Sport Aviation cover-to-cover and just toss Pilot on the recycling pile. (Wish I could get a membership discount to not get the magazine but, ads y’know.)

    So why do I remain an AOPA member? Because aviation policy is not made in Wisconsin. All the sausage is ground in the swamp by (usually well-meaning) bureaucrats trying to make all of the aviation constituencies equally unhappy, with ‘way too much help from congress-critters. AOPA is our primary boots-on-the-bog backstop, primarily due to proximity. We need that, although I’ve always been concerned where issues split private pilot and corporate aviation interests.

    I’m not sure that maintaining a vigorous advocacy for General Aviation requires quite so many very-well-paid managers. More lobbyists, maybe.

  15. I believe EAA is the superior organization with a genuine commitment to New-Starts in aviation. I also agree with Larry S. about AOPA’s compensation, which seems disproportionate. Lastly, I sense that AOPA is a declining entity, losing membership and vision within GA.

    • That’s MY beef with AOPA, Raf. Every time I turned around, I was getting emails and letters from them begging for still more money. I rarely read the magazine because the articles seemed to try to be entertaining or advertising vs. educating. By accident, I discovered that they produce two different versions of AOPA Pilot based upon your pilot credentials. I finally had to call them up and demand they send me the piston version over turbine version … which I have no interest in. I also noted that every time I get an Aviation eBrief from them, there’s an ad looking for help … apparently they’re having a problem retaining their employees? They DO have a few areas where they help me but — for the most part — I don’t see any substantive benefit. The last straw came when I discovered Mr Baker’s salary … give me a break!
      Unless and until AOPA gets another leader like Phil Boyer and develops a vision statement and mission statement that reflects today’s rank and file GA pilot or airplane owner, I think I’ll just pass and let them keep patting themselves on the back without me. And until they align the compensation with reality, I’ll go elsewhere.

  16. AOPA–unlike EAA, has staffers in Washingto–that’s where the WORK IS–beating back the bad guys. Beyond the staffers, AOPA has 5 registered lobbyists–EAA has one, and only for a single issue, according to Open Secrets–who keeps track of who is getting paid to lobby in Washington. EAA does have 1 lobbyist, on a single issue But a very small presence compared to AOPA.

    Here is AOPAs lobbying activity–by lobbyists, and by bills.

    And here is EAAs

    EAA has a better rapport with their members–but AOPA is better at representing ALL SEGMENTS OF AVIATION.

  17. Salaries too high but he was right on no lead issue. If you live in an Iowa cornfield or a Montana cattle ranch and your runway is next to your house, not your neighbors house, then lead is no issue. Ever notice that very few pilots live within a mile of an airport. I fly into Sacrament Metro and Reid-Hillview (Silicon Valley). Both have houses up to the fence. Neither has inexpensive houses but Silicon Valley has eye watering costs. When only blue collar folks are affected the matter can be ignored perhaps. Those folks cannot be easily ignored (but ballot box rage happens). Local politicians even want to close Reid-Hillview which would be terrible IMHO and they use lead as the cutting edge issue. The really big bucks flyers fly turbines and go elsewhere and are thus not affected. Get rid of lead and save flying for those of us who are merely upper middle class.

    • If you think that Reid-Hillview will be saved if only GA takes the lead out of their piston fuel, Kenneth … I wanna know what you’ve been eating or drinking so that I don’t consume any of it.

    • You know what else. Most pilots don’t live right on busy streets, or in a lot of places where the money saved by putting up with disturbances just isn’t worth it. I’ve made that mistake. If I were the kind of person who didn’t learn from mistakes, piloting would weed me out of the population.

      I doubt very much that many pilots avoid living near the airport over lead, but if you have a reputable study showing otherwise, I’ll be glad to look into it’s veracity.

      In the meantime, some people are saving money by living in homes near airports. Their choice.

  18. AOPA is a joke although to be fair, ASI is excellent. I terminated my membership 2 years ago. AOPA Pilot magazine articles were anything but informative with nary a critique on new products and authors waxing poetic about the the beauty of flight, family, etc. Very little to learn from the articles-Barry Schiff’s being the exception. Contrast that with IFR magazine where even an experienced pilot can glean new info.

    • The ASI/ASF is great, and their Pilot Protection services are also helpful (I’ve used it on several occasions), but they all come out of the AOPA budget, so not funding AOPA means not funding ASI/ASF and all their other services. That and their lobbying efforts are the only reasons I still keep my membership current.

      I agree that Pilot magazine is a bit lackluster, though there are usually some interesting articles in them – they just are usually buried elsewhere in the magazine (I almost never read their cover story, which is usually about some aircraft or destination way outside of what my budget will ever be). But if it wasn’t included in my membership, it’s not a magazine I would pay for on my own (as opposed to Aviation Consumer and Aviation Safety).

  19. Most here or who comment are well to do older folks, few here are like me retired with little money who own part 135 little airplane who indeed lives the life of an aviator. The major issue to me is the 110LL fuel cost and insurance cost. Its truly insane what they are doing to aviation. Greed has taken over our industry with a prime example is that guy Baker getting 1.5 million for doing nothing much. Sure not as much as I do.

  20. Back in 2018 at the Missoula MT AOPA flyin, we had a hangar meeting with with Mark with about 2K members present. Surprisingly my question was selected to be read and answered. Of course, I had to read it. I said that the clock has been running for years for getting rid of lead and that the large majority of owners in the audience had airplanes that were perfectly good with real unleaded and unethanol fuel in the form of aviation grade mogas and that unless someone took a upfront approach to this most of the owners in the hangar would be at risk and that removal of lead was inevitable. What are you doing about it? Mark Baker took the approach that everyone in the room had to support the folks who had to use 100LL and that any need to actually make anything was so far out as to not to be needed. He was an articulate person but we was talking down to me. I looked like a dope and I realized that it was a canned response to a problem that he was not concerned with and after asking his small staff there, they were not concerned either. Amazingly Jack Pelton was in the next hangar and we talked and he was hip and agreed. That was over six years ago. Nobody was going to rock the boat as times were good, and it was too easy to laugh at Brailey as a nut playing with a chemistry set. Mark and AOPA are a lobbying organization and are competent at doing that. But, whether we want to believe or don’t believe as you please, lead was and is an existential threat to GA technically, legally, ethically, and is a moral problem we have all ignored, cussed at, and are knifing each other in the back over. If we had understood the concept and true nature of “risk” we would have worked this problem a long time ago. Like a lot of industry leaders Mark Baker might have understood it then but without exhibiting leadership then, we are all going to pay a price now. I hope he retires, has a good life, and our next leader pays attention to the owner part in the AOPA name and understand that chemistry alone isn’t going to solve our prime mover problem and for a lot of us a way of life will be ending without solutions going forward that would prevent this. I don’t like it, but it is what it is.

  21. Surely, a few AOPA HQ employees read AvWeb. IF so, I invite them to bring this column to the attention of Mr. Baker so that he can appear here and explain to us how AOPA justifies his exorbitant salary. Too bad Paul B is gone; I’d love to see one of his superb videos chatting with Mr. Baker on that subject-du-jour. I doubt if it’ll happen because Baker knows that number cannot be justified. Come ahead, Mr. Baker … we’re waiting … set us all straight.

    • I think he will likely decline such a request. That’s one of those things people with 7 figure compensation generally do.

  22. Geez, finally. He has not helped grow membership. As a matter of fact, membership and revenue is down since he began. He might be a true pilot but so what. AOPA needs leadership. All senior leaders make way too much money for what they do. Just compare them to other associations (EAA for one) and you will see that for the number of members, salaries are way too high. Then because of money issues, every department has to reduce expenses to nothing from nothing. Reduce headcount, reduce fly-ins, reduce, reduce, reduce. But nothing gets better. Internal politics are horrible too. Promotions are based on time at the association when clearly that person does not have the skills to do the job. Lack of promotions for those who are qualified and deserve the chance. I could go on but why? Let’s just celebrate and hope that they don’t promote from within.

  23. I have had the opportunity to rather closely observe and interact with both the current and previous AOPA administrations and will share some thoughts. I have seen the application of “the right person at the right time” and compliment the AOPA board for their foresight. The organization transitioned from a “club” type operation under Phil, to a more politically savvy one in Craig, and now a more grassroots flying and future planning programs growth through Mark.
    Ten years ago, anyone chosen to lead AOPA faced dramatically shrinking numbers in overall pilot population and by association AOPA membership. Programs such as Rusty Pilots, BasicMed and You Can Fly have stemmed the tide and resulted in significant increases in active flyers. I have certainly experienced the increased activity at my field.
    The Safety Foundation was, in my opinion, a successful side bar not yet fully developed to its much needed purpose. In just ten years major increases in donations dollars (people tend to vote approval with their dollars) and resulting programs now contribute significantly to the much improved GA safety record.
    The Avgas issue started long ago and kudos to AOPA for early recognition of the political, publicity and technology development issues facing any initiative. Early on I heard Mark exclaim “this is not like user fees, there is no option on this, we have to fix it.” Today, they have mentored viable solutions and thus the pilot community is well ahead of any environmental mandate.
    With regard to Mark Baker’s ten-year tenure I can quickly list off some rather important achievements: BasicMed as needed medical reform, smooth transition to mandated ADS-B, safest skies GA has seen; and numerous GA airports saved from closure along with previously mentioned user fees threats and unleaded fuel initiative. There are more. I have sure enjoyed watching staff growth under Mark’s entrepreneurial style. I know Mark to be a tireless GA advocate spending most of his life on-the-road, equally comfortable around the backcountry fly-in campfire or in the halls of congress. Do I agree with everything he does? No, but overall I think he has served us well.
    I do not pretend to know, nor would I venture to guess the “best fit” qualifications for the next AOPA leader. Compensation is probably in-line to again attract high quality leadership. Based on previous track record I feel confident that the board will select another individual that makes my meager $100 membership dues, the best return on investment I make in aviation.

    • I hate to break it to ya, Tim … but Basic Med was mostly honcho’ed by EAA and with the help of Sen Inhofe of Oklahoma who ‘forced’ it through with HIS sponsored legislation. AOPA jumped on the bandwagon and claimed THEY did it when — in fact — they didn’t do diddly on that issue. As another said, AOPA is good at claiming successes they didn’t partake in. EAA’s Government Advocacy team is another entity that helped with it. But mostly, it was Sen Inhofe. Administrator Huerta, the FAA and DOT were sitting on their hands until the Senator forced the issue via legislation AND a must comply by date.

      • Larry, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I was in all of the meetings–inside AOPA and with other industry leaders, including EAA. Both organizations worked hard to get BasicMed done, but if it weren’t for AOPA’s strong leadership presence in DC and a lot of great strategizing by AOPA with key legislators, includng Inhofe, it wouldn’t have happened. There’s was amazing resistance by powerful members of partricularly the Senate who opposed it and without a lot of pressure in the right places, BasicMed would have been shot down. You are wrong to say that AOPA did nothing, when in fact AOPA led the way. I was there. You weren’t.

        • I met with Sen Inhofe on several occasions at length on another subject and we talked about Basic Med. That ain’t what I heard from him. HE sponsored the Basic Med bill, assuaged the Senators who were opposed to it (one of which was mine) and got it through … not AOPA. He told me that in order to get the support of the other Senators, he had to drop the idea of a driver’s license medical in favor of seeing your family physician. SO … we disagree on who did what.

          • What you write is accurate, but woefully incomplete. Do you really think Inhofe woke up one day and thought, “Gee, I will sit down today at the keyboard and draft legislation to revise the FAA pilot medical certification process”?
            First of all, members of Congress rarely draft legislation. It is almost always drafted by outside entities with an interest in seeing the bill passed, which is what happened here.
            But it all started years earlier, in around 2010 or so when the FAA–after years of pressure from AOPA and EAA–anounced that it was drafting new regs for a simplifed medical. Which it did, but in typical fashion, it was prohibited from sharing details with outside entities. FAA submitted the draft regs to DOT, which promptly sat on it–for years.
            Baker shows up at AOPA in late 2013 and inquiries about the status–repeatedly. DOT says it will never be released.
            Baker seeking any kind of progress decides on a legislative solution, which was no ones preferred pathway. He hands Inhofe–longtime friend of GA and one who has received numerous awards from AOPA, including the Hoover Trophy last year–draft legislation that includes a driver license medical, but with limits to, as I recall, four-seats and some other restrictions–basically what Sport Pilot should have been.
            Inhofe shops it around. Senators Feinstein and Bill Nelson, among others, promptly crap all over it because of pressure from ALPA, DOT, and certain members of the OK City Aeromedical department who fear it will impact their bureaucracy.
            Months of negotiations and horsetrading follow. Remember that when Inhofe shows up in some other legislators office to discuss it, he is represting a few thousand pilots in Oklahoma. When he brings Baker along, the legislators know Baker has 300,000 voters in his pocket and they pay attention because most have been on the receiving end of the wrath of AOPA members in the past.
            Eveventually a workable solution emerges, which includes a medical process that is much more complicated than anyone wanted, but it is also includes several bonuses in the form of up to six seats, 6,000 lbs, Day/Night VFR and IFR up to 18,000 feet–more than any of us thought we would get.
            So yes, Inhofe introduced the bill and played a key role, but it was far from a solo act.

  24. I am not a joiner so never have nor never will belong to any of those near third world juntas that pass that try to pass as civic service organizations.

    But …

    A 1.6 million dollar salary is something that any honorable person would be embarrassed to be offered – and definitely not accept – to head what is supposed to be a special interest altruistic organization. Dude ought to be ashamed of himself. You guys who are members ought to be ashamed too though. Y’all let it happen because you weren’t watching. Maybe a lesson for going forward.

    If you’re going to be part of the crew running an organization focused on a hobby, you ought to be involved in the hobby to the point where taking a salary at all feels dirty. If you’re not as invested as your constituency you need to stay home. Note that I do recognize the need for folks to feed their families, but I also recognize that you can feed a whole bunch of families on what some of these folks get paid. It’s one of the reasons that this sort of organization is so morally problematic to me. I realize I am undisturbed by company in that viewpoint.

    It’s been said that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Well, if you pay diamonds you could still get monkeys. And if a monkey can do the job why pay more? These organizations don’t need someone who just oversaw rising GM stock for 10 quarters. They need someone who cares about the interest ( in this case aviation) and will listen to the constituency. It’s not brain surgery. There’s never a concern over profit margin – or even market share. This is not a corporate governance position we’re talking about here. Let’s not pay these folks like they’re running IBM or something.

    And while we’re at it…

    Let’s quit with the “lead is – lead isn’t” deal guys. That ship has sailed. No matter which viewpoint you hold, we all know it’s got to go from Av Fuel. The greater public will not tolerate it much longer. We can only hope we can find something to appease the {ignorant fearmongers /environmentally aware} (pick one) before they shut us down. They have the power base to do it and will not hesitate. Whether their viewpoint is valid or not is immaterial at this point. Lead is on the way out. If the folks in charge of snow plows decide to roll the trucks, they’re going to roll whether you think its going to snow or not. Same deal here. Lead is going away – any lead – anywhere anytime anyhow.

    • Bill,
      When I started reading your comments, I thought we could not possibly agree on anything, but then I read your last paragraph, which is spot on. Lead must go. It’s a black eye on GA from a public perspective, regardless of how little of it we may actually emit. But even behyond that, GA is highly vulnerable because there’s only one place in the world that makes TEL–the lead additive. If they decide to stop production, which is highly likely at some point–especially given the recent EPA endangerment finding, which leaves that company vulnerable to liability–then we’re all screwed without a back up. And, in addition, our engines will be healthier without the lead.

      That said, your comments about Mark’s salary are way off base. Since you’re not a member and apparently never were, your comments are baseless. And besides that, they are not coherent. If you were a member, you would know that Mark is about the most passionate aviator out there–flying everything from the most basic taiwheel airplanes to turbines–wheels, floats, skis, you name it. He lives flying. Anyone who pays attention knows that. So he is more committed to the “hobby” than anyone I know. But general aviation is much more than a “hobby.” It is an industry, with AOPA representing the consumers in that industry. And those consumers fly all sorts of airplanes–recreationally and as a vocation. Many of them also own and operate aviation businesses.

      So with Mark stepping down, why don’t you step up and offer to run the “hobby” organization with a $59 million budget and do it for the pittance that you think the CEO should earn.

      • There’s something about accepting compensation like that which makes the subject of someone’s good intentions or good character completely irrelevant. Take a mercenary’s pay, and you rightly get judged on mercenary standards.

        He just wasn’t that good. If he had been, the comments would mostly be of a different tone. It cannot be that we should all accept any Avgas solution over public perception while accepting such a poor value from the folks who are the 800 pound gorilla in representing us. Also, due to that status, we all get to throw slings and arrows at AOPA because they are so big, they crowd out other voices.

        They need to do better or wrap it up. I know it’s a really, really tough situation, but just like being an ATP, if you aren’t up to it, don’t take the job. Better the plane doesn’t take off and we all find a different ride.

    • “If you’re going to be part of the crew running an organization focused on a hobby, you ought to be involved in the hobby to the point where taking a salary at all feels dirty.”

      While I agree that a 1.5M or 1.6M salary seems excessive, saying it should be totally uncompensated is naive and misguided. It’s equivalent to saying: “anyone who takes a salary for their day job should feel dirty – you should be working because you simply enjoy it”.

      Anyway, what’s the difference between a “hobby” and “vocation”? Some people participate in GA as their day job, so should they also go uncompensated? For many people, GA is their dayjob, and AOPA represents all of GA, not just the weekend warriors, so it would seem logical that the staff should receive some fair compensation. We can argue about what is “fair”, but we shouldn’t be arguing that it should be nothing at all.

  25. I, too, have a love/hate relationship with AOPA. I’ve been a pilot for 40+years and a career flight instructor for over 30 years. AOPA had been a “must join” organization. They do have a positive impact lobbying and promoting safety. But….

    > Over $1 mil for the presidency? Yes it costs to retain good people, and the cost of living is high in the DC area. But there is also the “labor of love” and “giving back” factor. Many a CEO and politician forgoes or donates their salary for the honor of serving a worthy mission. “Don’t leave money on the table” is not a desirable attitude when dealing with a non-profit organization.

    > Call me biased but I believe it is hard for someone earning a seven-figure salary to really understand and appreciate the high cost of aviation. I also belong to EAA. They do get it.

    > The rising cost of membership has not kept up with the value received. It is simply another decision point for spending whether to spend on food, rent, baby shoes, avgas, CFI flight review costs, renter’s insurance, or AOPA. At the very least, AOPA could make its digital version available for no charge to those members who receive the printed version.

    > There are efforts which I feel are a waste of money. AOPA’s flight planner comes to mind – there are already plenty of free options. I also don’t like non-profit organizations donating to other organizations. I want to contribute to the organizations I choose.

    > My bias : AOPA is chartered to promote General Aviation. Yet, it expends enormous effort and resources promoting airline careers. (Of course, that is where the large advertising dollars come from.) Folks, as exciting and well paying as airline life may be, it ain’t GA! On the other hand, EAA does a great job selling the sizzle of fun, recreational, grassroots, local, GA lifestyles.

  26. For a glimpse at what Mark’s leadership has done to introduce youth to aviation and to support GA safety content, check out the just released 2023 AOPA Foundation end of year report. One highlight alone in the You Can Fly project: TODAY, 23,000 high school students in classrooms in 46 states learned about opportunities in aviation through the four-year aviation STEM curriculum AOPA provides free to any high school that wants it. Stuff like this doesn’t just happen by itself.

    • Your statement, Tom, appears to adopt a promotional or supportive tone, emphasizing positive aspects and achievements rather than keeping a balanced perspective. A brochure ain’t going to cut it. But getting back on track, a CEO’s $1.6 million salary stands out as double the industry norms. Within this context, a compensation of $1,624,940 would constitute approximately 3.87% of the company’s revenue, surpassing the commonly accepted 1% to 2% CEO-to-revenue ratio. This ratio is generally considered reasonable for similar entities, particularly those with revenues around $43 million, primarily supported by membership fees.

      In comparison, EAA, sets the standard in promoting new starts in aviation through hands-on experiences, online initiatives, and scholarships. This initiative is supported by a motivated volunteer network of over 900 EAA Chapters across the United States, culminating in a spectacular ongoing annual show of enthusiastic unity with worldwide attendance. AirVenture! All under the leadeship of a reasonably payed CEO.

      • I worked for Mark for nine years. So yes, I am supportive of the idea that he accomplished a lot, including the amazing You Can Fly program. The “brochure” is full of facts that point that out. When people do good woork. They should be rewarded. We can all debate what that level of reward should be. However, your numbers are wrong. The AOPA and AOPA Foundation combined revenue is $59.2 million, according to the Form 990s. Two percent of that is $1.18 million. Remember that what’s reported as “salary” on the 990 is pretty much everything paid to the person, including reimbursement for certain expenses, life insurance, and other commonly paid employee benefits. So $1.6 million isn’t a true salary amount. So perhaps, Mark is paid a little on the high side–by your own formula, but apparently the all-volunteer board of trustees believes he is worth it.

        • Tom, please take what you hear here seriously, as it is intended for the benefit of AOPA. AOPA should take notes, extracting what fits, and save the rest for quick reference. AOPA’s base, aircraft owners and pilots, are sounding off; AOPA should listen-and be grateful.

          • You win the comments, Raf. MANY times when I make negative seeming comments here, it’s because I’m hoping to influence the situation. AOPA SHOULD listen … whether they do — or not — is up to them.
            Baker should finish out working for nothing!

  27. Shortly after Baker came aboard, AOPA, started supporting ATC privatization as proposed by Trump. Even though it eventually, reversed its position, I was gone.

    • AOPA never supported ATC privatization. Mark simply didn’t respond with a lot of bluster and vitriolic verbiage at the beginning so that he could continue negotiating behind the scenes during the very long and tedious process. Other aviaiton organizations that did respond with a lot of vitriol were shut out of the meetings on the Hill. Mark’s reasonable approach meant he had a seat at the table to present GA’s demands. When Shuster failed to deliver, Mark said, “OK, get out of the way.” And then unleashed the membership’s power to see that privatization was shot down. That’s what a good strategist does–and Mark is good at that. I know. I was there.

  28. Member of both organizations, both do well supporting general aviation. AOPA is more politically engaged not as grass roots as EAA. That being said having used AOPA’s legal and medical services many times they have had my back and helped me navigate the government bureaucracy to keep me flying.

  29. I’m grateful for Tom Haines perspective here and I wish Mr. Baker a fine send off…not a rich one, but a send off. I’m a longtime member of both AOPA & EAA and both have their lanes.

    Lead is dead, nuff said regardless of your belief system. The public at large will not permit this to continue and we must transition away from it as soon as feasible if we want to remain welcomed flying citizens.

    I loathe Sen. Inhofe’s view on global warming as ignorant of science (Snowball in the Senate). Over decades of crossings, I’ve seen for myself the Greenland ice diminish. Weather and climate are not the same and those that confuse the two have other priorities. That said, I tip my hat to Sen. Inhofe for pushing through Basic Med. His efforts made life for older retired commercial aviators less stressful. AOPA and Mr. Baker ignored him on the climate thing, but again, it wasn’t AOPA’s lane.

    As to compensation, I generally turn to AOPA for defending my right to fly. This is a high priority and worth my investment. That said, I find the total compensation of the AOPA President to be obscene in the extreme. How many more give away C-170’s could be awarded with $1 million less compensation for the AOPA President? How many more scholarships for underrepresented pilots?

    There’s good and disgust in all of this, but realize that AOPA is all of US!!! I am a proud member and will remain to both support and effect positive change that continues to protect our right to fly.

  30. I’ve been a member of EAA and AOPA for 30+ years. I wish I had paid more attention to the AOPA financials over the years. I agree with many of the complaints about AOPA posted previously. However, Mr. Baker’s salary is out of line for this position. I will be canceling my membership. The too frequent pleas for donations may not be needed if they trimmed their employee expenses.

  31. Just let my AOPA membership finally expire after about 30 years no plans to renew, the straw that broke the camel’s back was AOPA’s lack of support despite us (the local airport community) asking AOPA to help against the local mayors plan to remove the prevailing wind runway at Detroit City Airport. The runway is still there but its “permanently” closed by a NOTAM.
    Still continuing with EAA membership where I feel more at home.

  32. Frankly, I’m surprised that Baker even TOOK the job to begin with–there isn’t enough money to make me want to have to live in a snakepit like Washington!

    Baker obviously was in demand to run AOPA when he was recruited. He had retired as CEO of several large commercial operations–and had enough money to enjoy all the airplanes he has owned over the years.

    AOPA was stagnant at the time–nothing of note from previous Presidents. EAA, by comparison, was led by people who loved to fly–and it made all the difference in the world for the organization. AOPA was “East Coast” and “Upper Crust” oriented–instead of appealing to all segments of aviation. AOPA Board of Directors needed someone with building and operating a broad-ranging aviation organization–and one that was effective in NATIONAL aviation policy. They turned to Baker–someone that has owned 100 airplanes–large and small–seaplanes and STOL–and asked him to build an organization that would represent ALL of aviation in Washington–I know of no other aviation organization that is this diverse–and this effective.

    Baker COULD have said no–he made enough money previously to live out his remaining flying days as he wished–but he left his home in Wisconsin to join the battle. As to his salary, the Board of Directors at AOPA defined what they wanted AOPA to be–and THEY set the salaries of the staff.

    I’m not surprised by the “grousing” about it. For those of us who served in the military, there has always been an undercurrent of complaint in the ranks–usually with an “I could do it better” basis. The reality–there are very few that can be as effective in shepherding bills through Congress, working with the wide spectrum of aviation interests, and keeping the FAA in check as AOPA has been.

    Detractors–be careful what you hope for! Lose AOPA, and the U.S. aviation system will fall to the mediocrity of the rest of the world.

    • “Lose AOPA, and the U.S. aviation system will fall to the mediocrity of the rest of the world.”

      This much I believe is true, and is one reason why I continue to be an AOPA member. And unlike a comment that suggested AOPA is paralleling the NRA, there is no contitutional amendment that enshrines the right to enjoy GA, which is why we need organizations like AOPA and EAA.

      • I don’t believe the second amendment alone is enough for gun owners, as anyone living in some of the gun control states will attest.
        I agree protecting GA may be harder, but for different reasons. I agree we need someone. I do not agree AOPA is best reformed by continued support. What seems to be the only thing that creates change is quick and severe threats to the dues numbers.
        How long do we keep watching the slow death? Long enough for us old guys to no longer be around or care? I understand the logic we need someone, but as I’ve said, the real power in the NRA was the members. Real progress is being had in 2A by the organizations who got more funding and oxygen when the NRA finally took a big hit. Hopefully, the NRA can rebuild under its original mission and values.

  33. Detractors?
    In essence, AOPA plays a vital role in General Aviation. Despite imperfections, it’s crucial for AOPA to absorb diverse feedback, recognizing the importance of each opinion. Actively listening not only provides valuable insights into the community’s needs but also strengthens the bond with members. Expressing gratitude for input fosters a collaborative relationship, enhancing AOPA’s capacity to address the evolving needs of its community.

  34. I’ve been an A&P for 55 years and a pilot for a bit less. I’ve been an EAA member for just shy of 50 years. I’ve attended Airventure 41 years since 1977 and make a point of going to the Membership meeting IF I can. I’ve been a chapter member all over the Country. I am acquainted with many of the EAA staff, including their Govt Advocacy team. It is my position that the EAA winter summit held with the FAA in Oshkosh produces regular measurable results which directly and positively help me. Most of all … they LISTEN to their members.

    I joined AOPA in the 80’s because I felt like people like myself needed all the representation that was available about the time Cessna ceased SE production. But starting with the incessant begging for donations, the wine club (nobody will EVER forgive ’em for that!) and other irritants, I began to see that AOPA — while they are doing a few good things … mostly isn’t doing anything for me that I can measure. The magazine doesn’t get read and I ain’t gonna pay for the digital version; I’m tired of seeing TBM advertisements, et al, and I don’t wanna become a Barry Schiff test pilot. The daily ePilot email usually brings OLD news I’ve already seen elsewhere. When I discovered Baker’s compensation, that was the last straw. Now, discovering that AOPA has four times the number of employees that EAA has is disappointing. The one and only thing AOPA provides for me nowadays is the Basic Med course. For that, I’ll likely donate a few bucks somehow.
    MOST — but not all — of the comments being parroted here are not positive about AOPA for a reason. As many have said, AOPA doesn’t listen and just keeps plodding along as if it is THE one-and-only representative of the masses and rests on its laurels … which ARE there. With Baker’s departure, I hope that the Board takes the opportunity to refocus its Mission and Vision and any new appointee gets the message being candidly verbalized here and makes the necessary adjustments to their modus operandi. If they don’t … they’ll just continue on their downward trajectory and ultimately become irrelevant. And … they’d better do it pronto because the demographics of the target population are not in their favor. I wish them well … but I’ll now do it from the sidelines until I see improvement.

  35. Detractors: Lots of examples in–some are negative, some are not.

    “A person who tries to take away from the quality, value, or reputation of someone or something”. I’d say that is an apt description.

    “A person that disparages someone or something.” I’d have to say that is also appropriate.

    “Someone that disparages or belittles the worth of something.”

    “In the Bible–the sin of revealing another person’s real faults to a third person without a valid reason, thereby lessening the reputation of that person.” I’m not a religious person, but the description seems fit.


    From–“Someone who puts you down–when you are proposing ideas at work, your detractor is the one who finds fault with everything you say.”

    I would say that the choice of words was fair and correct.

  36. The disgruntled should try to understand that AOPA opted to base itself near DC and fight federal and state battles, while providing moral support to local runway-saving efforts. The real fight is in the DOT and Congress where the airlines and security freaks are trying to legislate or regulate General Aviation out of existence. That level of compensation in DC Area is not out of line, and with the money for the work Mark did to protect GA at national and international levels. Those who bitch about the dues are the same fools who’ll fly 30 miles to save 50 cents/gallon on gas, and then wonder why their airport is run down. And remember Jack Pelton is already a wealthy pensioner from Textron living in the cheap upper Midwest, so he is content to live on less income, as is his staff at EAA.. EAA is great if you are building a plane and want to learn how to rivet or wire a panel, but their Washington and State political impact is nowhere near AOPA’s. AOPA’s efforts to recruit more pilots and turn around the decline in pilot population is at least as effective as the Young Eagle program, and both are needed if GA is to be around in 20 years.