AOPA: We're Just Asking

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The date on my AOPA card says I've been a member since 1986 and I realized last evening I had neglected to send in my renewal. I'll be taking care of that today because despite the little spat we've been having with the association, I intend to remain a member. And I'll get to why I think you should too in a moment.

Our coverage about salaries and expenses at AOPA stirred up a stronger reaction from the association than we ever imagined it would or that it deserved, frankly. In today's news column, we're publishing the follow-up story that we promised a month ago. I apologize that this took so long, but matching up schedules to set up interviews took time and we wanted to get this right.

Why do it at all? Why look into the financials of the industry's leading advocacy group? Because we were asked to, that's why. Readers of AVweb have periodically asked us to examine and evaluate the performance of our associations including how they spend the money they ask us to contribute. As an independent news organization, we can do for readers what associations can't: Offer an unbiased, objective look at how these organizations work. I think it's a reasonable thing to do. AOPA is, after all, a member-owned association.

To do this, however, we need the participation of the associations themselves. AOPA offered this in the form of a nearly two-hour interview with Craig Fuller and CFO Roger Myers and a long list of written questions. Unfortunately, for our initial story on salaries, the association didn't answer all of our queries, we never connected on an interview and, as a result, we misinterpreted some of the data on its IRS filings. Today's story clarifies that, but the larger picture is Fuller's explanation of how associations work and why their economics may seem alien to those of us in the private sector. I'm not sure we have enough of the details to tell the entire story, but we've made a start. In fact, over the weekend, Craig Fuller announced he'll look for ways to improve the association's transparency and governance.

There's no crusade on our part to diminish AOPA or even to suggest that the salaries it pays are too high. We are merely reporting on what it does pay and how it compares to other associations. Again, I think it's reasonable for a member who pays dues or contributes money to know how it's used in a forum outside the association itself. My view is that this increases member confidence in the association and makes it a more effective advocate.

That's not to say I agree with everything AOPA does or the positions it takes because I don't. Nor am I necessarily comfortable with all its budget decisions. But its advocacy work on behalf of GA is vital; it stands between its members and onerous government regulation; it alone offers the best chance to grow the pilot population. For those reasons, AOPA deserves our support. Nothing I've seen in our critical review of the association changes that view.

Comments (152)

I would hope that AOPA would welcome scrutiny ... it pays big dividends (pun intended) to be totally open and above-board when it comes to finances.

Many years ago, I was pestered by a phone solicitor trying to drum up a big contribution for the AOPA Safety Foundation. I complained to AOPA and it was explained to me that using "professional fund raisers", while expensive, was "the most effective means" to raise funds from the membership.

In my response, which I think holds true here, too, I pointed out that "what is most effective" to raise funds and that which is in the best interests of the membership might not always be the same.

Posted by: JOHN AUSTIN | December 13, 2010 7:07 AM    Report this comment

Your initial story did leave the impression that AOPA was overpaying their management. This story kind of apologizes for the misrepresentation, but still blames AOPA for the initial impression. I'm not a reporter; but, until you get all of the facts, should stories like that be published???

Posted by: Robert Brown | December 13, 2010 7:09 AM    Report this comment

I found your article very interesting. I was an AOPA member years ago. My biggest reason for leaving was AOPA's focus on what I would call business aviation while my interest has always been more toward recreational flying. I feel EAA is more closely aligned to my own interests.

I didn't find the numbers you published to be out of line. Aviation is an expensive activity and it makes sense that an aviation association would come in on the high side of association budgets. Also, AOPA's Washington D.C. location and activities generally justify a high level of expenditures.

I took special interest in the amount of money AOPA spends on lobbying. I don't know if this is excessive or not since I have no clue how this money is spent. I think it would be very interesting to know how much of this money was spent in direct contributions to campaign funds for members of Congress. While I think payroll and entertaining expenses are quite reasonable for lobbyists I feel campaign contributions are a lot closer to corruption. I understand nobody reports how this kind of money is spent but I would still like some kind of breakdown of this particularly huge part of AOPA's budget.

Perhaps it would also be interesting to see a direct comparison of the budgets of AOPA and EAA. I would expect EAA salaries to be somewhat smaller because of the Oshkosh location, but both organizations seem to be similar in their goals and activities.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 13, 2010 7:19 AM    Report this comment

Odd. I do not understand. Seems that the rationale is that since the AOPA is the only game in town (e.g. a monopoly) it deserves support. As with all monopolies inefficiency and self serving set in. The CEO surrounds himself with people that tell him what a great job he is doing. He insures that the Board of Directors is populated by people that agree that he is doing a wonderful job. And as long as they keep saying he is doing a wonderful job, he says they are doing a wonderful job.

The organization sounds a lot like Congress and other Federal Governmet Agencies. I guess if you hire a creature of Washington, you get Washington results.

Many will look at these comments and say "you don't understand"; however, that is where we started the conversation.

Posted by: Richard Jenkins | December 13, 2010 7:20 AM    Report this comment

Just a gut feeling...
This is not the same AOPA I joined in the early '70's nor is it the one with which I interacted in the 80's and 90's. It seems to be way too big, bureaucratic, and self-serving to be the effective advocacy and resource group I would prefer.
I was pleased to see that AvWeb is in possession of the requisite meiotic tissue to actually question the substance of the new wardrobe this emperor purports to be wearing.

Posted by: Bill Hill | December 13, 2010 7:24 AM    Report this comment

Im quitting AOPA

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | December 13, 2010 7:29 AM    Report this comment

My beef with AOPA and many such associations is that they are self perpetuating bureaucracies with little or no outside oversight. Proxies are solicited on behalf of management and the voted to extend the rule of the regime. Direct election of at least some directors by the members would go a long way to achieving some minimal accountability and transparency.

Posted by: JOHN OSGOOD | December 13, 2010 7:31 AM    Report this comment

Their salaries are WAY too high!

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | December 13, 2010 7:32 AM    Report this comment

Ruth, Do you even know what they are?

AOPA is a great organization doing a great job. Let's not forget that even though nowadays bashing everyone and anyone has become a national sport. Gosh we have become a sorry people.

Posted by: Stuart Baxter | December 13, 2010 7:40 AM    Report this comment

Well I have been a member since 1975, during which I accumulated only 225 hrs., but continued my membership realizing that an organization like AOPA is essential. I have been able to keep current on all aspects of flying through the channels of AOPA. Those of you who are short sighted enough to leave AOPA now are only shooting yourselves in the foot. The old axiom of "getting what you pay for" is a perfect analogy to this AOPA pay story. It is essential to have a vigilant organization like AOPA in today's world no matter the cost.

Posted by: Richard S. Churchill | December 13, 2010 7:48 AM    Report this comment

Robert, I'm reading between the lines here, but I got the impression AvWeb asked for the data, and AOPA slow rolled instead of providing it. As another has pointed out, put DC folks in charge and you get DC reactions.

I'm having difficulty with AOPA's suggestion it functions on a different fiscal calendar than the rest of us. I understand the needs of an advocacy organization aren't necessarily tied to the economy, but balance sheets are. If I'm reading correctly, when AOPA's revenues declined (mostly due to declining membership) it reduced regular staff and/or staff salaries while at the same time increasing or leaving the same top management salaries, and it did so while running a deficit to boot. The deficit part is vintage DC, but the rest is pure Wall Street.

Beyond salaries, what AOPA does with its lobbying funds is the really interesting part of this story. Of course, that's the part we don't get to hear. I get very nervous when I hear someone--especially a DC creature like Fuller--say "trust me..."

Posted by: Mark Sletten | December 13, 2010 7:48 AM    Report this comment

Bravo AVweb! Keep up the good work! Maybe instead of my current career as a charter pilot (1/10 of Fuller's salary), I should strive to become president of AOPA.

Posted by: David Joyner | December 13, 2010 7:52 AM    Report this comment

It is important that someone looks over the shoulder of AOPA. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: FREDERICK HERZNER | December 13, 2010 7:55 AM    Report this comment

This organization serves ONE purpose - to serve its 'members.' Its members deserve to know what -exactly- it is paying its staff - salary AND benefits AND incentives.

So far, we don't have the whole story. Can we have a complete, clear picture please Mr. Fuller and AOPA and AVWEB? When we do, then, and only then, will this story be complete.

Until then, I still am a member of AOPA for one reason: the legal benefit.

However, I now have to question whether AOPA really serves its members in the absence of full disclosure.

Posted by: JAY LOCKE | December 13, 2010 7:56 AM    Report this comment

I have felt there has been too many VP's etc... at AOPA for a long time, and have told them so in a survey a while back. I do, however; believe the lobbying work done by the organization is vital to the GA world. The AOPA does look a bit like the Washington bureaucrats they mingle with. I get a feeling that there is inefficiency in the business because there is little competition. It is interesting that there was such a defensive response from the AOPA leadership, as well as the non-disclosure of the $8 million “other” expense. What the heck???? I wonder if pilots just picked one of the major organizations to support that there may be an awakening that more value has to be provided for their respective members. I know that I am a member of both EAA and AOPA, and believe there are many others that are members of multiple organizations as well. Maybe it’s time to pick just one.

Posted by: Shawn Henderlong | December 13, 2010 7:58 AM    Report this comment

Stuart, AOPA executice salaries are egregiously high, and most likely underreported. Way too high! I quit

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | December 13, 2010 7:58 AM    Report this comment

In today's society, we are actually pressed to say nothing, lest we be judgmental...

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | December 13, 2010 8:01 AM    Report this comment

Paul..thanks for your efforts..and thanks for all the good work that AOPA does too.

Posted by: Robert Pearson | December 13, 2010 8:11 AM    Report this comment

I'm delighted AVweb has the courage to bring issues like this "AOPA, We're Just Asking" and "Addicted to Drugs" a few years ago. If AVweb had a members fee, I would gladly send in $45 per year to join.

I've been an AOPA member since 1989, paying my $39 annual fee (and last month, I guess it went to $45?) and a few years ago, I became disenchanted with them for several reasons, mainly because I felt AOPA became a bloated organization and left folks like me in the prop wash. I fly a Cessna off my grass strip on my ranch and am not typical of most AOPA members, but I suspect most members are like me, NOT owning a King Air or Citation and that seemed to be the focus of whom AOPA catered to. In the last few years, I sent AOPA a couple of letters about some troubling issues I saw in aviation, and I never heard a word from them. I only received more and more mailings from AOPA that seemed to focus on raising money. It wasn't a grass-roots organization when I joined a couple of decades ago, but they have seemed to lost focus on those of us out here in smaller communities, flying smaller airplanes, having small budgets and wondering if AOPA even represents us any more.

THANKS AVweb for having the guts, to bring to light, what many of us out here in the sticks have been wondering.

Posted by: R.S. Brooks | December 13, 2010 8:14 AM    Report this comment

I'm not a reporter; but, until you get all of the facts, should stories like that be published???

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 13, 2010 8:31 AM    Report this comment

NBAA,,EAA are doing a better job of member representation. AOPA has lost its way by forgetting its roots. Politics costs money and we should be in the process but as advocate only not as a cash cow for preferred members of congress.

Posted by: Jim Renfro | December 13, 2010 8:37 AM    Report this comment

Seems there are far more important aviation issues to expend AvWeb's resources and energies - new leadership brings new ideas - that is the way it works. I have every confidence that AOPA will continue to effectively fight for its members and for general aviation just as they have since I joined in 1966. Just as Mr. Boyer's experience in broadcasting proved beneficial to AOPA, Mr. Fuller's DC experience will also be a valued resource to achieving AOPA's mission. Think where we would be today without AOPA's leadership efforts. However, if AOPA's advocacy successes falter, then will be the time to assess its game plan.

Posted by: WILLIAM ALLABEN | December 13, 2010 8:43 AM    Report this comment

Sorry...but with that said, It is vitally important for institutions to be properly accountable to their sponsors. The press to it's readers, and a member organization to its members. I have no qualms with the salaries, but self perpetuating fund drives and Neglect of core values are not in the long run serving the membership. Competition is good, and eaa exists in large part due to AOPA NOT serving the experimental and hobby aviator. That does not mean that the orbs should compete..but rather should cooperate..and learn to stay focused on there members.
I applaud much of what Fuller has done to focus on the fundamentals....where will the next generations of pilots come from? Where will they keep their planes? Who will defend airports and enforce the FAA grant assurances?

But all of that is only meaningful if the membership can feel confident about the organization and the use of funds....that is not possible without transparency

Posted by: Robert Pearson | December 13, 2010 8:59 AM    Report this comment

I guess since avweb is more of a reporters deal it is expected for avweb to ask aopa about its finances.I have read several of the comments on here about aopa being a large corporation leaving people in the propwash etc.I am a bushpilot, I fly a Cessna 182B.EVERY single time I have contacted aopa for help on something they have been amazing. Never once have I felt that they do not cater to me(the member).I am glad that this inquiry has made aopa realize it needs to let us know more about itself.ALTHOUGH I do not feel they are using too much of our money.People need to realize Aopa is not only a MAGAZINE,its an association that now defends our rights to fly.They are the only ones pretty much doing anything about it.When the time comes they are always sending me reminders so I can contact my state senators etc. etc.Reminders to attend safety seminars that will be held close to my airport and whatnot.I feel they are the only association right now that actually protects GA and lets their members know whats going on right now and how that will affect ga and how we can help to avoid it. shoot they can ALL be multimillionaires as long as they keep me flying. not like I care as long as they are doing their job.were not just talking about some company were talking about my future flying. I will gladly give AOPA my 45 bucks annually to make sure I can fly tomorrow without having TSA stick a prod up my butt. you know what I mean.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 13, 2010 9:07 AM    Report this comment

I cancelled my membership

Posted by: Patrick Kelly | December 13, 2010 9:13 AM    Report this comment

I would like to commend AvWeb for their efforts at digging into the finances of AOPA. Like many others I believe they have become self serving and self perpetuating in their activities. One area I would like to understand more relates to the board. How are they elected, what are they paid, how long have they been there, what is their aviation background? Do they have business relationships with AOPA? I also find it interesting that during a severe recession, AOPA chose to raise dues with only minimal cuts in expenses or headcount. Keep digging AvWeb.. I suspect there is more to the story

Posted by: DONALD WARD | December 13, 2010 9:14 AM    Report this comment

I found your article very interesting. Have you been asked to do the same with EAA? As you know there were major changes there and I wonder how the salary structure and direction compares with AOPA. I have been working on solutions to address the industry issue of declining pilot population. If what you said is true, then I should be able to have AOPA support my efforts as well as EAA. I hope you can do an in depth story about EAA as you have done with AOPA. Jack Pelton stated last summer in a speech that "Cooperation is key to the future of aviation" and he also said that "This is a problem for all of us in aviation and all of us need to be a part of the solution." I am not convinced that everyone agrees with Jack just yet. I still see too much "Pride of authorship." These two large associations should welcome ideas from "the field", but I have not seen the welcome mat yet and I have tried. I won't give up, this is a goal of mine to be part of the solution.

Posted by: Jerry Graf | December 13, 2010 9:16 AM    Report this comment

This report only provides bits and pieces of information about AOPA; it would have been more helpful if Avweb provided a link to a complete P&L statement and a balance sheet, plus a statement of sources and uses of funds.
Then one can do a complete analysis of this data and have an informed opinion about how AOPA runs its business. I don't know if all this information is available on the AOPA member web site

Posted by: ROLF SCHOLZ | December 13, 2010 9:44 AM    Report this comment

AOPA published their salary data this morning. Craig Fuller is making $515,000 per year plus "health care and other incentives." Predictably, the "other incentives" part is not defined. As a longstanding member of AOPA, I feel dooped. Instead of creating multi-millionaires, I think AOPA's funds could be put to a better purpose. I predict a MAJOR reduction in the AOPA membership.

Posted by: Michael Wise | December 13, 2010 10:00 AM    Report this comment

As we go through tough economic times in which everyone has felt, I see nothing wrong with the critical questions being asked. Not sure if AOPA is being transparent. I am glad that avweb is asking the questions. Now how do I get a high paying job at AOPA?

Posted by: James Turner | December 13, 2010 10:08 AM    Report this comment

Mark, I don't question the reporting of information, but try to keep perspective.....intimating that there is some financial conspiracy going on may peak interest in the article, but really distorts its conclusions. Conspiracy theories are part of the norm in this country's reporting (i.e. grassy knoll in the Kennedy assassination) but has no place in this instance.

Posted by: Robert Brown | December 13, 2010 10:26 AM    Report this comment

This was a very interesting article. I just hope that you do the same with EAA. Lately, you're approach with them has seemed quite different than with AOPA. Your interviews with EAA's new chief seems to have a kindler, genter feel while you seem to take a much more aggressive stance with AOPA. Knowing a bit about EAA's inner workings, I can tell you its "non-profit" status makes me cringe and its executives enjoy some big-time salaries. AOPA isn't the only one. In addition, while AirVenture Oshkosh is promoted as a member's convention, it is actually viewed internally as a major money-making event. Remeber all of those sponsored-tents? In conclusion, I just hope good, un-biased publications such as yours take a good, hard look at ALL organizations and not just the ones that rub you the wrong way. Thanks for this blog.

Posted by: Nancy Cubillos | December 13, 2010 10:28 AM    Report this comment

Could you look into the American Bonanza Society? In the last year some strange things have been going on. I now feel more like a customer than a member.

Posted by: Alvin Ratliff | December 13, 2010 10:33 AM    Report this comment

With respect to finances of AOPA I have noticed a trend over the years. AOPA is totally opposed to user fees except within their own organization -- e.g. medical and legal assistance.

Posted by: GENNARO AVOLIO | December 13, 2010 10:34 AM    Report this comment

AOPA's has to walk a very fine line and I feel for their dilemma.

On the one hand, the profile of the ACTIVE aircraft owner is changing. They are more affluent, professionaly accomplished and older. They can see themselves owning a PC-12 or Mustang someday. I would say they represent a significant portion of the money spent in the GA industry, but are probably less than 20% of the population.

On the other hand, there are a lot of once a month type pilots that struggle to own or even fly an aircraft. I would say that this is the biggest portion of the pilot population - 80% or so. However, they probably do not spend as much within the GA Industry as the other folks do.

Some of these folks view AOPA skeptically, especially when the primary source of membership communication, The AOPA Pilot Magazine, seems to be loaded with pictures of multi-million dollar jets.

AOPA needs to be careful not to think of itself as a business that caters just to the top 20 percent. If they decide to go that direction, they will become irrelevant because NBAA satisfies that group of people pretty well already.

But on the other hand if they cater to the bottom 80%, isn't that primarily EAA territory?

AOPA needs our help to figure out how to thread that needle. What does NBAA and EAA not do well? AOPA does do regulatory and governmental advocacy better than the other two groups. That might be a place to start.

Posted by: DAVID COLEMAN | December 13, 2010 10:37 AM    Report this comment

AvWeb's initial article was misleading. I am glad that AvWeb has worked with AOPA to get this corrected. AOPA is a large and complex organization, but I think they do a good job of representing the sometiems diverse interest of GA. It would also appear from AvWeb's article that AOPA salaries are in line with other trade organizations. I have found AOPA to be an effective voice for GA and a great source of information and support for pilots.

Posted by: Mark Carman | December 13, 2010 10:38 AM    Report this comment

I am a member of several advocacy organizations. None of them threaten me or my livelihood to make me send them money, unlike our government. If I feel that I am receiving value, I send the asked for membership money, and occasionally a little more besides. The key is I feel that I am receiving at least as much value as the money I'm sending; in the case of both AOPA and EAA I feel I receive much more in value than the expense. Neither AOPA nor EAA can ground my airplane, close my airport or take my pilot's license or medical away. The ONLY organizations that can help me defend myself from those entities that can are AOPA and EAA, with AOPA being far better at it IMO. AOPA has the track record to prove that it can and does help us lowly non-commercial pilots and owners battle the government goliath when our "privileges" (if it requires a license or permit, it is a privilege not a right) are threatened. To me, that is value. AOPA is spending all that lobbying money primarily to prevent onerous legislation from being passed by ill informed and primarily uncaring politicians. That is real value, at least to me, and I don't much care how they're getting it done as long as they keep it up. I send the money to pay for value, and if they choose to use it to paint their backsides blue, I don't care as long as I still feel I am receiving value for my money. When it gets to the point I don't feel the value more than equals the expense, I won't send them any more money.

Posted by: J. B. Stokley | December 13, 2010 10:57 AM    Report this comment

I'm embarrassed for AVWeb. This is a hatchet job worthy of a unreliable political rumor blog.
This article leaves me to believe that your people are not trained, professional reporters.
I'm more saddened to see that people who have been waiting for an excuse to stop paying AOPA dues are taking this "reporting" as evidence for their lack of support for the ONLY organization with the muscle to help keep us from paying hundreds of dollars per year for ATC services.
The US is rapidly becoming the only country where people can still dream of flying unless you are incredibly wealthy. AOPA is in large part responsible for keeping that dream alive.
We're being demonized by the public, harassed by TSA, threatened by the FAA and priced out of the market by insurance costs, fuel costs, repair expenses and training fees. Who else has worked to minimize these problems as effectively as AOPA? If you've got an organization that can do better and has as strong political contacts as AOPA does, please let me know. EAA is NOT the answer. It is viewed as a hobbyist organization and as such has about as much governmental impact as a nationwide sewing club. NBAA? Doesn't help Piper and Cessna owners except as a minor byproduct of some of it's initiatives.
So, if you wanna be forced to stop flying years earlier than it's probably going to happen otherwise, then go ahead and drop your membership over a ridiculous issue of compensation that is reasonable to reasonable people.

Posted by: John Tillery | December 13, 2010 10:59 AM    Report this comment

Any pilot who doesn't think AOPA is helping them doesn't understand Washington and doesn't understand that we need someone on our side. People inside the beltway make decisions that are detrimental to GA flying all the time without any thought to us. I pay my AOPA and EAA dues to make sure we have a voice.

To all of you who are canceling your membership, thank you for giving in. We will continue to fly without your help but you have made it a little harder.

Posted by: Douglas Furst | December 13, 2010 11:35 AM    Report this comment

I'm proud for AVweb. This is a long-overdue piece that has been on the minds of many AOPA members, including myself. AVweb is asking the hard questions and when organizations like AOPA and Civil Air Patrol DON'T answer or do the BP or Toyota trick, they deserve to have their dirty laundry aired and made available for the public (and membership.)

In the world of Public Relations, there is a very simple formula for success... it is called PIE (Perception Is Everything) and the perception is in resent years, AOPA has been (behind the scenes) more concerned about bringing in millions and millions of dollars, than they have been concerned about representing a lot of the people who have issues outside of Washington that are not being addressed.

I spent the bulk of my professional work as a broadcast journalist (working here and in the Soviet Union and Africa) and AVweb's courage in tackling this and other "sensitive" issues is to be highly commended.

AOPA leadership never read the story about "The Emperor Has No Clothes."

Posted by: R.S. Brooks | December 13, 2010 11:35 AM    Report this comment

Will Avweb look at the finances of EAA next? Not that I know of any issues with them or suspect any, but they too are only human and the same problems could arise.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | December 13, 2010 12:07 PM    Report this comment

I have been an AOPA member for 40 years and I don't recall any one else looking out for general aviation non corporate aviation interests other than the EAA.
I still support AOPA even though I no longer fly.
They have over the years more than proved their worth to me.
I thought losing Phil Boyer was a great loss.
So critics GO TO HELL!!

Posted by: Jim Dully | December 13, 2010 12:23 PM    Report this comment

What do we wantout of our lobbying organizations? AOPA members deserve transparency and good stewardship of their dues money. That said, AOPA is primarily a lobbying organization. Just like the NRA or AARP, they have to work in the Washington sausage factory. The more important question is whether they are effective or not. I say yes.....whether I agree with everything they do, I'm still convinced that without them GA here would have gone the way of Britain or Germany years ago. We see the same thing in the shooting world...there's a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when the NRA does something that's perceived as compromise. There are other organizations that take may take a harder line from a rhetorical standpoint, but none of them are as effective, and ultimately it counts more that they can defeat the bad government policy and promote the good.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | December 13, 2010 12:28 PM    Report this comment

In a past life I sat on the boards of two non-profit scientific societies whose main businesses were publishing and influencing public policy through information, not lobbying. One of these had gross revenues of $20M+ and the other of nearly $80M. When that time of year rolled around to set the executive director's salary we did the logical thing--we compared our executive director's salary with those of other association salaries. Our people were above average (we hired them and liked them didn't we?) so we usually set the new salary above the median, sometimes substantially. The effect of this was to raise the median for the next year. So the salaries of the executive directors of associations, and other officers, is, to a large extent, the result of an irreversibly positive feedback loop. Thus, comparing executive salaries of AOPA with other associations and then claiming that they are "in line" is a bit deceiving.

I also find the argument that association directors are somehow special and uniquely talented a bit annoying. This is the same argument that has inflated CEO salaries, in general, to immorally high figures that are often hundreds of times that of the lowest paid workers in the same company. I have yet to notice that corporate failures (of all sorts) have decreased as these executive salaries have escalated.

Performance and value to the organization is a better metric than comparison to inflated salaries.

Posted by: Brent Dalrymple | December 13, 2010 12:46 PM    Report this comment

I am glad to see AV Web look into the operations of AOPA. If they were really supportive of the GA folks, i.e. the small pilots, they would offer insurance at a lower rate for its' members. I really haven't seen too much come out of their impact on Congress or other government bodies. Most of these organizations have grown beyond their true purpose. They are much like the "Red Cross, ARRP, etc. were $10.00 is reduced to $1.00 to the organization and $9.00 for the senior executives. Keep up the fight AV Web. Robert

Posted by: Robert Lee | December 13, 2010 12:48 PM    Report this comment

I'm not an AOPA member (though solicited often) and unqualified to comment on whether this org delivers what members seek or not. My comment is about a small bump in the logic, vis a vis the current economic doldrums. It's not uncommon--and in fact to be recommended--in business NOT to cut back sales efforts during hard economic times but instead to re-double them. On the other hand, taking reductions in salary and unstated benefits is recommended for the business org facing periodic cash flow decline but serious about its purpose and existence. And seldom do we hear of struggling companies losing execs due to no salary INCREASE in hard times. Ergo (if the parallel between business and associations is valid), it would seem to the outsider that AOPA efforts to stimulate new pilot growth are a good idea especially now. But there's little likelihood that any of those high-paid execs would jump ship due 5o a lack of a pay RAISE in tough times, scarcity of "talent" notwithstanding. As my wife would say, "Get real."

Posted by: Wash Phillips | December 13, 2010 12:57 PM    Report this comment

We should be proud that as American aviators, through AOPA we’ve helped build a force to defend our right to fly;why would any sensible pilot allow anyone to tear that away from them? We need to strengthen our support of AOPA, rally around them! They obviously have the ability, the intelligence, the means & the fortitude with which to get the job done & keep us safe. Yes,I’m jealous; I wish I got that salary too-we all do! But I’m not the one who spent years gathering a unique combination of insider experience in gov’t, biz CEO-hood, & aviation too boot! I wasn’t chief of staff for Reagan, I don’t know how the game in DC is played. I’m not going to bash the previous management, but if DC doesn’t like you, you won’t be able to get anything done no matter how loud you scream…just look at the user fee battle that we have finally accomplished with Fuller at the helm. At least be relieved & proud of the fact that we finally have someone who knows how to play & get the job done! You can’t go to the game without the best quarterback- I believe that Fuller is worth every penny to us & came not a day too soon to lead the fight.
Those complaining that the dues finally went up $6 after 20 years…REALLY??? No, really…I mean….REALLLLY?? You’re willing to make Starbucks richer by buying a latte and scone instead of cruddy coffee from the gas station, but you’re complaining about the cost of protecting your ability to fly? Starbucks is flying a few G550’s around, what do you have?

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 13, 2010 1:14 PM    Report this comment

It takes about 10 years for the average airline pilot to earn what these executives take in just ONE YEAR. Is this work of equal value?

There are "oinking" noises coming from the beltway... so why are we surprised?

Posted by: Mike Ronan | December 13, 2010 1:22 PM    Report this comment

"...we misinterpreted some of the data on its IRS filings." Ahh…heroism to Paul for sensationalism. Responsibility in journalism-where has it gone? Sounds like Avweb has sunk to the depths of nothing more than gossip rag to grab money...and they don't DO anything for members.So, Paul,you published the article just to get Fuller’s attention because you didn’t get it the first time?? Wow, sounds like a kid throwing a tantrum because nobody was paying attention to him…sadly, it looks like it worked for you. Perhaps he didn’t respond to you quickly because he was actually busy doing the job he’s been hired to do. Too bad you couldn’t garner that much attention based solely on quality reporting. I was amused at the comment by someone that they would pay $45 to Avweb for a membership…do they also subscribe the ‘National Enquirer”?
Have you noticed that to leave a comment on this heated topic, one must sign-up; Just like Superbowl ads, for every reader who signs-up, they increase their advertising & make more money- THEY are not a non-profit like who they are attacking. In the meantime, they've cost valuable time by taking Craig Fuller & his staff away from their REAL work of helping us poor pilot schmucks to defend the invalid attacks that were made.I don't mind paying for a valuable service, but I don’t appreciate being misled, tricked into clicking on something that looks like an article only to get tagged with cookies they get money for, & having them sell my email address.

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 13, 2010 1:40 PM    Report this comment

Something is wrong with this picture. Everyone else is tightening their belts and what has AOPA done? Cutting back on personnel by 6 people??? That's tightening their belts? And $1.8 million for Boyer's deferred compensation last year??? Why don't they fund the Aviation Safety Foundation from the interest they accrue daily from their large cash reserves instead of us penniless pilots who can hardly pay for Avgas these days. I'm sorry but they're not the grassroots organization that they once were. Thank you Paul and the staff at Avweb. This report was long overdue!

Posted by: Joel Boucree | December 13, 2010 1:49 PM    Report this comment

Not everyone may like my favorite member association, with near four million members, and it has at times been racked by internal strife over the years as various factions fight over how the organization should be managed, BUT it has one thing I wish AOPA had: a board of directors elected by the membership. The membership is in control of the organization, and the Executive Director is directed by the board. This is as it should be. Unfortunately, I don't see AOPA choosing to open itself up in this fashion. Too bad, because perhaps we could then encourage every pilot, and wannabe pilot, to join. That would be good for AOPA, for every pilot in the country, and in the end, for the country itself.

Just my $0.001213 worth (times are tough).

Posted by: JAMES MCDUFFIE | December 13, 2010 1:50 PM    Report this comment

Let me start by saying I am an AOPA member. I have been involved in General Aviation since I was eight years old, and I have seen many threats pop-up over the years. AOPA has always been a strong advocate in an otherwise hostile world. That being said, I have been involved in aviation since I was eight years old. I grew up in a flying family, the son of a Private Pilot, who was in turn the son of a United Airlines pilot. My first logged hour was at 10 ½ and I have struggled to pay for every hour since. I grew up in flying across the country in my dad’s Aircoupe, and went on to graduate with BS and MS degrees in Aviation Management. I served 10 years in the Air Force, as a Maintenance Officer, Pilot, and Acquisition Officer.

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 13, 2010 2:04 PM    Report this comment

I supported the E-3 AWACS, B-52, and Space Based Infrared System programs, and am quite familiar with the mysterious ways of Washington. Since leaving the Air Force, I have worked as a consultant, which allows me to employ my unique skill set, but keeps me away from home for months at a time. I have managed government programs with budgets ranging from millions to billions of dollars. I have supervised over 500 individuals as the deputy Maintenance Supervisor in the largest Logistics Support Squadron in Air Combat Command. I have spent my entire life in General Aviation. And I will gladly provide all my skills, services, and knowledge to represent the membership of AOPA for substantially less than $515K per year. Currently, I make just about $120K per year. I get to see my family every other month, and I work on the other side of the country from my home. I have experience in Military and Government Acquisition, Network and Information Technology program planning and execution, RADAR and Electronic Warfare systems, logistics planning and deployment support, supervision, planning, execution and public relations. So, since AOPA is a member organization, I’ll offer to support the membership at my current salary, so that eight thousand seven hundred and seventy seven point seven members dues can go to support lobbying efforts, rather than supporting Mr. Fuller’s salary. Just a though… (Resume available upon request).

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 13, 2010 2:05 PM    Report this comment

Either way, I fully support AOPA and all they have done and continue to do to fight for our right to fly. If you don’t think AOPA is a great organization, look at what it is like to fly in Europe. GA is free only because AOPA and EAA and NBAA and GAMA, etc… fight to keep it that way. An AvWeb had done a great job of letting AOPA know that it needs to work harder to let us, the members, know what is going on. Not that there is anything wrong, just that we need to be able to see that there isn’t.

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 13, 2010 2:06 PM    Report this comment

1) Relating to AOPA's monetary reserves, the article states, ". . .this strikes us as high compared to other businesses. . ." This is clearly an opinion given by someone who has not established their finance credentials. I would like to see a quote here from a business school professor or some other vetted expert saying that this is reasonable or unreasonable. It may be unreasonable, I don't know. I do know though that flight instructors and aviation writers are usually not considered experts in the areas of finance, and their opinions in this area are not given much credence (if they knew anything about finance, they wouldn't become flight instructors :) ). Why was this statement by Bertorelli and company necessary?

2) The very last sentence of the article discusses AOPA's investment in "so-called 'alternative investments.'" This is a great innuendo that maximizes the negative connotations of the phrase 'alternative investments,' even though though alternative investments could include some very valid methods of investing, such as hedge funds or gold. This is a poorly informed opinion disguised as a fact.

If AOPA is mis-handling money, the members of AOPA need to know, and journalism is a great way to get that information out to the aviation masses. Unfortunately, this piece is not journalism. Instead, it is something less than that, and therefore, the credibility needed for attacking this perceived problem at AOPA has been squandered.

Posted by: Slim Pickens | December 13, 2010 2:09 PM    Report this comment

A few months ago, when it seemed that the AOPA was playing both sides of the future fuels issue, I took my membership off automatic renewal, and would decide to renew based on whether they decide to actively promote fuels that would not require me to put a new engine in my airplane. I also wrote the AOPA to inform them of this.

So far, we still have a version of 'trust us, we're leading on the issue and will do what is best for aviation', and I have still not renewed.

By the way, the effective dues have increased much more than $6. The medical certification techs, invaluable if you have a cert problem, used to provide their services free. That's now a $100 add on.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | December 13, 2010 2:27 PM    Report this comment

Why all the secrecy in an organization in which the members are the owners? What is there to hide? Maybe Mr. Fuller learned these stonewall techniques when he was in the White House and ran the PR campaigns for a cigarette company. But AOPA is supposedly an organization by and for pilots, many of whom are feeling the reality of the economy. The other shoe to drop on the lavish compensation is the "deferred compensation" aka on the order of 1.3+ million per year paid the previous occupant of the job. As an experienced beltway negotiator, I would doubt very much of Fuller et al are not lined up for their millions after they leave. THAt's the number Fuller REALLY wants hidden. BTW, what other "perks" are there, such as jets and turboprops, fuel, insurance, etc., have been collected under Mr. Fuller?

Posted by: ROBERT M SHERIDAN | December 13, 2010 2:33 PM    Report this comment

I met AOPA’s Craig Fuller about a year ago at a presentation and seminar in Waterbury, Connecticut shortly after he took over as president of AOPA. I had a chance to talk with Mr. Fuller before and after the program; his quiet, confident and respectful personality was very, very different from what I expected. I knew we had a special person representing us in Washington. Just the fact that he wanted to connect with EAA to form a joint advocacy for General Aviation was a huge change in perspective.
I’m not worried about what kind of focus he has on promoting GA. Whether it’s through pilots, businesses, corporations, grass roots, House, Senate, homebuilt, light sport, Bonanza, Cessna or Piper products; all parts of this arena affect the whole. At this point I trust Mr. Fuller’s mission and actions. His promise to make AOPA’s financials more transparent is not surprising – I just don’t think he had that task on the agenda yet.
That being said, I’m aware how Mr. Fuller’s relationship with his status of power can create a subtle change in focus over the years (we can look to the corporate world for plenty of examples), and I send my kudos to AVweb and especially Paul Bertorelli for Just Asking, thereby keeping the balance of power a little more even. Please continue to keep each other on track. We, the individual people who appreciate and pilot these wonderful things called airplanes need both of you.

Posted by: LOUISE ANDERSON | December 13, 2010 2:54 PM    Report this comment

I think this should be shameful for Avweb. I cant believe people here are comparing aopa to BP! CMON. Avweb. SHAME ON YOU! you should have been more responsible with the way you handled this piece of "reporting". this is a complete lack of professionalism. wow. CMON GUYS! what is this!!!! Avweb has really REALLY disappointed me! to quote Sara Wright up here. "Sounds like Avweb has sunk to the depths of nothing more than gossip rag to grab money" thats right on!

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 13, 2010 3:55 PM    Report this comment

It would have been very interesting for AVWeb to explore how AOPA is governed beyond how much the executives earn. How is the AOPA board elected (who is even on the board). As a member I have never received a ballot, or have even heard of a board election.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | December 13, 2010 5:54 PM    Report this comment

I do hope Avweb gives EAA and other similar organizations the same scrutiny as they have AOPA.

Posted by: JACK SILVER | December 13, 2010 6:29 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I agree that the original story stirred up a stronger reaction than it warranted. Watching Mr. Fuller squirm was very telling in my opinion.

Posted by: Roger Mullins | December 13, 2010 6:40 PM    Report this comment

2.4% and 1.5% consecutive raises to the AOPA Executives making in excess of $150,000.00 during times when folks seem "lucky" to just have a job, is arrogant at best. AOPA seems out of touch with American, or World, sentiment of today. What raises did the remainder of AOPA management and employees get? Feels like my higher dues are going to line their pockets. I will reluctantly renew my membership, but will not look at AOPA, nor President Fuller with the respect that I once did. So, they got away with it. It's the ways of Washington.

Posted by: ROB LONG | December 13, 2010 6:52 PM    Report this comment

When was the last time you hired an attorney to lobby for you. I get my AOPA membership dues money's worth in the lobbying AOPA does which keeps me in the air when congress is trying to take me out. Thanks AOPA.

Posted by: Phil Jossi | December 13, 2010 9:11 PM    Report this comment

We need the AOPA because we need an association to protect our rights from our government. Wait. We need a large, highly paid bureaucracy to protect us from a large, bloated government bureaucracy. Cut the size of government and AOPA can reduce expenses. I'm dreaming. It will never happen.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | December 13, 2010 9:30 PM    Report this comment

I find this follow up article stunning. Shocking to find the number of questions Mr. Fuller refuses to answer. Like how long Mr. Boyer is going to continue to recieve multi-million dollar "deferred compensation". Were this a private company I'd have no problem. But this isn't - it is a member organization. I am regretting my lifetime membership and responses to numerous fundraising requests. Yes AOPA does some good on the part of GA -- it's just that Mr. Fuller and many of his friends are making millions doing it and doing it on the backs of the little guy. I've listened to the gripes on the Cessna Pilot Forums about AOPAs turn towards the jet owner/operator. No doubt that is where they find the most lucrative contributions to support these outrageous compensation packages. I guess they really don't need the rest of as members anymore. I'm not interested in funding Mr. Fuller's multi-million dollar "deferred compensation package" after running a member owned organization that they refuse to COMPLETELY and TRANSPARENTLY be accountable to. Count me out ...

Posted by: CRAIG CADY | December 13, 2010 9:46 PM    Report this comment

What a lot of people have missed is that AOPA, EAA and other organizations operating as 501(c)3 public charities or (c)4, (c)6 member organizations are exempt from taxes because the organization does something for the public good and are held to a higher standard than closely held private companies to receive that exempt status. If you have questions about AOPA, EAA or any other charitable organization, they are obliged by law to provide copies of their annual tax returns (IRS 990) and IRS 1023 applications for exemption. There are places on the web, as well as the IRS where you can obtain copies of the 990 if the charity is not forthcoming. The problem with using only the 990 is that there's an inconsistent menthod to filling them out and charities will hide or allocate expenses under different headings to provide a better image, it happens all the time, so scrutiny is warranted. If there was misinterpretation, it's completely understandable as long as balance sheets, P&L, Cash Flows and other accounting documents aren't available, you work with what you have, not AvWeb's fault.

Posted by: Vaughn Henry | December 13, 2010 9:52 PM    Report this comment

If you followed the nonprofit world, you'd know that executive compensation and insider self dealing and board members ignoring their fiduciary responsibilities is a common theme. As to "alternative investments" look at the National Heritage Foundation which recently went bankrupt, its investments were in a privately held vendor's company and no one knew about it until it filed for court protection. Look at the Crystal Cathedral in CA, it just filed for bankruptcy, but only after paying family members and insiders $2 million bonuses while skipping vendor payments.

I think the AOPA Foundation does remarkable work in education and deserves support. But light is a disinfectant, and it keeps people who too often believe "they know better than the rest of us" what needs to happen reminded that they work for members and not themselves.

Posted by: Vaughn Henry | December 13, 2010 9:54 PM    Report this comment

I am a very happy member of AOPA since joining in October 1998. The bang for the buck always amazed me
how we get so much for so a little. My experience with other associations both professional and recreational none have come closed to the AOPA experience. We need the best in Washington to represent our interests and that doesn’t come cheap it’s a VERY expensive environment.

Lastly without doubt AOPA serves my interests does Avweb do the same or more importantly if one has to chose.

Posted by: Steve Gris | December 13, 2010 10:26 PM    Report this comment

If Craig Fuller's true compensation (salary plus "other incentives") ever sees the light if day, I predict that AOPA will see a crisis fr

Posted by: Michael Wise | December 14, 2010 12:42 AM    Report this comment

If Craig Fuller's true compensation (salary plus "other incentives") ever sees the light of day, I believe that AOPA will see a crisis from which it may not recover. While I appreciate the work of AOPA, I will not forgive its leadership for taking us all for a ride. I want AOPA run by leaders who allow their passion for the Association to substitute for exorbitant salaries.

Posted by: Michael Wise | December 14, 2010 12:49 AM    Report this comment

Thank you Mr. Bertorelli & AvWeb!

Revealing where important information is lacking about the costs of and benefits from any organization is a vital function.

Transparency adds to the accountability of an organization and it makes good sense to be in favor of cost-effective business practices and compensation.

I wonder how many free introductory flights 500K pays for....

Posted by: Bryan Berkland | December 14, 2010 3:16 AM    Report this comment

It's sad how as Americans we've become blind to and given free hand to the irresponsible journalists who continue print unverified and/or uneducated assumptions of facts, yet they have no consequences other than to say "...we misinterpreted some of the data on its IRS filings"!! C'mon guys...are you really applauding Paul for what he did? It was NOT quality reporting- it was merely a 'grab' for advertising dollars. Do you also support Wikileaks? Yea...they may have opened up the start of WWIII, but, hey...there's transparency! The reason Paul is 'Just Asking' is because he apparently isn't a true journalist, whose job is to investigate ALL the facts before reporting to ensure accuracy. Please don't make him out to be some sort of hero. If he truly wanted to 'help' us pilots out, then he would have simply called or emailed any one of the 100's of people at AOPA stating what he would be printing unless he got answers to his specific questions.

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 14, 2010 5:52 AM    Report this comment

Incidentally, how about the CEO of the Boy Scouts of America, who receives a salary of $1,577,600, not to mention the countless other perks he’s lavished money on; what does he do that is more important than Fuller? For the esteemed right to be in ‘The Club’, my son and I both had to pay membership fees, pay over-inflated prices for ‘required’ uniforms, patches, hats, scarves and officially issued supplies, plus he was expected to go schlep peanuts on the corner! Why should we pay that? Can’t we take our own kids out camping and hiking? Isn't that all they do- babysit our kids so we don't have to go our brave the wild? Why should we pay AOPA dues…can’t we all make the regular trips to DC and fight for our right to fly? Heck, I wouldn’t even know which building to go to, would you? I don’t even have the time to keep track of which bill is where and how it can possibly affect my flying. I didn’t expect that stupid tree to fall on my car in last week’s storm either, but I’m glad I paid my insurance- oh, yeah- there’s a bill that I pay with my eyes closed…wish it were only $45 a year! Stupid deductible too! How much does the CEO of Allstate make? Sorry, but sometimes peace of mind is just so much better than walking around, looking behind me, chanting, “Lions and tigers and bears…oh my!”.
Now, how many of you are now pulling your kids out of Boy Scouts and canceling your insurance policies?

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 14, 2010 6:06 AM    Report this comment


1. I am applauding Paul's reporting. Without his efforts we would not be having this discussion. We also wouldn't have all the new information about AOPA's financial activities.

2. You seem to have the idea that anything that appears in print must be quality journalism or perhaps absolute truth. This obviously is not the case in the real world. I personally think any publication that generates thought and discussion has value. I also believe wrong information is a lot better than no information at all - there is always some schmuck who will correct you and then you have the right information.

3. What does "C'mon guys" mean? Is this some foreign language? Perhaps some local East-Indian tongue? It looks like it might be French, but I studied that language for many years and never ran into anything like this.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 14, 2010 6:20 AM    Report this comment

American Red Cross CEO- $651,957k,United Way CEO- $629,950. Will you now stop giving to these non-profits? These leaders could inevitably make much more running similarly sized for-profit firms. Furthermore, it takes a certain level of professionalism to effectively run a non-profit and they must offer a competitive salary if they want to attract and retain that level of leadership. What does it matter that it is non-profit vs. corporation? I don't know about you, but claiming that we need a 'bargain' CEO rather than the best we can find doesn't make me comfy when they want to make me pay user fees, which would end my flying. How many corporation CEO's making millions in salary would know how to navigate DC? I would imagine that it is much easier to deal with Wall St. than DC! Would you have a tour of Disneyland with a guide or Walt Disney?

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 14, 2010 6:55 AM    Report this comment

For those who complain that 'in these times he should be ashamed for taking that salary'- does that mean you're selling your airplane & giving the money to charity? How dare you even dream of a luxury like flying when there are people who are jobless or homeless. Does the CFI who claims to barely be able to afford dues criticize her clients for lavishing money on flying lessons? Hmmm, does she realize she has a job because of the actions taken by AOPA to preserve her right to fly?
You dare to criticize AOPA for making the right choices all these years by investing wisely so they could be ready for the rainy days & NOT have to contribute to our failed economy by putting MORE people out of work? REALLY? It's easy to say I'd rather have a choice and vote for an AOPA Prez- did you vote for Obama? How's that workin' out for ya? We pay him $400k, plus millions in free EVERYTHING, housing, food, travel, not to mention the 'deferred compensation' and millions he'll make AFTER leaving DC and our country in a shambles.

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 14, 2010 6:55 AM    Report this comment

You may not like what I have to say, but please don't attack me or my choice of words.

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 14, 2010 7:03 AM    Report this comment

C'mon Paul, you know what it means. Lighten up.

Posted by: Roger Mullins | December 14, 2010 7:19 AM    Report this comment

Great job! Paul, you and the staff at AVweb are true journalists.

Posted by: Rod Pollard | December 14, 2010 7:22 AM    Report this comment


Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, I am not a journalist at all. I am a retired engineer and long-time private pilot.

OK, I might be able to figure out what C'mon means, but I refuse to accept this is a word. If it isn't in the dictionary it doesn't rate being called a word.

I'll also admit I got tired of a multi-message rant about boy scouts and other unrelated stuff with horrible abuse of the English language. I apologize for being old fashioned, but I would appreciate it if we could stick to actual words in our posts.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 14, 2010 7:35 AM    Report this comment

This discussion mirrors the frustration that we all feel about executive compensation in general in the US.

The problem that a lot of people have is that these deals are not made out in the open as part of a free market. If the members of AOPA think it is wise to pay top dollar for executive talent, then they certainly have the right to do so. The fundamental problem is that the average member of AOPA has zero voice in these decisions. There are no competitive board elections where people can express their opinions, etc.

The way to fix this is to fundamentally change the governance structure of AOPA so that the average member can not only vote for the board members, but can also run for a position. Then there will be an outlet for frustrations of this type, and any salaries being paid will not have the appearance of illegitimate self dealing.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | December 14, 2010 7:50 AM    Report this comment

Paul Bertorelli was the journalist I was referring to.
Sorry for the confusion.

Posted by: Rod Pollard | December 14, 2010 7:58 AM    Report this comment


I agree with you.

My own suggestion to those who feel executives are overpaid is to apply for the job themselves. I don't think there is a "Fair" price for any kind of job. It is always a matter of negotiation and marketing. If there are only a few people qualified and available to do a particular job they can demand high salaries.

While the AOPA executive salaries are a lot of money they pale by comparison to executives in large for-profit corporations. Some of the big players get hundreds of millions of dollars per year rather than mere hundreds of thousands.

I am happy for the AOPA executives and their financial success. I only feel frustrated by the huge amount of money they spend on lobbying. I feel we all pay taxes to employ political leaders and the money given to them to get anything accomplished in congress amounts to corruption. This is not an AOPA problem but a government problem that is exemplified by AOPA.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 14, 2010 8:04 AM    Report this comment

I can't say I agree with Mike on the voting. we will end up with a government like the one we have now! I understand Mikes point on the frustration it causes. BUT if we start voting and running for a position in aopa we will end up with an aopa that runs like government. I havent seen Aopa do something or put someone that just does not qualify. THAT MAY HAPPEN if we start voting. just my opinion. I also believe that we pay aopa to lobby because there is no one in Washington listening to us. so 45 bucks a year is not bad to have someone making your voice heard in Washington.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 14, 2010 8:50 AM    Report this comment

Democracy is messy. But that's the nature of our culture and our system. If the members want a dysfunctional organization, they are entitled to one.

There are lots of democratic organizations that have good leadership and that run effectively. There are also lots of non-democratic organizations that are run very poorly by people making LOTS of money (just look at Wall Street). In the end, if people have a real vote, then they are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | December 14, 2010 9:02 AM    Report this comment

"I am a retired engineer", "I would appreciate it if we could stick to actual words in our posts"--

Shucks,beggin yer pardon Paul- unawares that this here blog was only for 'rich, edumicated old pilots'. Guess I ain't worthy since I had to wash & fuel your airplanes to scrimp enough together to pay for flying lessons, I reckon. Nope, didn't get to college, had to work for my dream to fly cuz my folks is too poor to help out. Still able to count on AOPA to help me stay flying & teach me them there lessons in knowledge & safety(when nobody else offered for free)-so I don't take out all yer V-tails in the pattern. Nobody's perfect, but I value what AOPA does for me, & history shows that I can put my trust in them to do the job. I may not be an engineer(hmmm, does that mean you drive trains too),but since I can read & do math (only on my fingers)in AOPA's annual reports, seems that the total of yer member dues doesn't even come close to the amount needed for AOPA to keep us safe...I guess I shouldn't make educated guesses since I'm a simpleton, but perhaps all that investing those darned smart people up there have done with our money is why they can continue to fight, even when so many can't afford dues- or the ones who just think the rest of us have to pay for their rights too.

I wonder if the chief money MFWIC over there will invest my retirement funds for me?

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 14, 2010 9:20 AM    Report this comment

Sorry I offended you with my inability to master the English language or my audacity to try to point out what I simply see as common sense in a world that is just too focused on creating battles and bad guys, but I thank the Lord that it doesn't disqualify me from being an American aviator.

Thank Paul Mulwitz for ridding the blog of the audacity of someone like me.

Good luck to you all, have a merry, loving CHRISTmas with your loved ones...and fly safe!

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 14, 2010 9:25 AM    Report this comment

I'd just like to point out that "best" does not mean "most expensive". I, and many others, have worked in and around DC, and have a true and deep love of flying which would compel any of us to serve on the basis of devotion to a cause, not to a pay check. I have no doubt as to Mr. Fuller's qualifications and capabilities. But, I can say unequivocally that there are others who would bring the same or greater skills to the table at substantially less cost to the members. For too long we have nurtured a paradigm of "most is best" in setting executive level compensation, and in a non-profit centered on and dedicated to something as semi-spiritual as aviation, I have to say that this is not the correct strategy. Although you can buy talent, there is talent available and untapped from individuals who want to serve first and foremost because they love to fly. Not for the money. Not for the perks. Just because they love to fly and have had the good fortune to acquire the correct skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of the political minefield that is DC. A more open form of governance at AOPA, with member elected positions, would increase transparency. To those who believe that We, The People are too dumb to elect the right people, I would gladly invite you to surrender your citizenship and seek political refuge in a country which does not allow you such a dangerous power. I, and many others have served to ensure that in this country, we have that right.

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 14, 2010 10:10 AM    Report this comment

I'm quitting AOPA in 3 months when my membership expires. They waste too much money on junk mail and membership retention with crap "giveaways" while constantly bombard members with "give us more money" campaigns. I'm not interested in an organization that runs amateur wine clubs and eBay sites. I'm not interested in an organization that has no concept of running efficiently and effectively. I'm also not interested in an organization that riles up the troops with a misleading "study" on pilot drop-out rates. It's ONE study drawing on the opinions of less than 1% of the total student population in the USA. If one study was enough, we'd all be dead from modern medicine.

I have friends who left AOPA long ago, and you know what? They're doing just fine without AOPA in their lives. Adios AOPA, I'm never coming back, and will not be recommending the associate to any of my students, ever.

Posted by: William Wang | December 14, 2010 12:20 PM    Report this comment

Kudos to Paul and Avweb for asking these questions. Doing so is appropriate and frankly, vital for AOPA members and GA. People will interpret these data very differently and that's fine. We live in a great country where it's not only permissible to inquire but our responsibility. Blue skies!

Posted by: Bradley Spatz | December 14, 2010 1:18 PM    Report this comment

That AOPA lacks transparency is without doubt. A simple example is over the annual sweepsstake aircraft draw. It is obviously a large part of the promotion of AOPA and has an important part in recruitment and sales judging by the amount of column inches in each magazine and the full page adverts.

Unfortunately pilots resident outside North America are not eligible to win.

The sort of transparency I would look for would be a statement at the end of each article repeating the exclusion as well as something in larger than small print in the advertisements.

People do join AOPA for the sweepstake, it would be good if the decision was a bit more informed up front rather than searching out the small print somewhere on the website.

Posted by: C Blythe | December 14, 2010 1:51 PM    Report this comment

So, let me get this straight......The CEO over at AOPA is earning more than the President Of The United States? And this AOPA is a Public Service Organization for General Aviation? Uh Huh... I think I get it.

Posted by: Michael Kaufman | December 14, 2010 2:04 PM    Report this comment

I think Michael Kaufman's point is spot on. This is the sort of thing that in the main stream media could be very damaging... We keep trying to fight an elitist image, but then... Just a thought...

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 14, 2010 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Were it not for Sara Wright's and the comments of a precious few others here I would not even bother to respond.

Most comments here have me shaking my head in disbelief.

Please, please, for those with such a negative opinion of AOPA, do us all a favor and leave now, if you have not already, and join an advocacy group where the CEO does it for free or for little money, and flies around in an Ercoupe to conduct business.

No offense to Ercoupe owners either!

Posted by: LOUIS BETTI | December 14, 2010 5:13 PM    Report this comment

I'm an engineer of the train driving varity and have a college edumacation too!(Its a word where I come from).

Posted by: Roger Mullins | December 14, 2010 6:03 PM    Report this comment

All this article has done is damage AOPA's reputation and decrease it's membership! I'm happy that AOPA is professionally ran since they advocate for all of us. Any idea what that execs at NRA make- a lot more than Fuller and co. Irresponsible journalism, written by folks who have no clue how close we are to being like Europe!

Posted by: BRENT OWENS | December 14, 2010 7:04 PM    Report this comment

I don't think people necessarily have a negative opinion of AOPA, just because they think that the executives are overpaid. I suspect that most people who think that AOPA's execs are overpaid also think that the majority of corporate and other execs are overpaid also.

That's a legitimate point of view. The problem would be solved if the stockholders / non-profit members had more influence on the oversight and governance of these organizations.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | December 14, 2010 7:11 PM    Report this comment

Well, isn't it just dandy to read about all this discontent with AOPA's compensated execs ... seems to me that if that's a cause for anybody's bad attitude, then just drop the subscription.

... the FAA will be standin' by, ready to "help" ...

Posted by: Phil DeRosier | December 14, 2010 8:12 PM    Report this comment

I find Paul Mulwitz’ reply to Sara’s post rather ironic. In his first point Paul uses the slang pejorative “schmuck” (Merriam Webster Dictionary: schmuck: jerk) and then, in the second, proceeds to criticize Sara for using “c’mon” (Merriam Webster Open Dictionary: c'mon: [slang] come on) and asks if it is a foreign language. I think if Paul checks he'll find that "schmuck" is derived from a foreign language - Yiddish (shmok) - and is not a very flattering term. It seems that two standards apply when crafting a response to this blog . . . and all I have to say is C’Mon Man?!!?

As far as AOPA, the devil is in the details and reaching a conclusion on the cost-benefit of the organization and the executives AOPA employs will almost always be subjective. Overall, I believe membership is a good value and I make good use of the tools and resources they offer members.

Posted by: Rob Souza | December 14, 2010 8:14 PM    Report this comment

Hi Rob,

My reply to Sara's multi-message rant was intended to be ironic. My use of a Yiddish term (which is much more uncomplimentary than your Webster interpretation) was a response to Sara's misuse of another Yiddish term "schlep" while she was using boy scout uniforms and homeless people to express her support for AOPA.

To Sara: I welcome your participation in this or any other blog. However, you might consider spending a little time to gather your thoughts and keep your communication down to a single message. There is a reason for the character count limit that you ignored by sending message after message in the same attempt to support your position.

I apologized once for my comment and will happily do so again. I really am sorry I lost my temper over Sara's never-ending rant.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 14, 2010 8:42 PM    Report this comment

My question would be, why be so defensive and why avoid talking with AV Web in the first place about this? As someone who works in PR and Marketing I would assume that the reason for avoiding the issue is that the Upper Management are aware that the salaries are on the high side and as an Association, which is supposed to be driven by a passion for their purpose, they know they will be criticized by the membership regarding this. Listen, everyone is fully aware that you need to pay good money for good people and that large multinational corporations pay their executives high salaries, but this is an association, which is supposed to be an advocacy, the purpose of which is not to drive profits for the shareholders but to drive the concerns of their membership to the powers that be. Associations and not for profit organizations are seen in a different light than corporate money making organizations, therefore it is normally expected that the executives of these types of organizations will be driven more by passion than by dollars, but clearly AOPA Executives see themselves as Corporate America and expect to be compensated as such. No member expects that we will pay peanuts for monkeys, but we do expect some fiscal restraint when it comes to Executive Compensation for Management in an advocacy association.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 14, 2010 11:39 PM    Report this comment

The mere fact that Fuller initially tried to avoid the interview, then became inflamed by AVWeb publishing the figures that AOPA itself has filled on record with the IRS, is grounds for concern. Claiming that the factual figures "don't tell the whole story" and that "...we can explain, you don't understand", just doesn't hold water with me. In the PR world we call this damage control and I think that AOPA Members are entitled to understand why the Top Executives at AOPA feel that 'Damage Control" is necessary. AOPA does a great job, don't get me wrong, as does EAA, but sometimes these organizations need a wake up call. With Millions of dollars in the treasury, perhaps money could be spent on a General PR or Advertising Campaign in Mainstream Media about the role of GA in the Community, rather than justifying and defending high Executive Salaries and criticizing media organizations for bringing these salaries to the attention of the pilot community.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 14, 2010 11:43 PM    Report this comment

My husband and I are on social security now. We didn't get a raise for the last two years. Our IRA's are still low from the 2008 crash. The economy doesn't look like it will ever get better, except for people like Fuller et al.
Guess we will have to give up the dream of flying. When/if we can sell our farm here, we were going to buy a used aircraft, hopefully with an IO-550 engine, but now that would be supporting china, as it turns out. This is all so depressing...

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | December 15, 2010 7:12 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for doing a job that, quite frankly, should not have been necessary. As a long-time CEO, I am shocked by the lack of transparency in executive compensation at all of the aviation alphabets, not only the AOPA. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies to include EAA, GAMA, NBAA, NATA, etc. For instance, the EAA's 2009 annual report is 40 pages long, yet there is only one page (23) devoted to the organization's finances, the rest is a summary of activities and a long list of donors - that's not much of an annual report. Had I done the same in my businesses, the company owners would have accused me of white washing. I am sure there is no real issue here, but it would be refreshing to have the alphabets act more like the multi-million enterprises they are when it comes to compensation and reporting. As far as compensation is concerned, this is normally handled by a compensation committee of directors who are not employees, and all details of the compensation of officers should be available to members at all times. Compensation also must be tied to bottom-line performance, not just the volume of issues that the organization addressed. Aviation is bleeding red ink almost everywhere, so we should expect these organizations to tighten their belts, which may mean a temporary reduction in compensation.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | December 15, 2010 8:20 AM    Report this comment

And in spite of the fact that fund managers on Wall Street make obscene amounts of money every year and retire to a vineyard in the Hamptons after working for ten years, we continue to contribute to our 401(k)s that are worth a fraction of what they were 3 years ago. But raise a question about an organization that represents and generally benefits around 600,000 people in pursuit of what amounts to a hobby, and all of a sudden we're being ripped of for $45. It's still the best $45 you can spend in aviation. Heck, if you pay $45 for a landing fee, you don't demand the airport commission explain how they spent it. This is much to do about nothing. Or is it just jealousy?

Posted by: Jerry Plante | December 15, 2010 9:24 AM    Report this comment

That's irrelevant. Craig Fuller makes way too much money for what he is doing! Way to much!

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | December 15, 2010 10:01 AM    Report this comment

AOPA has helped me personally and has been a great help, probably even invaluable help, to our airport (KVNC). That is true also of other airports and individuals. Some circling of the wagons is normal in any organization subjected to potentially uncomfortable questions. I trust they can ultimately accommodate Paul's request in some manner.

Posted by: Paul Hollowell | December 15, 2010 10:22 AM    Report this comment

Wow! We pay about the same amount of money for a subscription to FLYING of Plane and Pilot and they're not on every front line when our right to fly is threatened. I've been an AOPA member since the organization began. Where else can you get this kind of watchdog for something I personally hold very dear, for 45 bucks? I'd pay that for "Pilot" every month. Let them pay their people what they think the job is worth! Those who want to quit, should go and put a couple of bullet holes in their elevators after they are done with their feet! We need AOPA and EAA, don't kid yourselves about where we'd be without them!

Posted by: Jim Wilson | December 15, 2010 10:32 AM    Report this comment

nicely put Mike. I Understand what you are saying. I just dont trust a bunch of other members haha. I guess it really is a tossup when you go down the path of democracy. It may be well now. but It wont guarantee the future. I guess Im just thinking that if an association has proven its efficiency why try to fix it to make everyone (the ones that dont make 500k a year) happy. It works and works well. We cannot possibly satisfy everyone. If it aint broke dont fix it! hehe. I could Understand if Members could Kick out ceo's or others that are not proper choices or do not work efficiently for the organization. But I would not like to be a part of an organization where any member can become the head honcho.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 15, 2010 11:52 AM    Report this comment

Interesting comments! I've been an AOPA member nearly 50 years. I view them as my GA advocate to congress. As a member of a professional organization for 25 years, my "dues" were nearly $400/yr. They were my voice to congress - as is AOPA. There were comments comparing AOPA salaries to other non-profits. In a free market society why are we comparing compensation between organizations? In the insurance business, every time there was a proposed rate increase, we as agents were asked to obtain declaration pages from other companies so the actuaries would know how to price the coverage. What a phony way to set premiums! In a free market, premiums/dues etc should be the result of what it takes to be profitable (I realize profit should not be a motive in the "non-profit" arena - but I believe the comparison is valid). Yes, we want good management and just being the manager of AOPA has its own perks. That said, compensation should be reasonable - whatever that is. No question, CEO's should be well compensated, but what is too much? One of my nephews is the VP of a division of a world wide company. When asked by his father what his salary was his response was: "It's criminal!"

Thanks for bringing these things to light. Right, wrong or indifferent, these questions help to shed light on the inner workings of AOPA. Both the management of AOPA and the membership need that transparently.

Posted by: Leroy Chausse | December 15, 2010 12:03 PM    Report this comment

>>> I realize profit should not be a motive in the "non-profit" arena

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 15, 2010 12:48 PM    Report this comment

AVweb published a report that management at AOPA got huge increases in salary, even listing the percentages they received, when in fact the numbers were not even close. If you think Craig makes too much or their retirement plan is too fat, then go after them on that. Don’t report garbage. If your reporter can’t figure percentages, you “divide the part by the whole.” You will always find yourselves in retreat when you screw up as the number of responses to this show. Don’t try to shift blame onto some vague lack of communication. Somebody at AVweb screwed up! AOPA is a super organization and it is only because of them that I have the right to and can still afford to fly. For the foreseeable future, the question foremost in my mind as I read AVweb will be, “IS THIS STORY REALLY TRUE?”

Posted by: Curtis Stutzman | December 15, 2010 4:02 PM    Report this comment

AVweb published a report that management at AOPA got huge increases in salary, even listing the percentages they received, when in fact the numbers were not even close. If you think Craig makes too much or their retirement plan is too fat, then go after them on that. Don’t report garbage. If your reporter can’t figure percentages, you “divide the part by the whole.” You will always find yourselves in retreat when you screw up as the number of responses to this show. Don’t try to shift blame onto some vague lack of communication. Somebody at AVweb screwed up! AOPA is a super organization and it is only because of them that I have the right to and can still afford to fly. For the foreseeable future, the question foremost in my mind as I read AVweb will be, “IS THIS STORY REALLY TRUE?”

Posted by: Curtis Stutzman | December 15, 2010 4:04 PM    Report this comment

Curtis, do you work for AOPA? Have you read the comments on AOPA's own website? I'm afraid AOPA are the one's who screwed up here. They refused an interview initially, then provided figures that were in conflict with the numbers they reported to the IRS, then they blamed AVWeb for not asking them for clarity and an explanation before going to press. This was badly handled by AOPA from the beginning. Yes, they do a great job, but they are still accountable to their members and they have clearly been trying to play down their large salaries because they know they are on the high side for an "Association".

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 15, 2010 4:55 PM    Report this comment

Yo Trevor, do you have any comparisons of Executive salaries of other "Associations" the size of AOPA?

Posted by: RONALD TARRSON | December 15, 2010 8:55 PM    Report this comment

As per an earlier story:"We reviewed data from both the National Journal and American Society of Association Executives, both of which maintain association salary data. Association pay varies widely by type of association—trades tend to pay more—and by size and industry. National Journal reports that average pay for CEOs in associations greater than $10 million is $501,000, with those in the $100 million range averaging $796,550. (At $60 million, AOPA splits the difference.) The American Society of Association Executives shows similar salary data. Geography has some impact on this, with Washington-based CEOs getting the highest salaries and those in other parts of the country the lowest. ASAE also says that total revenues are a strong driver of salaries. Its study ranks any association greater than $25 million into a single category so it's not possible to determine where the upper salary tier ends.

According to its tax data, AOPA also pays its senior level staff at or near the top rates. For example, the median salaries for CFOs in associations larger than $25 million was $187,200, with the top salaries reported as more than $217,701 in 2010. AOPA's CFO was paid a base of $270,000 in 2009, according to the association's data. Deputy chief executives or operating officers in member associations have a median salary of $263,850. AOPA's COO—a job not reported in 2009 but planned for 2010, according to AOPA data—is paid $270,000, the association said."

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 16, 2010 12:53 AM    Report this comment

I think for the membership money we pay, AOPA does a good job and the dues are low for what you get, however my issue is the fact that they didn't want to disclose the executive compensation information at the start of this and the only reason I can see for this has been outlined in my comments on December 14th about 25 posts above this one. They have huge cash reserves that could be put to good use in this financial climate, as I also mentioned. I believe that AOPA should have been up front and open from the start. Maybe its me, but anytime somebody seeks to avoid disclosing facts or tries to skirt around issues and then attacks the party who raised the issue or questions the information provided, it smells fishy to me and shows a slight wiff of "mens rea".

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 16, 2010 1:07 AM    Report this comment

So lots of flyers seem to swear by AOPA. Others swear against some elements of it. Perceived over-priced execs (who raise their salaries while axing lower staff) and lack of transparency as a "professional" org (rather than a "volunteer-based" one) are 2 elements mentioned.
I’ve followed these same AvWeb stories. So I'm befuddled at rants against Paul B. for having the brass, the gall if you will, to report on AOPA. No org is sacrosanct today, yet some commenters seem to believe otherwise. So they shoot the messenger, blaming Paul for what sounds like the org's coy tapdance with budget numbers on 2 occasions.
A bit less flaming, fewer arch retorts, more civility here between persuasions would be nice. And an absence of snide remarks questioning the (nation’s) Founders’ idea that democracy—in government and associations—could reconcile by compromise varied perspectives held in good faith. Join or quit forum and org, but listen to the other person respectfully and be nice, please.

Posted by: Wash Phillips | December 16, 2010 1:51 AM    Report this comment

I find it interesting that AvWeb is blamed by some commenters for making AOPA look bad. If AOPA feels AvWeb misrepresented the data--be it sloppy reporting or purposeful sensationalizing--then all it would take is a full and fair accounting by AOPA to clear thing up.

Sadly, that seems something we readers will have to continue to wait for.

For myself, I didn't read any opinion or hyperbole in the stories, just facts. AvWeb has corrected itself whenever AOPA has provided data. Those who are suggesting AvWeb is doing something unseemly or untoward in asking AOPA to account for what it does are simply wrong. Asking questions and printing answers is what journalists do. If you ask for a comment and receive none, then you print what you've got. Suggesting AvWeb shouldn't have printed ANYTHING until it got the full story from AOPA makes no sense--it still hasn't gotten the full story.

Does anyone here actually think AOPA will fully disclose to AvWeb?

The nagging suspicion expressed by many here that AOPA's execs might be over paid does not originate from this AvWeb story, it originates from AOPA's refusal to fully respond to fair questions...

Posted by: Mark Sletten | December 16, 2010 9:26 AM    Report this comment

Mark. Just like Avweb has the option to ask whomever it wishes about whatever they want Aopa has the option not to answer. that does not mean that Avweb can post an article with incorrect data. if they could not retrieve the data why make a half guessed article? I believe that this article has damaged more because most Americans today are against the high paid Ceo aka the devil. especially since the Recession in the economy. I know Avweb reporters are not oblivious to this fact yet they did not consider how it could affect a GOOD Association that does GOOD for aviation. The point here is not what Aopa did or didnt disclose nor what will it or will not. the point is AOPA does good for GA and anytime anyone makes an article about what ceo's are paid it AUTOMATICALLY makes people think about the bad guys. Right? I recall some companies that needed government bailout and were flying G5's. I think that is what People automatically think of these days and Avweb did not consider that. did avweb do that on purpose? I would hope not.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 16, 2010 12:40 PM    Report this comment

I am sure Avweb did and does not mean harm to Aopa and I am not saying articles like this should never be posted But I do believe this could have been handled much more delicately than how it was handled.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 16, 2010 12:43 PM    Report this comment

sorry. I meant to say Avweb DIDN'T And DOES NOT MEAN HARM TO AOPA.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 16, 2010 12:44 PM    Report this comment

Jerry, if AOPA chooses not to respond to AvWeb for clarification and/or additional data on a story, was AvWeb wrong to assume what they had was good to go?

As I said, if AvWeb were to wait for AOPA to respond with a full accounting of financial information you and I would not be having this discussion, because AOPA has yet to offer one. As I also said, AOPA can set the controversy to rest very easily by doing so, post haste.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | December 16, 2010 1:53 PM    Report this comment

I understand what you mean about Aopa. but Avweb was wrong to assume what they had was good not because they are incapable of looking for public records but because (like I said before) its not just any article. its a very sensitive issue they were going to deal with. If it were any other particular subject, Im sure most of use wouldn't even flinch. It would have been noble of Avweb to have thought of that. I dont believe avweb is a low crappy reporting guild. But this did not shine well on avweb. Im sure we all hold a different opinion. thats just mine. Although you are right. Aopa could put this to rest easily.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 16, 2010 2:44 PM    Report this comment

>>>its not just any article. its a very sensitive issue

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 16, 2010 2:51 PM    Report this comment

AOPA shouldn't allow themselves to be 'free game' anymore, afterall, they are not publicly held, and they certainly aren't beholding to avweb. Perhaps AOPA didn't answer avweb simply because they didn't feel it was necessary to waste their time and energy on someone other than their MEMBERS. It is interesting how so many negative comments are made here by people who are admittedly NOT MEMBERS- you know, the ones who still reap the benefits of all the good AOPA does for them, but would rather sit back & still let the rest of us pay the bills- what do you guys call that? Couch potato quarterback or something? AOPA doesn't need avweb to reach their MEMBERS, nor should they help avweb make money off of them & their MEMBERS, especially when they are trying to stir up trouble with erroneous information. AOPA should reply to avweb that 'for any MEMBER who would like the information being asked, they are welcome to use their personal ID & password to log on to the 'MEMBER'S ONLY' part of the AOPA website where the answers will be awaiting them. This way any MEMBER who actually pays their dues to THIER association will have the opportunity to share with THEIR association and other MEMBERS what is on their mind after reading the information provided by THEIR association. This should keep the armchair non-members opinions to themselves.

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 16, 2010 7:30 PM    Report this comment

Well. I guess everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Right Ken?

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 16, 2010 7:49 PM    Report this comment

Sara: I am an AOPA member. Are you suggesting that I can login to the members only section of and see all of the details of all of AOPA's executive compensation arrangements? Please tell me where to look.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | December 16, 2010 8:42 PM    Report this comment

No organization has as much positive influence for general aviation as AOPA. From public media to government affairs. General Aviation is very misunderstood in the public eye and an easy target. If AOPA were to go away we would all lose, you can quit the organization but you give up your opportunity to make any change. Look at general aviation in Europe and compare. We would be begging to pay someone $500,000 a year to restore our rights to fly.

Posted by: FRANK GRONER | December 16, 2010 8:52 PM    Report this comment

So Sara and Jerry, I guess it's "dont ask...don't tell" for you both when it comes to AOPA? So I guess the argument is; any organization that does a good job should never be asked to disclose or explain its inner workings. That seems like an interesting idea, sort of like "the ends justify the means". I see now where you are coming from. I pay taxes to the local Gov't for services, mostly they do a good job so I guess I shouldn't ask where my money goes...I see where this is going, basically, pay your dues, shut up and don't ask uncomfortable questions, and anyone who does ask those questions and raises issues should be soundly critisized for doing so because it is bad if the answer to those questions, or lack thereof, makes the organization uncomfortable and perhaps raises more questions. Got it now...

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 16, 2010 11:08 PM    Report this comment

Mike- Fuller took his position just last yr & from what I've seen has been very proactively getting around & blogging to understand what MEMBERS need;when this came up he responded that he now realizes that this had not been available to members in the past (prior to him) & that he is now enacting an area on the site to address the questions & concerns- read his response. Boyer set the precedence for 18 yrs- Fuller can't fix everything overnight. If MEMBERS really want the assoc to succeed, then give him your support & a fair chance by asking questions appropriately through the MEMBERSHIP, & realize that you aren't the ONLY issue he's working on, so be patient.

Trevor- I don't recall Jerry or myself ever saying anything about burying heads, so I'm confused about your accusation- I simply said that the information demanded by avweb should be reserved for MEMBERS only, the ones who actually pay their dues- please don't confuse the issue between Americans forced into paying taxes & their elected officials not listening to them to MEMBERS of an association who CHOOSE to support their cause. There's a huge difference between the fact that we're FORCED to pay 1000's of dollars into Soc Sec each yr, but probably won't see a dime- & the fact that we CHOOSE to contribute $45 a year to ensure that we can enjoy flying now and when we retire.
Again, please don't make attacks.

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 17, 2010 7:28 AM    Report this comment

Chip - slightly off-topic: "Look at general aviation in Europe and compare. We would be begging to pay someone $500,000 a year to restore our rights to fly." I travel and fly GA in Europe at least once a year. Reports of the death of G.A. there are grossly exaggerated. When compared to regions of the U.S. with similar demographics and weather, things aren't all that different really. Just look at the large number of excellent new LSA designs from Europe. They exist because there is a market for them in Europe, and we in the U.S. benefit from this fact. IAOPA has affiliates in every country of Europe and is becoming an important advocate for aviation there. Some aspects of GA are worse in Europe than in the U.S., but others are better.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | December 17, 2010 9:07 AM    Report this comment

Sara, before I voluntarily contribute to a charity I always do some research. Specifically, I like to know how much I give will actually get to the charity's beneficiaries rather than lining the pockets of those running the charity. Given that, I disagree with your position that information regarding AOPA's executive compensation is only of value to members. People considering membership might also like to know how the dues they pay will be used.

I also disagree with your position on the analogy between AOPA and government. The fact that membership dues are voluntary while taxes are mandatory is not germane to the discussion. The part of the comparison that bears directly on the discussion is that people all over the country are finally beginning to wake up to the fact there is a problem with the level of service they get from their government compared to what they pay in taxes--mostly because government workers' pay and compensation is outlandish by any stretch of the imagination. This great public awakening has directly resulted from news organizations asking tough questions and publishing unflattering stories about government, exactly as AvWeb has done about AOPA.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | December 17, 2010 9:16 AM    Report this comment

If AOPA executives believe the value they provide to members is in line with the pay they receive then it's up to them to make their case. Before they can, however, they must fully disclose what they're getting paid.

I, along with the rest of the membership, await AOPA's full and complete response...

Posted by: Mark Sletten | December 17, 2010 9:24 AM    Report this comment

Lol at trevor. dude read again. if you dont get it I dont care to explain. this is a waste of time.

Posted by: Jerry Witt | December 17, 2010 9:24 AM    Report this comment

>>>Well. I guess everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Right Ken?

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 17, 2010 10:56 AM    Report this comment

I should point out that my last comment is not directed to any specific individual, and is meant to remind us all that we are all in this together. If we agree or not about the merits of this article, and the comments expressed herein about it. We all share one thing in common. Our love of flying and aviation. Let each of us remember that, and use that common thread guide our actions. AOPA is, without question, a fine organization, and our job is to strive to always try and make it better. Let us not loose sight of this.

Posted by: Ken Anderson | December 17, 2010 11:05 AM    Report this comment

Well said Ken!

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 17, 2010 12:50 PM    Report this comment

This important debate presents a golden opportunity for all of us in the aviation community.

As a life member, I reiterate my belief that AOPA is a well run organization. In my request to Mr. Fuller on his blog, I urged AOPA to adopt transparency and reform as these are hallmarks of great organizations. I expect this to open a new dimension in their relationship with members and non members alike.

To AvWeb and Paul Bertorelli, congratulations on initiating this discussion. In your unique position talk about AOPA, but also EAA, NBAA and the like. They serve distinct roles and we need each of them. But seeing your approach to this, I have some advice.

Fellow aviator Harrison Ford says (from "Just Another Pilot" on YouTube), "Freedom without the responsibility... is maybe not so engaging". Research and compare AOPA to others in more concrete terms. Statements like "it seems reasonably high to us" validate your lack of research effort. The title, "we're just asking" leans towards more freedom than responsibility.

Help us understand the environment these organizations operate in. Educate pilots on compensation components, what is a good financial report, and why reserves are needed. Help these organizations become more transparent. Don't weaken and wikirisk them unwittingly.

To the rest of us -- stay engaged. Cancelling memberships is not a solution. We have serious challenges now and ahead of us that we can only solve collectively.

Posted by: Parth Srinivasa | December 19, 2010 2:59 PM    Report this comment

Well said Parth!

Posted by: Sara Wright | December 19, 2010 7:50 PM    Report this comment

As a political scientist by training, I'd like to add just a bit to this discussion: There seems to be a fundamental understanding about what AOPA is and does.

AOPA is a lobbyist organization. First and foremost AOPA exists to lobby on behalf of aviators. Although the organization has grown to provide a number of other valuable services, it is still THE aviation lobby in America. Also, as the organizations chief, Mr Fuller is a lobbyist—and a damn skilled one too. These are the unvarnished facts folks.

I believe that those people who are jumping ship on AOPA right now are doing themselves and GA in general a huge disservice. Every time aviation is in the cross-hairs in Washington, AOPA is there beating back the assault. No matter how small or how large the issue, Mr Fuller (and previously Mr. Boyer) is there--fighting tooth and nail to maintain the enormous freedoms to fly that we are so fortunate to exercise in this nation. They do this the same way every lobbying group does, by giving money to politicians. And to a lesser degree, by educating them. Politicians are not cheap. The fact that AOPA dues are only forty five bucks, makes it THE single best value in aviation today.

Posted by: jeremy beaudry | December 20, 2010 7:16 PM    Report this comment

With the above in mind, I feel a lot of the anger at AOPA right now is misdirected, we really should be angry with our elected officials for perpetuating such a cockamamie system. Don't be pissed-off at Craig Fuller for doing what we pay him to do, be angry with your representatives for making his job so dirty that we have to pay him so much to do it.

The old axiom about lawmaking being like sausage making really rings true in this story, “once you know what's in it, you'll never want anything to do with it again.” Our political system in this country certainly is not perfect, but it's what we have and I'm happy to pay forty five dollars a year to have a lobbyist in Washington looking out for my interests.

Lastly, I will add that I am a member of a few other alphabet aviation groups as well. And I for one, have no intention of quitting any of them; they all serve aviation's and my interests ably.

Posted by: jeremy beaudry | December 20, 2010 7:16 PM    Report this comment

I don't think that most people are angry at AOPA. I think that there is an overall frustration with excessive executive compensation in all forms of US organizations, corporations, banks, etc....., amplified by the inability of the owners / shareholders / members to have any input on the matter.

There is no question that top talent is expensive. If the members of AOPA actually felt that they had a say in the matter, and their representatives made an open and transparent decision to hire management at this pay level, I suspect that most of the griping would never have happened. It's the lack of input, coupled with a lack of disclosure and transparency, that is fueling the discontent.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | December 20, 2010 11:32 PM    Report this comment


I don't doubt the truth of your comment, but it makes me sick.

I don't want to believe that every single member of congress is corrupt, but that seems to be what you are saying. Paying large sums of money for "Face time" or outright policy purchase should not be part of our system of government. This practice means our representatives don't really represent us. It also makes it nearly impossible for anyone to beat an incumbent running for reelection.

As I said earlier, I don't think this is an AOPA problem. It is a problem with our "Experiment" in government. Perhaps it is time to declare the experiment a failure and start over.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 21, 2010 1:41 AM    Report this comment

How much of this debate has turned to urban myths? "All politicians are corrupt, CEOs are overpaid and not held accountable, there is a shortage of good lobbyists." As a long-time CEO and someone who has worked with politicians for decades, my experiences have been the opposite. Most CEOs I know, especially those who risked their personal wealth to create a company, live relatively frugal lives, are dedicated to the success of their business , the welfare of their employees and the creation of wealth for the company owners. Regardless how well a CEO does this quarter, the company's Board - rightly - wipes the slate clean and raises the bar. Likewise, the vast majority of politicians are paid modestly given their responsibilities, work incredibly long hours, and the best ones are vilified by the mainstream press for being so. It's no wonder that few CEOs would give up their jobs to enter politics, but we need them more than ever. Lastly, judging from the hopeless congestion in the D.C. area, it appears that there is no shortage of lobbyists. I know of one who worked at NATA and AOPA but left them for a non-aviation alphabet when he tired of micro-management and what he felt was an industry in decline. The Tea Party movement has shown that grass roots efforts can be more effective than highly paid lobbyists, which is one of the reasons that the TP too is vilified, and feared by the Beltway establishment.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | December 21, 2010 9:03 AM    Report this comment

My beef is that for the executive pay and the financial resources AOPA has not been doing a good enough job. It seems that the organization is constantly stating the problems instead of doing something about them. When other groups take action on issues outside of and without the support of AOPA I think it is indicative of a nonresponsive organization. Often times AOPA will claim that they “work quietly” on issues and this would be fine except that there appears to be little to no progress. I believe the organization should be more open about the inner workings of their advocacy. If this openness leads to an adversarial relationship with the FAA then so be it. I for one am tired of being afraid of the FAA and our government. The number one job of AOPA should be government advocacy and if they are not getting results their reporting to the membership should explain why. I want names and statements so that when it comes time to vote I can make an informed decision. I believe AOPA is a good organization but it could be so much better. If AOPA were getting better results I would be fine with the current financials.

Posted by: Rod Pollard | December 21, 2010 11:06 AM    Report this comment

Amen Rod. The AOPA's stance on Mogas (silence) speaks volumes and confirms your point. The same can almost be said about the EAA, which has followed the AOPA on a one-size-fits-all-and-it-will-not-include-Mogas stance. LAMA is one refreshing exception, likely a reflection of their small size and modest budget. LAMA can not afford a full time staff so those involved have a personal stake in all it does.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | December 21, 2010 11:15 AM    Report this comment

I think government advocacy takes two different forms. Some activities involve interface between the advocate and government bureaucrats while others involve contact with politicians.

I know there is a lot of interface between EAA and FAA folks. While the EAA people are paid a salary and expenses I am quite sure there is no attempt to pay the FAA millions of dollars of "Influence Money" to promote the EAA position.

In the AOPA case, I can't believe the $10 million per year lobbying expense is composed just of salaries and expenses. I don't know for sure, but I suspect a great deal of this money takes the form of direct contributions to politicians.

If a politician or his staff told a lobbyist: "Pay up or you can't talk to me" they would be risking great penalty if this were made public. I doubt the bribery often takes this form. Rather, I suspect the contributions are made as an independent action by the lobbyist. That means it is the lobbyists who make this system happen rather than the politicians. If this is true, then the lobbyists who take this path (I'm quite sure this doesn't include all lobbyists) are indeed promoting the corruption that is prevalent in D.C.

I don't know how to put an end to this practice, but I suspect some progress can be made if the contributions are exposed and publicly discussed by those actually paying the money that is used this way. In this case that is the MEMBERS of AOPA.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 21, 2010 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Of all the extravagances of which AOPA might be accused, its operation of a private jet tops the list. It is utterly indefensible given the nature of the organization, its mission and its size. I flew corporate jets for ten years and fully understand their utility to top executives of large companies, as well as their astonishingly high costs. I am aware of only two member-supported advocacy organizations that have had them. The Teamsters Union at one time operated a Gulfstream 2. The Teamsters are of course, historically famous for being less than good stewards of their members funds. The other example was the national United Way, whose chairman William Aramony was fired for indulging himself with a Jetstar. The National Business Aircraft Association, whose purpose in life is representing the interests of corporate jet operators, owns no aircraft.
When Phil Boyer announced the impending purchase of this Citationjet, I informed him that I would no longer support AOPA with my dues. And I have not.

Posted by: B Patton | December 30, 2010 11:08 AM    Report this comment

B Patton - The business jet industry is one of the few bright spots in the U.S. economy, however our President and Congress have done a good job to vilify it in the past two years, go figure. That being said, I well recall Mr. Fuller at the press conference at the opening of this year's AERO Friedrichshafen GA show in Germany. Everyone on the panel except him expressed concern about rising costs of flying and uncertainty surrounding fuels. Mr. Fuller instead talked about using the CitationJet to fly from MD to Germany, requiring multiple stops along the way and probably a much greater expense than a First Class ticket on Lufthansa. Ironically, following him was the head of AOPA Germany who complained about all he was expected to be doing on a shoestring budget and a tiny staff. AOPA Germany is formally independent of AOPA USA, but the contrast between these two people made the entire room uncomfortable. I was there and speak German. I heard the whispers.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | December 30, 2010 11:18 AM    Report this comment

Just read 2014 990 on AOPA website. Check page 12

Posted by: jane zhang | August 26, 2016 1:42 PM    Report this comment

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