AOPA: The Business

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This week's dustup over Sporty's complaint to AOPA raising the issue of predatory competition reminds me of what I thought two years ago when we interviewed the association and companies on this very topic. Not to put too delicate a point on it, but welcome to the cannibalistic phase of your aviation industry experience. The issues raised by Sporty's were inevitable in my view and I'm glad they finally put their name on a complaint that everyone can comment on. Other companies with similar beefs are still hiding in the shadows and it's time for them to roger up, too. Such is the fear of offending AOPA, that many of these companies just won't go on the record.

Complaints about AOPA competing with private companies in everything from insurance, to credit cards to legal advice are nothing new. I've been hearing them for 25 years as the ubiquitous background noise of covering GA. And frankly, all trade and member associations do this. NRA will happily sell you a $99 combat light or a nice folding knife. Associations do this from the considerable advantage of tax-free status for at least some of their operations. What's different now is that AOPA appears to be ever more aggressive in harvesting money from its members. Whether this takes it too far afield of its core aviation mission is debatable, but the association's wine club idea of a couple of years ago comes up as Exhibit A in the argument that it has. It adds further credence to the claim that the association's widening revenue net distracts it from its core mission of advocacy.

The ugly reality here is that despite all the glad-handing press conferences and market babble about new pilots, the GA population is eroding and will remain in that state for quite some time. Bottom line: there are ever fewer of us to buy ever more stuff people want to sell to us and expensively funded organizations like AOPA will get the revenue from somewhere. It's naïve to believe they won't, with a captive albeit shrinking universe, develop products and services that compete directly with the very private companies that support the association through advertising dollars and donations.

But should they? The high-moral-ground argument is that they use this revenue to fund the good fight, protecting our right to fly. Most of us reasonably accept this, as we should, even if we don't have the first clue how effective they are or how cost efficient. Recall that AOPA declined to answer our queries about some substantial line items in its budget numbers a couple of years ago. We also reported that the association's salaries are in line with other associations and President Craig Fuller is unapologetic about high salaries the association pays, arguing that AOPA has to pay competitive salaries to get good people. (Here's the full report.) And at a time when the rest of economy has suffered layoffs and frozen salaries, associations in general have raised theirs. It's axiomatic that associations--especially Washington associations--come to reflect the nature of the government they work with, including justification for expenditures that may seem excessive to some of us.

And it takes revenue just to sustain, which becomes more difficult to generate as the customer base shrinks, hence AOPA's ventures into new businesses. At some point, the association will be perceived as crossing the line into predatory competition with some of the entities that support it. Sporty's and the two companies that joined in signing the letter believe that it already has and I'm inclined to agree. All of us can cheer AOPA's legislative work, but its PR job is to walk a fine line between generating revenue and competing with the very people who sustain it an aviation economy that is flat on its butt. They've danced around this line for years, but now appear to have crossed it, in my view. It's time to step back and get back in balance with companies that are, in the end, just as important as the membership for the health of GA. When those companies are writing big checks to AOPA, they shouldn't feel they're funding a competitor. An accommodation here is better than a conflict.

I welcome reader comments.

Comments (47)

As a former Insurance Agent, I was active in the Independent Insurance Agents Association on a local, state and, to a lesser degree, national level. Because insurance is regulated state-by-state, the state associations were powerful entities. In New York, IIAANY was run by very capable executives in conjunction with volunteer ins. agents elected as President and other board level positions.
Anyway, when our association supported and advocated "continuing education," I objected because it was nothing more than the creation of a revenue stream for the association which would run the seminars. It passed and we insurance agents have for many years had to attend these horribly boring seminars in order to maintain our licenses. It was one reason I sold my business and retired young. Associations are businesses with a somewhat different agenda than their members; that's okay as long as they continue to focus on protecting our right to fly and SOMEHOW getting more young people flying.

Posted by: Thomas Reilly | October 4, 2012 10:53 AM    Report this comment

"At some point, the association will be perceived as crossing the line into predatory competition with some of the entities that support it. Sporty's and the two companies that joined in signing the letter believe that it already has and I'm inclined to agree."

Me too. I don't know why producing logo flashlights and pocket knives is so much different than this latest move, but it seems as if it really is. I'm not only and AOPA and EAA member, but I support their PACs. The fact that I do that should tell you what I expect from my organizations. Developing and marketing a flight planning product is a challenging technical pursuit, if it's done right. It still amazes me that there is still (in my view) no single product that provides optimal planning, weather, charts and plates, (continued)

Posted by: ANTHONY NASR | October 4, 2012 11:03 AM    Report this comment

airport info and enroute guidance - I guess you really have to accept that this is a tough nut to crack... least to crack elegantly. I respect the companies that are trying to do it (...evidence the fact that I reluctantly subscribe to more than one service...) but I don't want the organization that I depend on for advocacy (and safety) diluting their energies and credibility on what is viewed (erroneously, I believe) as a anybody-can-do-it cash cow.

You know, I've tried many of these products, I subscribe to three of them for various resons. I've tried "FlyQ" and you know what? It stinks - it seems awkward and clunky. It sort of hammers in what I said at the beginning - this is not like branding a pocket knife. It defines the organization - my organization - as a money-grubbing (and in this case, inept) bunch of opportunists. To be effective and believable as a political force, I think you have to run away from that image.

Posted by: ANTHONY NASR | October 4, 2012 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I'll take a slightly different view on this, in that many people go to AOPA and EAA for insurance, flight-planning tools, etc simply because people want one place to go to. In a way, all these other companies simply aren't doing enough advertisement.

The previous desktop version of AOPA's flight planner actually did everything I needed, worked well enough, and most importantly, it was fast. When they went to the current web-based version, the interface was decent enough and it had a lot more information, but it was SLOW. There's no reason why it should perform as slowly as it does on my quad-core computer with a decently-fast internet connection.

To build out a server farm that can quickly handle thousands of data requests takes money and resources, which definitely could be better spent in other places. However, if someone simply doesn't know about other solutions out there, they'll look to where they're familiar, and that's AOPA and/or EAA.

We'd all be better served if AOPA diverted these resources to providing a place we could go to that listed several different tools (be it insurance, flight planning, or otherwise).

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 4, 2012 12:35 PM    Report this comment

As one of the older group of pilots(66); I have disappointed in both AOPA and EAA over the last few years and am no longer a member of either group as I don't feel they represent my values and are now very similar to AARP in that they are just constantly trying to sell you something you don't need. Paying high salaries to get people who ruin your industry didn't work out well for GM and Chrysler stockholders and bond holders either---RCW

Posted by: richard wecker | October 4, 2012 1:08 PM    Report this comment

I tried FlyQ. I quickly got it off my iPad. Junk

Posted by: Gilbert Pierce | October 4, 2012 2:08 PM    Report this comment

Maybe AOPA should focus more on their core mission statement rather than trying to be half baked code monkeys kicking out crap software to torture us with.

That said, they should also stop their insurance, legal, and whatever else nonsense they're doing these days. And for god sake, enough with the junk mailers and crap gifts to try to capture members!

Posted by: Amy Zucco | October 4, 2012 3:47 PM    Report this comment

I used the desk-top AOPA Real Time Flight Planner for some time. It was supported by Jeppesen and was the best flight planner I sampled. When AOPA changed over, the message on my screen pointed me to Jeppesen if I wanted to go with their subscription. I didn’t see a conflict there.

When I needed to add another credit card to my wallet, I got one through the AOPA. I qualified as a premium customer and had no monthly interest and garnered World Points. I’m not sure there is a conflict with other aviation sources?

The wine club? Who cares? They were trying to create some revenue from their mailing lists. I see no harm, no foul.

I never considered the magazine to be competition for Flying, just an adjunct.

Will AOPA be able to grow the aviation community? I don’t think so. IMHO, the small airplane business will continue to fade away. The biz-jet business will continue to grow. So the AOPA focus is pointed correctly.

In the mean-time, I’ll welcome their advocacy for aviation in Washington D.C. Who else lobbies for us, face-to-face?

Posted by: Edd Weninger | October 4, 2012 4:08 PM    Report this comment

I am one of the old timers (Joined in 1956)supported the organization finacialy..BUT I think AOPA has stepped out of the historical context it was formed, to support GA. and has become a retail store. I don't need it for that purpose, there are retail outlets available to me as I need them. I can still flight plan with the same information I have always used. Its worked for me for over 9000.hours.

Posted by: Herbert Yuttal | October 4, 2012 4:17 PM    Report this comment

I've been an AOPA member for over 45 years. I tend to agree with most of the above comments. It's my understanding AOPA was formed as an association to be an advocate for the GA community. That is where the focus should remain. Their support in the area of medical issues and legal services can be justified (in my opinion)for at least two reasons: 1: I'm not aware of any group or business that provide medical assistance for pilots with the FAA or a legal services plan. 2. These plans are voluntary to the members. Therefore, this is probably a good place to stop with member offerings and stay with the reason AOPA was started in the first place. The Mantra that high salaries are needed to "attract highly qualified" personnel is quite a stretch, and follows the mentality so prevalent in all areas of both the Government and Corporate world. Further, stop with all the garbage mail!

Posted by: Leroy Chausse | October 4, 2012 4:31 PM    Report this comment

It is myopic to think the body of human knowledge will not progress on all fronts simultaneously. Capitalism provides most of this, but definitely not all of it.

AOPA's FlyQ is not that good, but it is moving them - and us - forward. Okay, barely, but I do not consider it competition in the least.

I am a new pilot and AOPA has been very good to me. Their flight training magazine is stellar - I keep every issue. Their AOPA magazine is great fun. They insured me (more like trusted me) even as a new pilot. I just haven't had a bad experience with this group yet.

They may go astray but please tell me of an entity that does not. I can't think of any.

Regardless of my lovefest, this discussion helps AOPA remember who they are, just like the complaints earlier this summer about the EAA. We all need reminders of what we're here for and who we are.

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | October 4, 2012 4:44 PM    Report this comment

I do not use AOPA's flight planning option (I like DUATS), but I don't object to it as a benefit of membership. Regardless, a good business decision would be to farm it out as long as it is cheaper to do so and saves the Association money, while retaining or improving the service. I like Sporty's, but they need to compete with more than AOPA. Also Sporty's should support the most powerful lobby we have as, without them, GA would be lost to the European model and Sporty's would certainly suffer. As for AOPA and EAA, every year I struggle with the decision to renew my memberships for they seem to be deviating from the reason I joined in the first place (50 years with AOPA and the same intermittently with EAA), i.e., core interest in GA. AOPA spends too much of their magazine on the unachievable for most of us - turbine equipment, and not enough on basic flying skills and stories. I get turbine news from my subscription to Business/Commercial Aviation magazine. I end up renewing only because I know my subscriptions support their Washington lobby efforts, and god knows we need that!

Posted by: DAVID REEVE | October 4, 2012 5:02 PM    Report this comment

THANK YOU for raising this issue. My reaction to the wine club was exactly the same as Paul's, and I have felt very strongly the past several years that AOPA has lost its way, that its new corporate and entrepeneurial thrust was in the service of itself and its highly compensated executive employees rather than the organization's members.

The recent "road warrior" feature in their magazine with all the photos of the executive who heads the airport defense initiative was another example, in my view, of how skewed and SELF-interested the executives of this organization have become.

I have been a member for something like 25 years, but am probably trending toward disassociation. There are other shared interest and advocacy groups, many largely volunteer operated, that will fill the void for me.

Posted by: Michael Finke | October 4, 2012 6:41 PM    Report this comment

As a 40+ year pilot/builder/restorer/small airfield owner I feel that AOPA and EAA have abandoned the little guy. 2 years ago I wrote a letter to Craig Fuller concerning the fuel situation. I'm guessing that probably 60% or more of the membership owns planes that use 80Oct gas. The car gas STC was one of the best things to come along in years till the Gov't idiots put alcohol in it. I asked why they weren't working on getting alcohol free gas available again. The 100LL is troublesome in these engines besides more $$$. I didn't even get an acknowledgement back.

Posted by: Mark Wielt | October 4, 2012 7:27 PM    Report this comment

I noticed the attitudinal shift at AOPA when Phil Boyer left and Craig Fuller took over. I think AOPA needs to remain first and foremost a lobbying organization. I don't need another source of wine. Make your case that I need to donate to the PAC, that is your job. Focus on it.

Posted by: JON CARLSON | October 4, 2012 7:35 PM    Report this comment

I remember when AOPA announced an updated Flight Planner at AOPA Expo in Philly. It was a much needed product at the time, and I was very pleased with AOPA for creating it (or partnering with someone to create it) on behalf of their members. Here in 2012, FlyQ can only be considered a "me too" product. I think it would be better for members and for their advertising partners to create a discount program for some of the existing iPad flight planner tools such as ForeFlight, Wing-X and Garmin Pilot MyCast (and/or perhaps others).

I hate to see AOPA seeming to veer off course. We really need advocacy in these times of declining interest in aviation.

Posted by: John O'Shaughnessy | October 4, 2012 7:37 PM    Report this comment

I'm a member of the Civil Air Patrol and have been for over 20 years. I'm also a member of EAA and my Dad and Uncle have been members of AOPA for over 40 years each.

I get credit card offers, car rental offers, etc etc etc from CAP-related mailing lists all the time. I've also seen the way that AOPA wants to increase their revenue. Hey, it keeps the post-office in business, so I just toss it in the recycling bin and go about my day.

I agree that they probably have veered a little off course with all the software development activities they've done. I'd much rather see a discount on an existing product then developing your own.

Overall, AOPA is doing a good job, but they (as all orgainzations) could do better.

Posted by: R. Doe | October 4, 2012 7:56 PM    Report this comment

I have a tough time with this issue because I see myself on both sides of the fence. Ethically, and as a general view, I feel that a non-profit has no business in competing in an aggressive market with for-profit companies trying to make a "go" at it due to the advantages that the tax-free status affords them. That said, I feel that there are exceptions to that rule, and as it’s been discussed, AOPA has certainly been an example of the “gray area” with their credit programs, insurance, and the like. In each of those cases though, I don’t think the “for-profits” that AOPA competes with really considers the organization to be a true marketplace threat… mostly because AOPA caters to a small segment of the buying population, and the competitors try to go after everyone. The case with FlyQ is a whole other ballgame as it’s aimed at the small, select target market that is shared by the other for-profit competitors and everyone is trying to go after a piece of the pie. In this case, AOPA has a distinct advantage with their tax status and their larger budget in which to work with. But I think many who have commented here are finding that bigger is not necessarily better. Companies like ForeFlight, WingX, Jeppesen, and Sportys have small, close-knit development teams that are made up of folks that live and breathe the product they are developing and the passion for General Aviation drives them. (CONTINUED)

Posted by: Ryan Keough | October 4, 2012 8:00 PM    Report this comment

(CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS) Yes, AOPA has people that are passionate about G.A. too, but in a large organization like theirs, not everyone is “Plane Nuts”. I suspect that AOPA may have outsourced most of the development of FlyQ to a development house that could do the job fast and relatively cheap to get it to market and “earning it’s keep” quicker. I suspect this because I know that AOPA doesn’t have an internal software development team, nor do they really need one, as they are not in the software business as a whole. It would be stupid for them to hire such a headcount and continue to pay them after the launch to just take care of the troubleshooting and support – it would be a waste of money and talent. And as we always say in the marketing biz: “You have GOOD, FAST, and CHEAP to pick from… reality insists that you can only pick two of the three” – so we can assume that it was cheap based on the fact it was fast to market and not very good… or to put it another way, AOPA is trying to be the jack of all trades, but master of none as they spread their resources thin in every way possible to throw a pile of stuff at the wall in the hopes that something sticks. (CONTINUED)

Posted by: Ryan Keough | October 4, 2012 8:00 PM    Report this comment

(CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS) AOPA would have been better off on improving their AOPA Airports directory product and working with FBOs to feed accurate fuel prices, ramp fees, parking fees, and the like through AOPA Airports to a leading Flight Planning product on the market as a data license – AOPA gets revenue from the exclusive licensing and from FBO premium listings and advertising and the for-profit Flight Planning product gets a valuable add-on that helps pilots find airports and fuel stops that will save them money and the company gets the credibility bump from the partnership with AOPA to boot. And because they would be working to support the market, not compete within it, the bad blood that now exists wouldn’t have been an issue. As it stands, I feel like FlyQ will languish as a “launched, but not loved” product as they will try to squeeze any revenue they can out of it without making significant product updates, then it will fade away after a year or two. It’s a shame… wasted capital resources on something that was more of a “me too” knee-jerk reaction than the right kind of innovation that General Aviation so desperately needs. My $0.02.

Posted by: Ryan Keough | October 4, 2012 8:01 PM    Report this comment

I have been a member of AOPA for more years than i care to remember.. I too feel that the organization has lost its focus under craig Fullers stewardship and has become more of a profit taking corporate type of business that is out to devour the very people it purports to represent.It creates very expensive positions such as vice presidencies to find ways to grow the pilot population.. Folks.. that has to be the ultimate in foolish planning ..What in the world is Craig Fuller there for???
I for one am seriously considering dropping out..Thanks for letting me rant my frustrations.
Sincerly R.Y. Villarreal CFII

Posted by: Rudolf Villarreal | October 4, 2012 8:36 PM    Report this comment

I support EAA and AOPA because they are the best voice GA has to represent our interests. But... as these groups continue their empire building I have to wonder just whose interests are being represented, the members interests or the interests decided by the organization? How come with all the crap they send out constantly, they cannot send a survey about just what the membership thinks? I just finished reading the AOPA weekly email, why can't they just add a few questions eliciting member response? Or like AARP and the federal government, do they decide what's best for us?

Posted by: Richard Montague | October 5, 2012 8:41 AM    Report this comment

I support EAA and AOPA because they are the best voice GA has to represent our interests. But... as these groups continue their empire building I have to wonder just whose interests are being represented, the members interests or the interests decided by the organization? How come with all the crap they send out constantly, they cannot send a survey about just what the membership thinks? I just finished reading the AOPA weekly email, why can't they just add a few questions eliciting member response? Or like AARP and the federal government, do they decide what's best for us?

Posted by: Richard Montague | October 5, 2012 8:41 AM    Report this comment

As a member of AOPA, I also read AvWeb. AvWeb directly competes with AOPA for news and information dissemination. AvWeb, as far as I know, generally supports AOPA and vice-versa. Should AvWeb close its doors because AOPA shouldn't have competition?

I use and like FlyQ. Is it the only tool I use? No. Is it perfect? No. Is it an appropriate use of my dues? Yes, because it is another tool to use to make my flying more informed and thus safer.

AOPA's first and foremost duty is to its members, not to advertisers. Saying otherwise only bolsters the validity of members of Congress putting lobbyest needs before their constituents. If an advertiser/lobbyest no longer agrees with or gets benefit from a relationship they end it.

AOPA does help the entire aviation community, in turn creating new customers for Sportys. This has been and still is a mutually beneficial relationship, and I will still buy from Sportys. Don't lose me as a customer because you want AOPA to serve me less well. Also, doesn't Sportys create products that directly compete with products for which they are registered dealers??? Hmmm...

Posted by: Kyle Nothstine | October 5, 2012 10:02 AM    Report this comment

Folks, money talks. I suggest we all just quit AOPA (as I have) and let the organization feel the real pain of their decisions. When they get their proverbial crap together, we can then reevaluate them as an organization and decide if we really want to go back to them. When they see their membership numbers dwindle, and their treasure chest emptied, they'll change. Until then, they'll continue to be this monster that is there to support the highly paid folks within and ignore the rest of us. And don't let them use their scare tactics to keep your membership. You're paying them for pretty much a glossy magazine. Anyone who has ever used their legal or customer service knows that they won't take a stance or give you solid legal advice. Why pay for this? Get a real aviation lawyer.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | October 5, 2012 10:11 AM    Report this comment

"Should AvWeb close its doors because AOPA shouldn't have competition?"

The argument actually goes the other way, Kyle. Let me frame it for you. Suppose you're a company like Bendix/King, Garmin or one of the app providers. You advertise with AOPA, for which you get benefit, of course, and you also contribute and sponsor things that relate to the association.

AOPA decides it wants to compete in the app market, thus causing those companies to believe they are funding their own competition because in the end, the industry has more players grabbing for pieces of a shrinking pie, hence my comment about cannibalism.

Further, AOPA has tax-exempt status for some of its operations, which the the companies do not enjoy. It's hard to make the argument that this is a normal competitive environment on an level playing field. And that's the nature of the beef.

To me, it's a business ethical decision complicated by AOPA's own internal perceptions and how its members view it. Judging by the comments here and our e-mail, there's an underlying current that the association has drifted off advocacy and toward commerce as its center lane. I don't agree entirely with that view, but I think it's true to some degree.

I do intend to remain a member. The legislative work is worth the yearly dues and no one else is doing it to the degree that AOPA is. That doesn't mean the association shouldn't improve or change in ways that don't involve selling us more stuff.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | October 5, 2012 10:31 AM    Report this comment

Good article, Paul, but you miss two important points.

First, they have no need for money. They run a wasteful and luxurious organization that could benefit from some adult supervision in the area of cost control. Further, they have a gigantic pile of cash on hand, enough to fund any shortfalls for probably a decade. Check the tax returns.

Second, and this is the key to the unresponsiveness, AOPA’s proxy system lets the employees pick their own bosses. At the annual meeting, with only about 20 insiders present, Yodice (an employee) votes the proxies to elect yet another Richard Fignewton Throttlebottom III to the board, the board passes a resolution approving all management actions during the past year and the meeting in adjourned. I have seen one set of minutes and that is exactly what happened. The annual meeting is deliberately made inaccessible to members, members are never advised of upcoming board vacancies, and the system just runs. Top AOPA employees’ job security and autonomy are complete. It’s as good as being Pope.

Posted by: GEORGE ANDERSON | October 5, 2012 10:54 AM    Report this comment

"The annual meeting is deliberately made inaccessible to members, members are never advised of upcoming board vacancies, and the system just runs."

That's not entirely accurate. It's more "The members *who don't have large sums of money to donate* aren't advised of upcoming board vacancies".

Getting change to take place in a large organization like AOPA or EAA is much like trying to get change in government. It IS possible, but it takes a concerted effort to get your voice heard, which goes much beyond just walking with your money. It also helps to provide constructive criticism, rather than just a complaint letter. It's just human nature to dismiss someone's complaint against your, if it doesn't also include ways to improve.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 5, 2012 11:30 AM    Report this comment

In a declining market with rising costs a public company would look to merge and consolidate with rivals and competitors.

As AOPA, and EAA too, seek higher revenues to pursue their goals while their membership base declines I predict consolidation among the aviation alphabet groups.

How soon do you think it will take before AOPA and EAA are one?

Posted by: Doug Vogel | October 5, 2012 12:27 PM    Report this comment

"How soon do you think it will take before AOPA and EAA are one?"

A long, long time. What is the motivation of the leadership? One side is inevitably a loser of power, prestige, and income. The boards could theoretically force it but at least on the AOPA side, the board is under the legal control of the employees via the proxy system. On the EAA side I don't know, but that was a sole proprietorship for so long that I doubt that the board has teeth either. IMHO it would take near-bankruptcy of one or the other to force it.

Posted by: GEORGE ANDERSON | October 5, 2012 12:51 PM    Report this comment

I’m don’t know the formal, legal structure AOPA operates as.

However, I do know that for a publicly or privately held corporation, a vote for the Board of Directors members need only be announced to shareholders.

Is membership in AOPA the equivalent of being a shareholder???

With regard to significant product competition, I just don’t see it. Do Garmin, Bendix/King, Sportys, et al, feel threatened in the app market? It can’t be that big to worry about. And, let’s remember competition will reward the best product.

I still see the AOPA activities as focused on advocacy. If it needs a few more bucks for the cause, so be it.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | October 5, 2012 1:19 PM    Report this comment


This is just a continuation of the situation you reported on in 2010. Entrenched management, a lack of transparency and an inability to identify and address root causes of the macro GA meltdown. There is so much more to this problem than just beating back user fees.

It’s ironic that Phil Boyer retired to an airport community that’s controlled by Sporty’s owner, Hal Shevers.

Posted by: PHILIP WEIHE | October 5, 2012 2:19 PM    Report this comment

I'm afraid there is no hope for AOPA. Yes, it has lost its way because Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy has taken hold and there is no known cure. Jerry's Law says that eventually every bureaucracy loses sight of the reason it was created and becomes focused on perpetuating and growing itself. That is, it becomes its own reason for being. That truly does seem to have happened with our dearly beloved AOPA.

Posted by: TOTILA GRANDBERGS | October 5, 2012 10:31 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you are correct.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 5, 2012 11:03 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I have to agree, it clearly isn't a "normal competitive environment on an level playing field". I mean, AOPA is not even charging an additional fee for FlyQ for its members. That in itself is not normal.

However, I am really impressed with the direct responce. Good work.

Posted by: Kyle Nothstine | October 6, 2012 8:51 PM    Report this comment

Like a number of your corespondents, I too have been a member for upwards of 40 years, and have become very disillusioned about the course AOPA is taking. I can't remember when AOPA had a subscription increase. Doesn't that suggest that they understand the membership is dissatisfied? Instead they are trying to add fees for services like their Medical and Legal Assistance programs. In the last 10 years, I have had cause to request help once from each service. In both cases the "help" was worthless. What happened to accidental death insurance, which is difficult to get without an aviation exclusion? It used to be a member benefit, now it is not even offered. I agree AOPA is on the wrong track, and they should expand their emphasis on advocacy. They should spend less of members money developing product sales in competition with the industry.

Posted by: D. Michael Platt | October 7, 2012 9:44 PM    Report this comment

Wow, what a bunch of grouches here! AOPA dues are cheap, and have gone up like twice in 30 years. Any other bill you pay that can say that?

I'm an Airport Support Network volunteer. Check out what AOPA is doing for the "little guys" with the ASN program. Proactive work to keep small airports open!

I used the legal services plan once, and it saved my behind AND my wallet.

AOPA has lost its way, EAA has forgotten about the little guy... Pardon me, but I don't see anyone else stepping up to do what these two groups do. Who cares if they try to sell us wine? "just say no," but why behave like they just stole your children?

Posted by: Donald Weber | October 8, 2012 1:03 AM    Report this comment

I too have become very disappointed with AOPA since Phil Boyer left. The year after Craig Fuller took over, the dues was increased about 30%, and the onslaught of junk mail began. There was so much junk mail, it seemed the dues increase couldn't offset the added postage. Along with this the AOPA magazine seemed to shrink by about 1/2. The magazine seemed to become just more junk mail, as I stopped even reading it. Everything in it was either old news, or aimed at the high end turbine market.

So this year, after 37 years of AOPA membership, I did not renew. The flood of junk mail, and the lack of response to the two issues I brought to their attention convinced me the money could be better spent on EAA and type club memberships.

Posted by: Jerry Olson | October 8, 2012 2:23 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I hope your article and these comments are forwarded to Caig Fuller. I think this may do AOPA some real good.

Posted by: Jerry Olson | October 8, 2012 2:26 PM    Report this comment

From a grouch in California; The following needs an update and adherence as i dont need no stinking wine...

AOPA Mission Statement
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a not-for-profit individual membership association, effectively serves the interests and needs of its members as aircraft owners and pilots, and establishes, maintains, and articulates positions of leadership to promote the economy, safety, and popularity of flight in aircraft.

We preserve the freedom to fly…

AOPA's Values
Initiative - Getting things started and getting things done—the ability to identify and follow-through on an idea, task, plan, or action.
Teamwork - Working together to reach a common goal.
Service - Commitment to using all of our skills, experience and resources for the benefit of our members, the GA community, and the AOPA team.
Integrity - Commitment to ethical principles.
Excellence - An environment that fosters pride and success in what we do for our members and general aviation.
AOPA’s Critical Objectives
Build the pilot population
Protect airports
Promote safety
Enhance the image of GA
Increase revenue per member
Engage all stakeholders
Grow our print and online media dominance

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 9, 2012 11:27 AM    Report this comment

I quit AOPA when I found out the salaries they were making. Also, they were sending me sales literature for materials way beyond my budget means.
When Barry Schiff left, I lost interest and realized I wasn't the pilot AOPA was looking for.

Posted by: CHARLES MCINTYRE | October 11, 2012 12:50 PM    Report this comment

Flying is, and always has been an expensive recreation.

Many here have posted that AOPA should ‘do’ something about it. Question for those who posted: What do you expect them to do?

Can the AOPA increase the number of flight school entrants, or the cost of instruction? If you think so, tell me how.

The EPA has concluded that the last source of lead dumped into the atmosphere should be eliminated (100LL). AOPA is participating in the group of organizations trying to find a solution with a non-leaded avgas replacement. What other organization is representing avgas burners there?

Santa Monica airport has been under assault from the city government. The AOPA has provided legal representation at council meetings when the subject was discussed. I think they will probably lose this fight eventually, but someone is representing GA pilots and owners there. Who else is?

Oceanside airport is still open after a determined effort by the city and developers to close it and build offices, etc. Why? The AOPA provided legal support and advice to GA pilots and owners at council meetings. Will we win this fight? Over the long term, no. (cont)

Posted by: Edd Weninger | October 11, 2012 1:05 PM    Report this comment


Could the AOPA convince the FAA to eliminate the 3rd class medical? I hope not. I’d rather not have pilots flying in SoCal airspace who are not aware of their medical issues. The cost of a medical is trivial.

In case you really screw up, you will now get the benefit of the new Pilot’s Bill of Rights. AOPA lobbying, through the GA caucus, helped bring that to passage.

Face facts, we are in a minority, a very small one. If the AOPA had the clout of the NRA, we might fight and win more battles.

Finally, the content of the magazine. If Embraer, or whomever, called and said “Come out and fly our newest model for an article in the magazine, and, btw, we’ll advertise with you for a year”, what would you do?

Posted by: Edd Weninger | October 11, 2012 1:07 PM    Report this comment

"Flying is, and always has been an expensive recreation."
-- AOPA doesn't think this is an issue.

"What do you expect them to do?"
-- Stop junk mailers.
-- Stop enticing ex-members or new members to join by giving away junk (caps, bags, etc.). It's wasteful spending.
-- Stop putting out biased research results.
-- Stop wasting time on issues like abolishing the 3rd class medical.
-- Stop paying call centers to call up members to renew. If they don't renew, it's because AOPA failed them. Seems simple to me. But not to AOPA. They need to spend money to find that out.
-- Stop with the flight planner development. Plenty of industry strength solutions that outperform AOPA's crap.
-- Stop with the airport facility directory. It's not official data, and pilots are using it as if it is.
-- Stop paying executives this lucrative salary.
-- Stop with the articles about jets. NBAA can handle that.
-- Start by firing Craig Fuller.
-- Start listening to members.
-- Start owning up to the fact that flying is expensive and attack ways to reduce costs.

Pilot's Bill of Rights was going to go through regardless of AOPA. That's the power of being a Senator baby!

"Embraer...what would you do?"
-- Go talk to NBAA. Our membership dollars pay for the magazine's production.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | October 11, 2012 1:43 PM    Report this comment

Amy, I agree with you, thanks.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 11, 2012 4:48 PM    Report this comment

After more than 30 years as an AOPA member, I let it lapse. I honestly do not miss the increasingly-kerosene scented pages of AOPA Pilot. Nor anything else. And the constant emails urging me to rejoin and receive an AOPA hat? Um, no thanks.
GA has way bigger fish to fry and needs a different cook at the controls.
Robin White

Posted by: ROBIN WHITE | October 19, 2012 1:41 PM    Report this comment

For all those who think they've held the line on dues, what used to be a membership benefit, aeromedical help, is now a $100 a year add on. I think you have Craig Fuller to thank for that one.

I quit the AOPA a couple years ago over disgust of their self-serving ways, their lack of leadership on keeping 100 octane avgas available (my TCM IO-520 requires it) and their flip-flop on the low cost GPS database they lobbied the FAA to develop but dropped efforts to actually get GPS navigator manufacturers to actually make it available after Garmin and Jepp agreed to a one time drop in the cost of the current monopoly prices, since raised back up to where they were. A cynic might think the ad revenue from Jepp and Garmin might be related to their about face on that one.

The AOPA sucks the oxygen out of the room by pretending to be an organization of airplane owners and pilots. Starve the beast. Join something else. If you own a Beech, you should join the American Bonanza Society. Cirrus, the COPA. Homebuilt, the EAA.

Just don't give money to the AOPA, and make sure you write Craig Fuller and tell him why.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | October 24, 2012 6:30 PM    Report this comment

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