The small universe of general aviation advocacy groups usually forms a united front, working together to promote common interests, but this week that changed. On Thursday, Women in Aviation International withdrew its support of AOPA’s protests regarding FBO fees, leaving AOPA now the only major GA group still pushing the initiative. “As a pilot myself, I am sympathetic to the financial challenges inherent in flying,” WAI President Peggy Chabrian said in a statement. “But we also recognize that FBOs provide services crucial to our flying as well as extending comforts which enhance general aviation operations.” AOPA spokesman Joe Kildea told AVweb in an email, “It is unfortunate Women in Aviation International flip-flopped on airport access, egregious FBO fees, and transparency, [but] our coalition continues to grow and now includes 16 organizations. These groups have joined AOPA in representing pilots, the consumers in the general aviation industry.” Kildea added that “certain organizations appear to be financially conflicted because of Signature contributions.” Signature Flight Support is the world’s largest network of FBOs, operating more than 200 locations worldwide.
Kildea said AOPA’s initiative is supported by the American Bonanza Society, Antique Airplane Association, Cardinal Flyers Online, FNL Pilots Association, Glasair Aircraft Owners Association, Kansas Pilots Association, Lancair Owners and Builders Organization, Malibu/Mirage Owners & Pilots Association, Maine Aeronautics Association, Minnesota Pilots Association, Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association, Montana Pilot’s Association, North American Trainer Association, Utah General Aviation Association and the Washington Pilots Association, as well as more than 1,000 individual pilots who signed a petition at AirVenture this week. AOPA’s efforts to push its FBO agenda in court have had mixed results.