AOPA’s Boyer Retiring, New President Craig Fuller

Phil Boyer
Craig Fuller

AOPA President Phil Boyer, who’s been hinting at retirement for several years, announced today that he’ll “get my life back” at the end of this year after 18 years as president of AOPA. Replacing him will be Craig Fuller, a former Washington heavyweight who is currently executive vice president at the Washington PR firm of APCO Worldwide. He came to Washington as President Ronald Reagan’s assistant for cabinet affairs and served as Vice President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff. Fuller has been a pilot for 40 years and “is as comfortable with fellow pilots and ‘hangar talk’ as he is facing a Congressional committee,” said AOPA Chairman William C. Trimble III.

Trimble said they hired Heidrick and Struggles a year ago to find Boyer’s successor and there was one primary prerequisite: The successful candidate would be among the 597,000 certificated pilots in the U.S. The search boiled down to 100 contenders and Trimble said Fuller quickly rose to the top. It was clear that Craig Fuller, a recognized leader in business, public affairs and association management, would be ideally suited to carry-on Phil’s tremendous legacy.

Phil Boyer’s E-Mail to the Press:

My apologies in advance for this somewhat impersonal email, but since news travels so fast today – I wanted to share some with you prior to the rumor mill.

I have made no secret in the aviation community that I have had a retirement plan for several years – and wanted to make sure prior to stepping down I was leaving a world class set of AOPA organizations and the best management team to continue our leadership position in general aviation ADVOCACY, INFORMATION and EDUCATION.

At the end of this year, I will be able to “get my life back” and enjoy the GA that AOPA fights so hard to preserve for member pilots like many of us. Every great team needs a coach, every great business needs a CEO and every great association needs a President. To that end I share with you in advance of Monday’s official announcement the following:

June 30, 2008


FREDERICK, MD – William C. Trimble III, chairman of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Board of Trustees, today announced that AOPA President Phil Boyer will retire at the end of 2008.

Experienced Washington public affairs executive Craig L. Fuller has been selected by the AOPA Board of Trustees as the next president of the influential 414,000-member pilots association, the world’s largest aviation organization which represents almost 70% of U.S. pilots.

“Phil informed the Board some four years ago he would retire in three years. We convinced him to continue his extraordinary leadership of AOPA for another year,” said Trimble. “Now, we must move on, but AOPA and the entire General Aviation community are in a better place for his inspired 18 years at the controls.

“Starting last year to find AOPA’s next leader, a Board of Trustees search committee hired national search firm Heidrick & Struggles to help identify final candidates from among 597,000 U.S. pilots. After hundreds of interviews and painstaking review of 100 potential candidates, it was clear that Craig Fuller, a recognized leader in business, public affairs and association management, would be ideally suited to carry-on Phil’s tremendous legacy.

“Craig is a committed 40-year pilot, aircraft owner and AOPA member,” added Trimble. “He is as comfortable with fellow pilots and ‘hangar talk’ as he is facing a Congressional committee.”

Fuller left his native California in 1981 to be Assistant to the President for Cabinet Affairs in the Reagan White House. In 1985, he became chief of staff for Vice President George H.W. Bush at his request, traveling with the Vice-President to every state and 60 nations overseas.

Later, after working with international public affairs organizations in Washington and Philip Morris Companies Inc. in New York, he became president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) linking retailers, manufacturers and suppliers in that industry. He will be leaving his current post as executive vice-president at global public affairs and strategic communications company APCO Worldwide in Washington to become AOPA president.

Fuller learned to fly at Buchanan Field in Concord, California, while still in high school and flew with the UCLA flying club at Van Nuys while earning a B.A. in political science. He has a Master’s degree in urban studies from Occidental College in Los Angeles, where business travel in his early public affairs career fostered purchase of a Cessna 172RG Cutlass based at Santa Monica. He now logs 200+ hours a year in his Beech Bonanza A36.

He is a director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, active in The Aspen Institute and a former trustee of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the George (H.W.) Bush Presidential Library Foundation. He and wife Karen reside in Northern Virginia just outside Washington, D.C.

“Being selected by the Trustees as only the fourth president of AOPA in 70 years is a tremendous honor and a serious responsibility,” said Fuller. “I am fully dedicated to ensuring that the best days of General Aviation remain ahead of us. And AOPA is ready with a strong organization bolstered over two challenging decades by an individual we all admire.”

AOPA chairman Bill Trimble added, “Phil Boyer transformed the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association into a forward-thinking and tech-savvy leader for vastly changed times in General Aviation. The GA community will remember Phil’s remarkable contributions that prepared us for the 21st Century.”

Enhancing AOPA management skills and member service, Boyer engineered a 40% growth in membership despite the declining U.S. pilot population. His many new ventures funded novel GA advocacy and member benefits, all while holding AOPA annual dues at $39.

“Phil orchestrated regulatory and legislative backing for civil aviation use of GPS satellite navigation, led consumer support for aviation product liability reform that was decisive in Congress, and averted onerous user fees during three FAA re-authorizations,” said Trimble.

“Moreover, he facilitated General Aviation’s return to the skies following a long post-9/11 grounding by talking sense — and common-sense cooperative programs — with lawmakers and security officials.”

“I have often mentioned that this day would come, on schedule, as planned with my family and the AOPA Board of Trustees,” said Boyer. “Now, it’s official. I am delighted Craig will captain AOPA on the ‘next leg’ of this remarkable journey to preserve and advance General Aviation.”

Fuller is to take office on January 1, 2009, following formal election at the Trustees’ September Annual Meeting of Members. He and Boyer will be working together on the transition for the remainder of this year.