You don’t have to look very far to see the threats to general aviation today. Sequestration cuts, tower closures, user fees, and tax changes are just a few of the recent, and ongoing, assaults on GA. Our freedom to fly is under attack, and we must fight back with every weapon in our arsenal.
That means actively engaging with elected officials, questioning the mistaken assumptions about what GA is and does, and demanding that policy makers take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. It also means standing together as pilots, aircraft owners, GA enthusiasts, and Americans. When we speak loudly, clearly, with one voice, we will be heard.
We are hard at work in Washington, D.C., and the states, fighting to preserve our freedom to fly, keep costs down, and prevent unreasonable regulations. Support in Congress is strong and the general aviation caucuses in the House and Senate continue to grow, reaching 173 and 35 members respectively. And yet, from some quarters, we continue to see a determined effort to inflict pain on the general aviation community.
We must face each challenge with energy and persistence. At the same time, we can’t afford to be shortsighted. We have to take a long-term view.
From that perspective, I believe that a strong community is ultimately our best defense. And although I have announced my decision to step down as president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), I am confident that the course we’ve set — and the profound dedication of our members — will keep this organization, and the GA community, moving forward.
When we are deeply engaged with general aviation, and with one another, we can present a strong, unified front — exactly what we need in the face of so many attacks. When we invite newcomers to experience the intangible joys and practical benefits of flying, our community grows. And when we get out and fly, our community prospers.
At AOPA we are committed to continuing to defend general aviation through the traditional means that have been so effective and remain so critical, starting with the work of our advocacy experts in Washington, D.C., and all 50 states. Our communications team will continue to tell our story far and wide. And our publications will continue to keep aviators informed about the debates and decisions that affect our flying.
But we are also seeking new ways to build for the future by promoting community, welcoming newcomers into aviation, and finding ways to help current and future pilots get the most from their aviation experiences. That’s why we created the Center to Advance the Pilot Community, and it’s a vital part of our long-term view.
In a sense, it’s also what makes events like SUN ’n FUN both exciting and important. When we travel great distances and turn out in vast numbers, we show that general aviation is a priority for us. When we gather to discuss the issues that affect our flying, interact with thought leaders and policy makers, and, frankly, spend money supporting GA businesses, we are showing our commitment to the present and future prosperity of general aviation.
When we invite people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the excitement and amazement of flying, whether through an airshow experience, a realistic simulation, an up-close encounter with a beautiful airplane, or a first flight in a light aircraft, we build friendships and support for GA.
I hope you’ll take time to do a little community building of your own. Connect with AOPA and the other GA organizations that represent your interests. Shop for the supplies, avionics, and aircraft of your dreams when at airshows. Connect with your fellow pilots — and encourage non-aviators you may meet to take their first steps into GA.
As pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation enthusiasts, we understand the very special experience that is general aviation. We know what it brings to our lives, our families, our businesses, and our communities. Let’s take this opportunity to share that joy and excitement with others. And, above all, let’s take this time to remember just why we cherish, and must defend, our freedom to fly.