Big, Loud and Clear
At AOPA Summit there was a great deal of enthusiasm in the air for ... well, for flying. Whenever you get a lot of pilots together to talk about flying you don’t really need much buildup or much hype. The recipe is simple: Take a bunch of aviators, add a nice pleasant Southern California atmosphere with gorgeous weather, good food and, voila, instant good times. As usual, AOPA has done a masterful job of creating the right tone at the show. It’s all about what pilots want it to be about — news, new products (some cool new iPad apps we’ll be reporting on, among other things), safety forums and general camaraderie.
During his Thursday keynote address, AOPA president and CEO Craig Fuller outlined the strengths of AOPA in his usual, understated and genuine way, and he noted that AOPA has the biggest GA advocacy team in the United States and “probably” the world. “Probably” was wholly unnecessary. It is without argument the most impressive GA advocacy organization going. As I pointed out in my piece on the organization last week, I might not always agree with AOPA’s emphasis, or lack thereof, on a specific aviation safety or regulatory issue, but that’s rough-edges stuff. The same kinds of disagreements are part and parcel of any long-term relationship, whether it’s with a spouse, a political party, a sports team (don’t get me started about the Red Sox) or a member organization. We work through these issues or agree to disagree and look at the big picture.
In this case, I might have my differences, but the important part is what AOPA is and what it does for us. It’s all about AOPA protecting pilots’ rights, about protecting our access, about promoting safety and, to a lesser extent, about providing services to us. We can get the services, insurance, legal guidance, products and information elsewhere if we’d like, but when it comes to advocacy, there’s no other game in town that comes close to giving the pilot community what we desperately need in these times, a strong united voice in Washington and, to some degree, at the state and local levels, too.
I admit that for years I wasn’t an AOPA member, and the reason was simple. I didn’t need what they had to offer me. My thinking was way off base. I should have been thinking not of what I could get out of the deal but what I had to offer them, my voice, my financial support and my number. Two years ago at Sun ‘n Fun after meeting with then-new AOPA head Craig Fuller I pulled the trigger and signed up. I’m now on automatic renewal.
It’s the least I can do, to be a part of an organization that speaks for all of us pilots to a big public and government world out there that more often than not doesn’t get who we are, what we do or why it all matters so much. Being a part of an organization that can take our many voices and speak for us to the people who make the decision that affect our flying lives is more than a choice; it’s my duty as a pilot, as a member of a larger community.
As AOPA Summit takes its course here in beautiful Palm Springs, I’m enjoying the company of so many good friends while making a lot of new friends too. Through all of the fun, the message is clear. We’re all in this together. Let’s do our best to join our voices so that the non-flying world hears one voice, big, loud and clear.