The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) announced this morning that association president and CEO Craig Fuller will be leaving the organization. The release quoted AOPA Chairman of the Board William C. Trimble III as saying that the organization would immediately start the search for a replacement.
"During his more than four years as president of AOPA, Craig served nobly and professionally. He has advocated strongly on behalf of the general aviation community in Washington, built bridges with the other aviation associations, improved member communications and generated promising ideas for tomorrow," said Trimble. "We recognize the importance of finding a leader who can continue to inspire all of us in these challenging times. We are focused on finding a leader who shares our vision and convictions as well as the talent and capabilities necessary to achieve our goals."
Flying spoke to a person with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be named, as they were not authorized to speak, who said there is no intrigue or pressure for Fuller to leave. “Craig has just decided to move on to new challenges. It was his decision, plain and simple.”
The person also said that Fuller would continue to be the face of AOPA through the transition. "When Craig was selected in 2008 to serve as president and CEO of AOPA, he committed to staying in the position for at least five years. He is now in his fifth year of what he considers to have been a tremendous opportunity to serve a community he is passionate for. Craig will remain active in the day to day operations of AOPA all the way through the transition to a new leader. He will fulfill his scheduled commitments and continue to represent AOPA at industry events, as he always has. Craig is incredibly dedicated to seeing AOPA through a successful and professional transition and recognizes the importance of staying focused on our mission."
Fuller took over the reins of AOPA on the first day of January 2009. A lifelong pilot and airplane owner, Fuller traveled by private airplane, usually flying himself, to the meetings. During his four-plus-year tenure at AOPA, Fuller has created cooperative initiatives with a number of sister organizations, including GAMA, NBAA and the Recreational Aviation Association, among others.
At the same time, Fuller has been under pressure due to declining AOPA membership — a result of the declining pilot population — along with his decision to create commercial enterprises within AOPA that competed directly with longtime AOPA industry and advertising partners.
Fuller plans to stay, though, until a new head is found and explained that the timing of the announcement was intended to make the transition as seamless as possible. "The process of finding a new leader can now go forward as all of us at AOPA roll up our sleeves to fight the day-to-day battles that seem to keep coming our way," said Fuller. "The team will not miss a beat this year as we lay the groundwork for the future."