by Bill Blake
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2018 issue
If you are not an AOPA Foundation donor, you should be. The foundation’s two main programs are the “You Can Fly” program and the “Air Safety Institute.” Over the years I have attended some of the institute’s safety seminars and have found them to be very well done. A few years ago, I was solicited and joined the “Hat in the Ring Society.” To be a member of that group, you merely need to pledge and donate $1,000 or more a year to the foundation.
As a donor, you receive periodic updates on the foundation’s activities at aviation venues such as Sun ’n Fun, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and the AOPA regional fly-ins.
When I considered all the money I spend on aviation each year and the joy it gives me, becoming a donor seemed like a natural thing to do. In fact, I felt somewhat guilty I had not done it sooner. There are other foundation giving programs available, but I feel this is the best one for me.
I attended the AOPA Foundation Donor’s breakfast on April 12, 2018 at Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland, Fla. AOPA President Mark Baker and staff made presentations about past and planned future efforts of the “You Can Fly” program. The mission of the program is to get people flying and keep them flying. There is no one solution to increasing the active pilot population. There are four initiatives to accomplish that mission:
•A four-year high school STEM based curriculum has been developed and is available to high schools free of charge! It is designed to introduce students to careers in aviation and aerospace. The 9th grade curriculum was field tested last year with more than 700 students in high schools across the country, including five Midwestern states. The 10th grade curriculum is now ready for field testing. Schools can implement the full program or select individual courses to use. AOPA plans to award at least $100,000 in high school scholarships and double the 9th grade student enrollment in 2018. In 2018, AOPA will be working on a computer program app that will build and track individual pilot training. Once the app is completed, any instructor can review a student’s individual performance to date and know what tasks need work. If an instructor change is needed, the new instructor can pick up where the last instructor left off without doing time-consuming redundant and expensive reviews.
• The Flight Training initiative helps flight schools and instructors improve the training experience so more people will complete their training. In the past, a large percentage of students dropped out of training before obtaining their pilot certificate. AOPA has recognized 89 flight schools and 72 certified flight instructors for providing excellent services. Flight schools have shared information on what works and what doesn’t work.
• The Flying Club initiative is designed to reduce the cost of flying. AOPA provides information on how to start a flying club, suggests documents to form a club, guidance in buying planes, and suggestions on how to arrive at a membership-to-plane ratio. Thirty (30) new flying clubs with 450 members were started with the help of AOPA.
• The Rusty Pilots initiative helps lapsed pilots become active again. Rusty Pilot seminars have been hosted around the country. BasicMed brought thousands of pilots back to flying. AOPA offered 70% more seminars in 2017 than the previous year. Thirty-eight (38) percent of the lapsed pilots who attended Rusty Pilot seminars completed a biennial flight review and returned to active flying status.
All four initiatives have goals set for 2018, which will help make sure the program stays on track and adjustments are made as needed to achieve the desired results.
The You Can Fly Academy has opened a 19,000 square foot facility next to AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, which contains a 73-seat auditorium, three large classrooms, and a full-motion flight simulator. The facility will be used to hold pilot safety seminars, teacher training workshops, flight instructor refresher courses, practical training in merchandising and customer service, and other large events.
So why should you be a donor to the AOPA Foundation? Well, if you have enjoyed general aviation as much as I have, maybe it is time to give back by providing financial help to make sure every effort is made to keep general aviation viable. Selfishly, increasing the number of active pilots should spread the fixed costs of airports, FBOs, aircraft manufacturers, and aviation vendors over more pilots, thereby reducing, or at least stopping, the rising costs to each pilot and aircraft owner.
As an additional incentive, the AOPA Foundation has been promised a matching grant. If AOPA can raise $1.4 million in donations for the You Can Fly program by July 25, 2018, the Ray Foundation will donate another $1.4 million. So, your gift will have double the impact.
I hope you will seriously consider making a gift by the July 25, 2018 deadline by going to https://foundation.aopa.org/ways-to-give.
More information about AOPA Foundation programs can be found https://foundation.aopa.org
Please note that none of the revenue from AOPA membership dues is used to support these programs.