by Mark Baker
AOPA President & CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2018 issue
Any good coach knows the best teams are made up of a strong offense and defense, and that’s exactly how AOPA continues to succeed at promoting and protecting the freedom to fly. In the past five years, we’ve gone on the offensive, creating cost-saving initiatives to help pilots fly more often and more affordably. And we’ve defended GA against harmful regulations and legislation.
A recent win that will reduce the cost of flight training and maintaining proficiency resulted in updates to Part 61 of the federal aviation regulations. We worked on this issue for more than two years, but it was worth the effort because the changes are expected to save the GA community approximately $113.5 million over five years. The updated regulations will allow instrument-rated pilots to use a simulator or advanced training device to maintain instrument currency. Pilots can also use the simulator for recurrency without a CFI, further reducing the cost. Pilots training for a commercial certificate can save by having the option to train in a technically advanced aircraft instead of a complex aircraft.
We’re also fighting to save pilots money where you live and fly – our advocacy work runs deep through small hometown airports and local FBOs. For nearly two years, we’ve been pushing the FAA to take action against egregious, hidden FBO fees, and to improve affordable access to publicly funded ramp space. Our AOPA-led coalition of GA groups is calling on the FAA to pay attention to its responsibilities for protecting airport access and insisting on publicly disclosed fees online, access to parking ramps on reasonable terms, charted transient parking, and an end to charges for services pilots don’t ask for or want.
These are high-profile issues. But some of our greatest victories are invisible – the legislation that’s never written and the regulations that are never proposed, thanks to the influence of our team in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals. We win when bad ideas never see the light of day. But whether our victories play out in public or private, whether we’re on offense or defense, our end game will always be to protect the freedom to fly.