Make it count

by Mark Baker
AOPA President & CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2019/January 2020 issue

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be.” Sometimes I cringe when I hear that, as it’s a sharp reminder of how quickly time flies. The holidays are almost here, and marketing companies are preparing for major sales, Christmas movies are on our TVs, and every other online ad is persuading us to buy the latest gadgets and toys. But amid the frenzy, we should also remember that the end of the year is about self-reflection and giving back. And while we, pilots, like our toys, we also put them to good use. General aviation gives back to communities every day, and often under the radar.

You might be surprised to learn that you’re in a more exclusive club than you may have originally thought. Fewer than 1 percent of the world’s population are pilots, leaving us with a skill set not many possess—a skill set that we can use to make a difference for the public good.

Unfortunately, GA tends to get a bad rap—from an often-panicked news media, power-hungry public officials, or energized but misinformed environmentalists. Many are blind to the value that GA and its treasured airports bring to people, thousands of local communities, and the overall economy. GA is more than a hobby for the wealthy it’s often portrayed as—it’s a lifeline for emergency medical transports, it’s a savior when natural disasters strike, and it’s a gateway to success for today’s youth. As pilots, we all love to fly, so in the spirit of the holiday season, I encourage you to go wheels up for a good cause.

There’s never been a better time to get involved. The passage of the 2018 FAA reauthorization bill was a huge win for volunteer pilots, and something AOPA has advocated for years. Under the legislation, volunteer pilots conducting medical transports and charitable flights are protected beyond the limits of their insurance coverage, making liability concerns a nonissue.

There is so much goodwill surrounding GA, but it doesn’t always get the spotlight it deserves, and that’s the very reason AOPA exists. Our mission is to protect the uniquely American freedom to fly and show others the value of that liberty.

During my time as president of AOPA, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the immense generosity of our aviation community. We’ve dealt with many devastating natural disasters and, along with paramedics, firefighters, and other heroes, it’s usually pilots who are among the first responders—volunteering their time and aircraft to aid in relief. The coordinated effort of the GA community, and the hundreds of volunteers lending helping hands, never ceases to amaze me. In many cases, aircraft are the only means to deploy resources in the aftermath of natural disasters, and that’s one of the reasons we work so hard to keep our airports open—they truly are a lifeline for these communities.

Yes, we can offer our aircraft, and we can open our wallets, but it’s time that will always be our most valuable asset. So, as a New Year’s resolution, or just as a personal goal, I encourage you to donate your time and expertise. Go wheels up, give back to those in need, and most important—make it count.    –    800-872-2672

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