by Mark Baker
AOPA President and CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine (online) – December 2020/January 2021 issue
As we enter December, the final chapter of this tumultuous year, I can’t say I am sad to see it go. With the pandemic, many small businesses closing, protests, and political tension, it hasn’t been an easy year for any of us, personally or professionally.
In the aviation industry, tens of thousands of airline employees have been laid off as major carriers have lost billions in revenue. And although general aviation is doing fairly well, it will take several years for our airline counterparts to get back to pre-pandemic levels.
When contemplating all these issues, I find solace in flying; it’s my time to think and appreciate how blessed I am to have the freedoms that I do—namely the freedom to fly. Since 1939, AOPA has stayed true to that mission, laid out by its founding fathers. We have continued advocating on behalf of our members, educating leaders and policy makers alike, and supporting activities that ensure the long-term health of GA. We’ve done so in great times and down times. And while some of our initiatives have changed over the years, the core of our mission remains the same.
I was not able to meet with many of you face to face at AOPA and industry events this year, but I am hopeful we will make up for it in 2021. As we bid a not-so-fond adieu to 2020, I am excited to share our major priorities for the year ahead.
As many of you know, ramp and pricing transparency at airports and FBOs has been a long-term goal for AOPA. I believe online transparency of FBO ramp fees, which sometimes include infrastructure fees, tiedown fees, parking fees, overnight fees, security fees, and more should be made available to all pilots, piston and turbine, during their preflight planning so they can make informed decisions and not be surprised when it comes time to pay.
We also want to bring transparency to GA parking ramps on airports and standardize the labeling of these areas on airport diagrams. Airports that have GA transient ramps should label them on their diagrams, so pilots know their options before arriving at their destination.
We want more transparency when it comes to insurance. Many of you are concerned about the spiking premiums, increased restrictions, and hassles just to get coverage. This is an important issue and we are working to find ways to address this by, in part, better understanding how decisions are made about coverage and premiums.
AOPA is working to continue growing the pilot population through our You Can Fly initiative and supporting legislation in Congress that focuses on workforce development.
The National Center for the Advancement of Aviation (NCAA) would bring together all sectors of the aviation industry to collaborate on emerging technologies and training methods, maintenance and technician development, dissemination of STEM aviation curriculum in schools, helping veterans transition to opportunities in the aviation sector, and conducting aviation safety data analysis and research. We need an industry coordinated approach to address workforce needs and the NCAA provides that missing piece. There are many good programs going on in aviation, but no concerted effort to pull everything together. Legislation for the NCAA has bipartisan support in Congress and the aviation community.
I hear from many pilots about the frustration with the delays when it comes to special issuance medicals. AOPA is working with the FAA to address this issue and we have stood up our Board of Medical Advisors to assist in developing these long overdue changes. There is no reason that the FAA cannot use today’s technology to communicate with pilots and aviation medical examiners. And while we have made some progress with getting more designated pilot examiners (DPE) in the field, we have a long way to go. This remains a top priority for us. No one should have to wait months for a DPE.
The FAA plans to advance a sweeping initiative to bring reforms to the light aircraft category, amateur-built aircraft, and the legacy fleet. We are excited about the Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates (MOSAIC), and believe it has the potential to fundamentally change and modernize the GA fleet.
These initiatives represent a fraction of what our organization does on a daily basis. From our nationally recognized government affairs team advocating on behalf of GA on Capitol Hill, to our regional managers who deal with hundreds of local airport issues each year, and to our staff in Frederick working on behalf of our members, AOPA is an effective leader in promoting and protecting GA, fueled by support from our members who all share the passion of flight. Thank you for your support this year and, from my aviation family to yours, happy holidays and blue skies!