It’s the people… Thank you to everyone who makes our community so special

by AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine December 2022/January 2023 Digital Issue

What a fantastic year it has been for our community. We’re enjoying this passion for flying in numbers we haven’t seen for some time. We’re staying safer than ever, we’ve been seeing thousands of our members at fantastic events across the country, and we are making real progress on our pledge to make general aviation totally lead-free.

I’ll say this has been a banner year for our community, and one that continually reminds me to be thankful for this wonderful pursuit of ours. I’m truly thankful, not only for the freedom to fly and all the amazing places we get to see, but especially to the men and women who allow us to take flight like nowhere else in the world.

While these pages are filled every month with tales of pilots doing amazing things, new airplanes and innovations coming to market every day, and destinations that lure us to places near and far, we know that it’s the people who make general aviation great. These are the people who keep us moving. You may not see them every day, but they play such an important role in keeping GA vibrant and healthy.

Whether it’s the line personnel at your local FBO filling your tanks, or the mechanic who’s repairing a part and making sure you’re good to go for your next destination; the men and women building the next great airframes, engines, and avionics; the staff at the FAA, National Weather Service, flight service, and other important entities making sure your airspace and awareness are as protected as can be; or the U.S. military, which whether through the air, on the ground, or on the sea, protects all of our freedoms every day.

If I wanted to thank everyone who enables me to fly to all corners of this country, it would fill these pages, and probably a couple of issues. I hope you know who you are.

With that said, and in this season of giving thanks, let me call out a few folks and businesses that continue to help me pursue this passion – people who are truly emblematic of the entire GA community.

The manager of New Richmond Regional Airport in New Richmond, Wisconsin (RNH), Mike Demulling, is also the chief pilot of the East Metro Jet Center. Not only is Mike a fantastic pilot, you can also see him pumping gas, teaching people how to fly, and serving as a volunteer pilot for the Saint Croix County Sheriff’s Department. Mike sets a great example for all of us.

When I think about wonderful places to fly, Montana is up there with the best of them. When in Billings, I can always count on Aerotronics Inc. at Billings Logan International (BIL) to keep my aircraft in top-notch shape. Aerotronics is a full-service avionics company, and you may remember the folks there from outfitting our recent AOPA Sweepstakes Super Cub with a cabin full of the latest technology. We still talk about that.

Speaking of Montana, I can always count on my friends Roger and Darin Meggers at Baker Air Service (no relation!) in Baker, Montana. You know I love my Piper Super Cub, and I rely on Roger and Darin to keep it in the best shape possible. I detailed in these pages last year how Roger and Darin took apart my reacquired 185 and saw some things that needed immediate attention and saved me from some real potential headaches. That’s what Baker is all about.

In my adopted home of Driggs, Idaho, manager Peter Kline and his team at Teton Aviation Center are a welcome sight when I land and pull into Driggs-Reid Airport (DIJ). Peter’s team provides amazing service, and is a valuable asset to the region.

And, in my home state of Minnesota, Bruce Hanson and his team at Surfside Seaplane Base (MN24) in Lino Lakes, ensure that I am ready to pursue my passion for flying on floats. The second-largest seaplane base in the United States, Surfside recently celebrated its 50th birthday and I wish them another fantastic half-century ahead.

Of course, this list of thanks would not be complete without a salute to my amazing team at AOPA. Through tireless devotion and commitment to members and general aviation, the team makes my job protecting your freedom to fly much easier. I couldn’t do any of this without every single one of them.

In this spirit of giving thanks, make sure to think about the men and women behind the scenes working hard so that we can continually enjoy the freedom to fly. May your holiday season be bright, cheerful, and full of blue skies!

This entry was posted in AOPA, Columns, Columns, Columns, February/March 2023, From AOPA Headquarters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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