AOPA – More Engaged At Grassroots Level Than Ever Before

Bill Blake

As announced at the AOPA Summit in September 2011, AOPA will be committing more resources to working at the regional, state, and local levels to address issues facing the aviation industry. Although we realize that what happens in Washington affects all of us, there have been more and more issues arising with local governments. AOPA’s goal is to become more engaged at the grass roots level, while continuing to maintain its active federal and state legislative advocacy. This makes good strategic sense.

While AOPA has had an exceptional regional representative program, 12 “part-time” people like me, located throughout the country, have staffed the regions. Beginning January 1, 2012, AOPA added seven (7) “full-time” regional managers, and the regions themselves are now realigned and expanded to cover the same states as the FAA regions, which also makes good strategic sense.

My role has now changed from representing only one region, to one of supporting any region that needs my help, depending on the need and issue, and my expertise. I suspect most of my assignments will be in the Great Lakes Region, but the new program provides for the flexibility to utilize me anywhere. So my title has changed from AOPA Regional Representative, to simply AOPA Representative.

I want to welcome Bryan Budds of Flat Rock, Michigan, as our new AOPA Regional Manager for the Great Lakes Region. He will be a real asset to the general aviation community. Bryan will be responsible for all state legislative issues in the region, among many other duties. You will become more familiar with Bryan beginning with the April/May 2012 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, as he takes the lead in writing the AOPA Great Lakes Regional Report.

Since my role is changing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many friends and organizations in the aviation community who I have had the opportunity to work with over the nearly 13 years I have represented AOPA, and during the previous years as the Director of Aeronautics for the State of Illinois, as a member of the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) board of directors, as the Executive Director of the Illinois Aviation Trades Association (IATA), and as a commissioner of the Greater Peoria Airport Authority (PIA). None of those activities would have been nearly as rewarding without the many aviation enthusiasts I came in contact with and who I was honored to work with on our mutual aviation interests.

We have been very fortunate in the Great Lakes Region to have a strong FAA Regional Office, as well as strong Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs), state aeronautics agencies, airport managers, statewide airport manager associations, fixed base operators (FBOs), and statewide aviation trades associations. As pilots, we sometimes forget that without these hardworking people and organizations, we would not have the best system of airports in the world.

I remember many early morning winter trips after a snowstorm when I arrived at the airport, concerned that I would not be able to make a planned trip, only to learn that the airport manager and his staff had been at the airport removing snow long before I got out of bed.

And I think about the fixed based operators I have used and how they have enhanced the value and enjoyment of my flying. Imagine what it would be like if they were not around to maintain our aircraft; provide fuel and transient services, such as rental/loaner cars, shuttle services and hotel discounts; and to share their local knowledge.

I would like to individually recognize all of the people in these organizations who I had the pleasure of working with, but space will not allow it.  I do want to thank all of the organizations I mentioned above, not only for providing the many necessary routine services, but also for their rallying to benefit general aviation by working together on many legislative and regulatory issues.

I also want to thank the numerous local and statewide pilot organizations that continue to work on a volunteer basis for the benefit of general aviation. Hopefully, with the advent of AOPA’s enhanced regional network, we will work even more closely together in the future.

Again, I want to thank all of you for making my vocation, avocation, and hobby so rewarding and enjoyable. I look forward to continuing to hear from you in the future on any aviation issue. My contact information remains the same.

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