by Craig L. Fuller
President & CEO
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
When people think of AOPA, they most often think of Washington, D.C. That’s not too surprising. After all, our headquarters is just north of the city and we do spend a lot of time advocating for general aviation on Capitol Hill. We even have a small office in the heart of D.C. so we can keep a close eye on the agencies and decision makers that affect our freedom to fly.
But AOPA also has a strong, and growing, presence nationwide. Our Airport Support Network volunteers are based at more than 2,300 fields all across the country. They serve as our eyes and ears at their home airports, building good community relations, heading off potential problems, and keeping us informed about the happenings where they fly. They are a vital link between AOPA and thousands of general aviation airports.
And for decades we’ve had regional representatives to keep an eye on legislative issues in their states. But now we’re taking this kind of local outreach to a new level with the creation of our new Regional Manager Program.
We’ve divided the country into seven regions, each with an experienced manager to lead the way on state and local issues. As full-time employees of AOPA, our managers will have the resources and authority to take action to protect our freedom to fly. The program also marks the first time we’ve been able to extend regional representation to Hawaii.
At the same time, many of our regional representatives will continue to have a visible presence, representing AOPA at airshows and events in their areas.
Expanding our representation in the states is especially important now. For the past several years, cash-strapped state governments have been looking for new sources of revenue to close growing budget gaps. Many of those state governments have considered imposing new or higher taxes on general aviation to raise needed funds.
So far we’ve been able to work with lawmakers to prevent the passage of any new taxes on GA—and in a couple of cases, states have even repealed or reduced taxes that were already in place. That’s great news, but as time goes on and the economy remains sluggish, we can expect to see even more aggressive attempts to impose taxes and fees on general aviation. With our regional managers in place, we’ll be ready to meet those challenges whenever, and wherever, they arise.