by Dave Weiman
On October 22, 2012, Rod Hightower – who had been appointed president of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) on September 7, 2010 – announced that he was stepping down effective immediately. Then on February 28, 2013, Craig Fuller who was appointed president of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) on January 1, 2009, announced that he was stepping down as well.
Rod’s tenure was the shortest – about two (2) years – and his departure was quite abrupt, citing personal reasons. Craig’s tenure is going on five (5) years, which was his original commitment, and he plans to stay onboard until a successor is named. I was fortunate to get to know both presidents, and had high hopes for them. The aviation community needs strong pilot organizations to protect our rights to fly and strong leaders at their helm.
Rod and Craig followed two very tough acts in EAA’s Tom Poberezny and AOPA’s Phil Boyer in the midst of some challenging times. We believe that the boards of both organizations will be able to identify strong, young and talented leaders to fill these vacancies once again, and the search is on.
It comes to no surprise that some – but not much – talk has resurfaced about merging EAA and AOPA, especially among those of us who are members of both organizations. While at first blush this might seem like a viable solution to our current leadership dilemma and cost effective, it deserves reconsideration. Here’s why:
EAA’s strength lies in producing a world renowned fly-in convention and trade show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; maintaining its local chapters; inspiring the homebuilt movement; promoting each segment of general aviation, from light sport and antique aircraft to warbirds; and having a quality aviation museum and programs such as EAA Young Eagles.
AOPA’s strength is in being the largest pilot organization in the world, strategically headquartered near our nation’s capitol in Frederick, Maryland, providing members with strong lobbying support – nationally, regionally and locally. AOPA has a strong commitment in protecting GA airports and offers members outstanding safety programs through its foundation. AOPA’s annual convention is held in different parts of the country.
Therefore, it is our belief that the two organizations together cover all of the bases very well. It would be difficult for the two organizations to merge, and could be counterproductive in meeting our objectives, resulting in little or no savings to members. AOPA and EAA need to support each other’s initiatives as much as possible, and work together on issues of common concern (i.e. medicals, airspace, increasing pilot numbers), and try not to overlap and compete, thereby wasting limited resources.
Each organization needs our input on concerns and issues, but we should not threaten to withhold our membership dues if they are unable to fulfill all of our wishes, as they have a lot on their plates.
General Aviation and each organization that represents our interests need our support now more than ever before.
We welcome your feedback on this and other topics discussed in this issue via email: info@MidwestFlyer.com.
State Aviation Conferences & Floatplane Flying
This issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine is dedicated to state aviation conferences in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa, and “floatplane flying,” two extremes in aviation. While the conferences by in large are about airport development and businesses on airports, floatplane flying is about flying on lakes and rivers and the businesses that serve them. We encourage your participation in both!