by Mark Baker
President & CEO Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
I am excited to be AOPA’s new president, only the fifth in our association’s nearly 75-year history.
I may be new to this role, but I’m definitely not new to general aviation or to AOPA. I was one of those kids who rode his bicycle to the airport just to watch the planes take off and land. Back then you could walk up to the fence, if there was one, talk to the pilots and even bum a ride sometimes. I took my first ground school class in high school and earned my certificate in my twenties.
All that means I’ve been flying a long time. Like many of you, there was a time when I had to quit flying for awhile—work, kids, and finances kept me grounded. But I returned to flying as soon as I could and I’ve never looked back.
I have been lucky to own many airplanes over the years. Different types of flying required different types of planes, and buying older planes, fixing them up, and passing them along has become something of a hobby for me. My hands-down favorite airplane is a Piper Super Cub that I’ve owned for more than 20 years. In my opinion, you just can’t have a bad day when you’re in a Super Cub.
If you haven’t already guessed it, I love being part of GA. Weekends and holidays find me at a local airport or seaplane base. Whenever I travel, even if it’s not by plane, I make sure to stop by the local airport and take a look around.
I think getting to talk to pilots where they fly is not only fun, but also very important. I am looking forward to meeting with aviators and enthusiasts in small groups at airports all around the country. I want to learn what really matters to you—your hopes for the future of GA as well as your concerns.
That’s why AOPA is launching a grassroots effort to get out to more airports than ever before. Over the next year I’ll be making stops at airports nationwide. We’ll hold Saturday morning get togethers so I can talk to pilots about their priorities and how AOPA is working to meet those critical goals. We’ll also offer a learning opportunity with an entertaining and educational seminar, and we’ll sit down together to enjoy a hot dog or burger on AOPA. I think it’s in informal environments like this that I get the most honest feedback, and that’s what I want.
We’re still finalizing details on these events, so I’ll let you know more as our plans take shape, but I hope you’ll come out and meet me when I’m in your area. And I hope you’ll bring a friend who’s interested in aviation, even if he or she isn’t a pilot. The more people who get the chance to visit a GA airport and discover what we’re all about, the better.