By Mike Ginter, AOPA vice president, airports and state advocacy
It is easy to see the pent-up demand in the pilots and airshow enthusiasts at airshows and major aviation events after the long hiatus caused by COVID-19. Such was the case at this year’s Stihl National Championship Air Races at Reno/Stead Airport.
And as the skies stay busy and the industry grows, our airports are busier than ever. This reinforces the importance and role of our AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers.
The valley of speed in the Reno high desert provided a perfect backdrop for ASN volunteers from all over the country to gather to hear the latest updates and share their stories of airport advocacy. Hosted in the hangar of Tom Hall, our Reno/Stead volunteer, we met with 25 volunteers, including Linda Mae Hivert (Minden-Tahoe, Nevada), Will Shaw (Miami Dade-Collier, Florida), and Keith Serkes (ASN board member from Pagosa Springs, Colorado). Joining the ASN volunteers this year were AOPA members and experienced air race pilots, including John Lomar (T–6 Radial Velocity), Mike Pfleger (P–51 Lady B), and Paul Downing (Lancair 360).
Our ASN volunteers have been leading the charge as demand for effective airport advocacy continues to increase. Tony Restaino is a charter member of the ASN program and founded the North Perry Airport Community Association to keep his Florida community informed about the importance of that airport. John McGowan helped found the Community and Airport Partnership for Safe Operations (CAAPSO) to fight Santa Clara County, California’s decades-long attempt to close Reid-Hillview Airport. And Kent Feuerring is president of the East Hampton Aviation Association and strives to promote the value of East Hampton Airport in New York to political and community leaders. Consider joining the ASN volunteer program to help us protect our freedom to fly. And we’ll see you at the races next year.
By Sean Collins, AOPA Eastern Regional Manager
AOPA works closely and effectively with many state aviation associations, even if “pilot” is not in their title. State pilot associations effectively serve their members through flying events, newsletters, and community outreach. Active pilots can expand their understanding of GA in their respective states by getting involved with these associations, which are hard at work for you.
State aviation or airport management associations comprise the professionals who manage and maintain airports and work collectively to advance policy and legislation at the state level. Many pilots and AOPA members can be found in state association leadership positions, such as Tom Hurley, executive director for the Massachusetts Airport Management Association; Robbie Wills, president of Arkansas General Aviation Association; and Ed Kelley, secretary of Maryland Airport Managers Association.
The more I work with these organizations the more I realize how much they benefit us—working to protect the local system of airports. Often seen as the local face of aviation, they demonstrate impressive influence with state officials.