By Jim Coon
Theodore Roosevelt said it best in a speech entitled “Citizenship in a Republic”—widely recognized as “The Man in the Arena”—wherein he extols the virtues of being in the fight rather than observing or criticizing from the rafters.
I can assure you that, as an AOPA member, you are represented in the political arena every day as our team advocates on behalf of pilots and general aviation.
If you haven’t been to Washington, D.C., I highly recommend it. The grandiose monuments, especially in the evenings when they are brightly lit, are constant reminders of the significant events that many have participated in and endured over the centuries—a testament to incredible leaders who forged this great nation.
Among the many feats and accomplishments, this experiment of a constitutional republic also provided opportunity for the Wright brothers to realize their vision, which led to one of the most incredible freedoms we enjoy today: the freedom to fly.
While our republic and our aviation system are not perfect, both are by far the best in the world. And just like our republic, our general aviation system in the United States didn’t just happen overnight. It’s taken perseverance, persistence, pressure, and yes, politics by AOPA and others to help create one of the most enviable freedoms in the world. And while AOPA has advocated for and accomplished many things over the years to improve general aviation, we still have much work to do. Whether it’s to refine or reshape rules and regulations, help create new laws, or eliminate needless bureaucratic minutia, the process continues.
A newly elected member of Congress once said to me as we negotiated a piece of legislation, “This is an amazing process and I had no idea because, well, everything looks easy from a distance.” Those comments have always stuck with me during political and policy battles over the years. Developing policy is like making sausage. It can be downright ugly and even unkind from time to time. Nonetheless, it’s a matter of doing things for the right reasons that make battling in the arena worth it.
With that in mind, here are just a few issues that your advocacy team, under AOPA President Mark Baker’s leadership, continues to press forward: directing needed resources to invest in GA hangar development; working on behalf of pilots to obtain and maintain aviation insurance at reasonable rates and without the imposition of an arbitrary age limitation; moving to a fleetwide unleaded piston fuel and all that entails; garnering Canada’s acceptance of the nearly 50,000 and growing U.S. pilots flying with BasicMed privileges; advocating for improvements to FAA’s medical processes, toward which our current FAA federal air surgeon, Susan Northrup, is working diligently; addressing incredibly high and often non-transparent fees and prices by some large FBO chains; the ability to park your aircraft or drop off someone without paying exorbitant fees, especially when you don’t need or use the services of an FBO; advocating for pilot-friendly provisions in leasing agreements between airport management and aviation businesses; improving the experience and timeliness with FAA’s aircraft registry office; addressing needed reforms to the designated pilot examiner program; opposing equipage mandates on manned aircraft while accommodating the safe integration of drones; and advocating for long overdue aircraft certification reforms.
Together, we must continue to fight smartly for both today’s aviators and for those to come. Welcome to the arena!