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AOPA Fallout Continues: Is Now The Time To Implement ANN's '3+1' Rule?

Would AOPA Be More Valuable If It Adhered To Our "3+1" Rule -- Requiring Transparency, Honesty, Focus + Accountability?

Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. -- Frederick Douglass

  1. AOPA2012: Out of Touch, Off-Mission, And Out Of Control?

  2. 'POPA' Speaks Up... Readers Responds To AOPA Controversy

ANN continues to receive some very interesting input from readers all over the world, in response to the article we did a week ago on issues raised by those concerned with the current mission and direction of the 'Post-Boyer era' AOPA.

The points raised are thought-provoking and its obvious that the article we did struck quite a chord with our readership... while we note that a few other media organizations parroted some aspects of our story (not always accurately and without attribution). Thereafter; they either continued to raise questions (already asked by ANN and our readers) or resorted to a fluff piece that ignored or otherwise glossed over the most important concerns raised by an industry that desperately needs help setting off on a proper direction, collectively, in order to affect a recovery.

Unfortunately; it dismays us to report that a simple request for some basic info on current compensation levels of the top officials at AOPA -- updated info that will have to be disclosed in a just a few days, by law, albeit AFTER THE UPCOMING AOPA SUMMIT, was REFUSED by an AOPA official.

What that leaves us with is the last (2010) IRS 990 report, in which the organization reported gross receipts of $47,522,196 for a report submitted to the Feds on July 21st, 2011. So... though we are dealing with dated info, ANN has noted (and did so previously) that despite the hard times facing the aviation industry, the senior staff of AOPA has done well... and apparently did better in 2010 than in 2009... UNLIKE much of the aviation industry.

For example, AOPA CEO Craig Fuller's (D) Reportable compensation from the organization (W-2/1099-MISC) totaled $804,652, but was accompanied by an additional $48,664 (Estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations). The total of the two disbursements is over $853K. CFO Roger Myers received a combined total of $466,067. EVP/COO Robert Moran (now departed) received a reported total of $311,232. Diana Roberts, then AOPA's Director of 'Planned Giving' took in a reported total of $381,471. AOPA's Karen Gebhart, listed as a "Former Key Employee" and now working for HAI, received reported totals in the 2010 report of $344,161.

These five positions, accompanied by a number of others pulling down upwards of 200K or more, reveal a whopping total of $2.356 million for just these five senior staffers. We will leave it to you to determine whether or not AOPA membership is getting their money's worth, for the moment, but we are looking into these and associated issues (including issues of expenses, potential conflicts, and the like) and will report on those issues when we have better detail and understanding of the issues at play. 

AOPA has made it clear that they do not like these facts and figures discussed -- while others raising such issues have reportedly been treated harshly as a result of any publication or discussion of these and associated concerns.

We find that unfortunate... and far outside the "The 3+1 Rule" we suggested previously in which ANN postulated that readers looking to support an aviation advocacy organization ask them to agree to operate via the principals we described as part of this rule... namely 'Transparency, Honesty, Focus + Accountability.'

We strongly believe that any aviation advocacy group rule its actions with an unquestionable degree of transparency so that members and affected parties KNOW just what is happening without having to jump through hoops. We also believe that ANY organization, looking to support aviation, establish a true sense of trust with its constituency and promise an unprecedented level of honesty... otherwise know as the "No-Bull" rule. We further believe that any such organization must devote itself to a TIGHT focus on an agreed and well-defined mission plan that is clear to all concerned. Finally; there is the most difficult issue of all... accountability. Right now, members of most of the aviation organizations have little opportunity to directly contribute and craft the direction and mission of the organizations that they support as members. The fact that AOPA (along with EAA, NBAA and others) allow little or no direct ability by members to elect or otherwise approve senior leaders and mission plans is questionable... and hardly American. We are at a point where we believe that organizations that will not support these guidelines (or something better) are unworthy of the financial and logistical support of the aviation community...

But enough of what we think... what say YOU?

At an astounding rate, ANN readers (and alleged AOPA members or former members) are speaking up to raise their voices in protest and often do so with questions of their own.

**********

 

Bill H tells us: Your interest in the so called management and direction of the AOPA got me excited enough to send them a e-mail of what I think of the organization. After reading some of the comments sent to you there looks like a consensus from the little guy. They are using us for funding but don't really care about the masses that fly the old planes and are of the lower than $100K income. A lot lower! I basically told them I was tired of the junk mail, reading about million dollar airplanes and hearing about their parties for millionaires. I think they have become an organization filled with educated paper and button pushers with little aviation interest or participation! Kind of like the FAA! It's all about money and mixing with the 'in crowd'. They don't fly unless it is free, a new airplane or a jet provided by the members.

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Michael B writes: Love your article on AOPA and especially the responses from members. I was really caught off guard by one response and that was the one of that claimed that AOPA did not think that its members thought through the fence access was a big deal (my words).

Do not know where AOPA flys, but here at Wilmington International in NC, this has become a real pain. Most of the GA pilots whose company I enjoyed have bailed because of how hard it is to get access to the planes they own and rent ramp space for. Our FBO is not manned after 20:00 in the evenings, so, unless you have made arrangements beforehand, you can not go on the ramp. In the past, owners had vehicle ramp access and locked gate access. As a result of fence issues, now we have neither. For me, an owner of an older 172 that I love to fly, this is a big deal.
Should anyone care, the FBO I use is AERO Services North at KILM. Thanks for listening.

**********


Larry S weighs in: As the saying goes, "...don't let the bastards wear ya down." Your willingness to be outspoken and turn up (AND take) the heat is EXACTLY what AOPA and EAA NEED to feel and hear if GA in the US is to be saved. These two organizations have strayed SO far from their core missions and are SO politically correct and limp as to render themselves practically useless. I remain a member of both but don't know for how much longer. They're all we have but WE can do better. It's NOT only about money or slick magazines... it's about saving GA in the United States at this point ... first and foremost.
That GA is dying a slow death from a thousand razor cuts and these two organizations aren't being more overt to fight the decline is telling. More importantly, that SO many people are speaking with their feet is proof that it's time for a paradigm shift in the very organizations that purport to represent us. Worst of all is the number of existing pilots hanging up their headsets. We have GOT to keep what we have and find a way to grow more. We NEED the recreational pilot medical exemption ... NOW !!


Lets be perfectly clear, too. I put MUCH of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the FAA. They, too, had better wake up ... FAST ... or there'll be one FAA man for every active pilot left willing to put up with THEIR poo-poo. Safety IS important -- and their core mission -- but MORE important is saving GA in the US. WAKE UP FAA!! Saving and promulgating GA is also a part of the 1958 FAA Act, Mssr's Huerta and LaHood! You people are trying to make an unforgiving avocation 100% safe ... have you ever heard of the law of diminishing returns on investment? Shit happens ...
period. (Sorry for the frank language, folks, but this issue just peeps me off to no end!!) The declining private pilot population graph shown on Air Fact Journal is downright frightening.
I read ANN's article, then read Craig Fuller's response and the AOPA and ANN POPA blogs following both. That SO many folks are unhappy with the current management and direction of AOPA (and are willing to speak up) is telling.
If it were only you being negative, Jim, maybe the folks blasting you (read Craig Fuller) might consider themselves on the right path ... but it ain't so. And, when I read that Craig Fuller is raking in $853K per year ... give me a break AOPA. Don't you EVER send me another piece of mail or email looking for money of any kind AOPA. Kinda like when I found out what Tom Poberezny's salary at EAA was. Like someone said, these aren't aviation organizations anymore, they're ego-centric 'I love me' fests making a small number of people wealthy. No wonder there was infighting within EAA trying to keep control in the hands of ONE person.
It's time that we "normal" GA pilots take back both organizations ... starting with AOPA. Craig Fuller has to go ... and I now call for his voluntary resignation. Craig ... do the right thing ... leave NOW. Be a man. DO IT!
Salaries of the senior folks need to be visibly transparent AND capped at, say, no more than four or five times a normal middle class salary. If we can't get command of both organizations and force them back toward their core strengths and missions, then we need to start a new organization. In much the same way as AARP lost it's way, both AOPA and EAA now have, as well. I don't need no Wine Clubs, Life Insurance, white picket fenced kiosks at AirVenture or the like ... I need my beloved GA to be saved ... period.
Keep up the good work fighting the good fight, Jim. 

**********

 

Bob S worries: Jim I guess you will be banned the next AOPA function just like Sun & Fun. Keep up the good work.

**********

 

'An Old ATP' says: Today I received the second mailing from AOPA to renew my membership. The renewal says, "Time is running out. Your AOPA membership will expire soon."
A member for 35 years (and in control of most of my marbles), I remember that I joined in December. Is three months now "soon"? Does AOPA think a FREE AOPA Pilot's Cap would entice me into an early renewal? AOPA has now spent $0.74 trying to get me to renew.
After Propwash's recent article on AOPA and the change in its emphasis, do I really want to re-up? I could go on but I'd repeat myself.

**********


Warren P checks in: It is interesting to read what other AOPA members are thinking. I fired off a letter to your comment about trying to get along. Maybe I was out of touch as it were.
Hoping for things to get better. Thanks for keeping us up to date. Been enjoying ANN for a long time.

**********


A 'Well Known Industry Veteran' Opines: Nothing new from XXXX [name deleted, but referring to writer from another publication who wrote about the controversy after ANN broke this story--EIC] he wraps himself in the holy cloth of honesty and integrity but knows nothing about either attributes.

I have been fascinated with all the responses both to your article and the XXXX article. It is amazing how totally uninformed and just plain stupid about how a business is run so many people are. Of course I guess that shouldn't surprise me given what seems to be happening in the elections this year! I do think that Craig and probably also Rod need to be much more sensitive to the appearance of trying to increase and/or replace revenue for their organizations. If nothing else it is clear that people just don't understand the costs of providing what they think they should get for their $40/yr in dues. So it is a difficult balancing act for the associates to provide something that people think equals the value of their dues when those people have no idea what it costs to do the things they believe they should get for their dues.
The competing with for profit companies is whole different discussion. It does seem that both associates periodically step over the line and either offer things that no one really cares for (AOPA Wine Club for instance) or go into direct competition with vendors that their members use and like.
That in turn pisses off the members (forget the companies they compete with - it is business - get over it) who think the association should be doing something other than putting the members favorite company/service out of business.
All in all it seems that this is about communications and perceptions. That is something that you and others could help with. Too bad that neither Rod or Craig want to use that help.

**********


Jason B Has some interesting info to impart: It is not often that I write a kudos to an excellently written article, however this one deserves all of it. Thank you! This one is personal, not necessarily intended for full publication.
I have been following ANN for several years now and link to your site frequently in my Seaplanes & Aviation in the News section of seaplaneforum.com.

I do so because I support "open & honest journalism" that deals with subjects free of commercial interests, old boys club rules and a world that is increasingly commanded by self declared kings.
Personally, I am not quite sure which one of the alphabet groups has recently been on mission, from my perspective it seems as if a certain trend has developed that is incidentally (not as a declared goal) harmful to General Aviation.
It also seems that smaller associations are following suit with making "revenue generation" their first goal.
As a former finalist for the position of Executive Director with one of these groups, I can attest to the fact that those with a strong interest in advocacy are loosing the fight to those who bring in the most revenue and press.
I suffer to this day, from having failed to simply censor a related discussion on this topic on my discussion forum. This extends to personal, financial and professional harm, caused by nothing but dirty politics.
My forum has been stonewalled by all of the large and small associations. Not because I or any of my members are "anti association" - but because we cannot be censored or controlled by advertising revenue.
To this day, I have an incredibly hard time securing sponsoring companies to put a banner on my site, despite the fact that I "charge" on average 10 times less than other discussion boards... I do that not because I don't need the money, I do so because I don't want one of my sponsoring companies to be able to "dictate" what can and cannot be said on my site. Being able to give refunds is almost more important than immediate revenue.
AOPA lost me as a 5 year member (I literally stayed a member at reduced rates to gain the 5 year member pin - I collect pins) after salaries became a matter of focus. Related publications were removed due to legal threats.
For me personally this spits in the face of honesty, compassion and aviation advocacy and it sheds a light on a overly biased and "afraid" aviation press that can no longer claim to bring news.
The pilot population seems divided in terms of their opinion on AOPA, EAA, SPA and some of the other groups. All of them (at least the couple thousand I have talked to, over the last 6 years) are fully aware that their association is not fully focused on advocacy.
Yet, for lack of better options, the majority of them keeps cutting the check. "The Magazine" is named as the item of utmost importance in at least the three associations named above. In at least one instance, the magazine is the largest revenue/ expense generator. Pilots all across the U.S. will have to decide if they wish to support three quarter million dollar salaries and a management and vice president network that swallows millions of dollars in supposedly advocating to their members, or if they want to go back to the basics of what made aviation in this land what it used to be. Today's task is to DEFEND the common pilot by any means necessary. We need each other much more than we need the association.
AOPA's system is failing. Its failing much faster than I anticipated and its failing much harder, too. Like any other "business" out there, AOPA will be able to measure its "On Mission Status" by looking at the accounting sheets.
Once the Citation has to be parked or sold, some people will wake up. I personally hope that they run out of money faster, so that we can get on with what we need to do. Rescue whats left of the greatest aviation story in the world.

**********

 

'Best Exposures' responded: AOPA is acting like our current government - except in this case - we can easily change our leadership by voting with our dollars. If all these issues are of real concern let the market decide who should be advocating for GA. Yes, It will take a little while to get up to speed, but if you pick the right leaders it can be done - and quite quickly actually. AOPA is using the money you gave them to fight against you - its as clear and night and day- they deceived you. Can you ever trust a person or organization once it abuses your trust?

**********

 

Travis H adds: Wow, what a bomb-shell article. I have been an AOPA member for 15 years, and for the past three years I have tried with zero success to get AOPA USA to include our *free* *global* flight plan filing website (www.eurofpl.eu) in the international resources section. There is nothing else like it. But my requests always to completely deaf ears, which boggled my mind. Why wouldn't AOPA want it's members to know about a unique free web service (duats.com functionality for the whole world...) provided from one AOPA member to the whole pilot community. Wow. Wow. Wow. So sad.

**********

 

OK... there's just a few more of the responses (for and against... and in a ratio that overtly emphasized those few who disagreed with our piece) we've received so far... and if that's not enough, there are now somewhere close to 2000 more (so far) to quote from.

What say you? SPEAK UP aviation world... and while you're responding to this, let us ask one bonus question...

What TOP TEN goals/concepts/objectives should a Pro-GA effort undertake these days to have a positive and lasting effect on the future of aviation?

Please let us know what you think!

FMI: What Do You Think? Is AOPA 'Off-Mission'???, What TOP TEN Goals/Concepts/Objectives Should a Pro-GA Effort Undertake These Days To Have A Positive and Lasting Effect On The Future of Aviation?, www.aopa.org

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