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Thu, Jan 01, 2009

ANN's 'Heroes And Heartbreakers' of 2008: Aero-Hero #1 -- AOPA's Phil Boyer

All Hail The Aero-Heroes of 2008!

Final Compilations by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Dog Walker, Jim Campbell

It is both the most "fun," and most difficult, task facing the ANN staff at the end of every year -- determining who, or what, did the most to promote the cause of aviation in the past 365 days... while also chastising those people or entities that did all they could to undermine the many successes the aviation/aerospace community has managed to accomplish.

Thankfully, 2008 was a year in which we saw the best and brightest among us step forward and work tirelessly on behalf of us all. No doubt about it... the challenges we faced in 2008 were numerous, and ongoing... so was the quality of expertise and passion brought to our defense by those who heroically demonstrated to the world the very best side of aviation... via their deeds, words and actions.

It is ANN's honor to recognize Ten persons/organizations or groups that qualify as our Aero-Heroes for 2008... in something of an informal order, starting from the 1st to the 10th. Let us know what you think of our selections... whom YOU would have liked be included or omitted from such a list. In the meantime, we thank the folks who made this year's list. Thank you, folks... we really needed you this year, and you didn't let us down.

ANN will list our Top Ten choices over the next few days's, but in order to kick off the New Year right, let's lead off with our TOP SELECTION for 2008...

Aero-Hero #1: AOPA President Phil Boyer

Let's face it… of all the heroes of aviation that we have come to admire for the tumultuous year ending 2008, there had to be little question that the overall figurehead of this year's list would be none other than AOPA's irrepressible, indefatigable, undaunted Phil Boyer.

Phil Boyer has been the uncommon aviation leader -- a guy who knew what he wanted to do, got it done, and was aggressive in pursuing an agenda that benefited the world of general aviation in ways that will be felt for generations.  A guy with a tremendous amount of media savvy, no shyness of hard work, a consummate organizer, and a passionate aviator; Phil Boyer led AOPA in a way that had never been seen before.

More important; Phil led AOPA during some of the most critical issues it has ever faced. Throughout  a number of battles with the FAA and the Department of Transportation, not to mention a nasty little fracas with John McCain, Boyer kept his cool and lead the world of general aviation responsibly, ethically and professionally.

But -- if there were defining moments during the Boyer presidency they came as a function of a few principal issues… the primary one, of course, was trying to keep the government from destroying GA altogether in the wake of 9/11, while continuing battles (since then) over issues of security and the omnipresent ogre of "user fees" has kept the guy more than a little busy.

On top of that, Boyer (pictured above, with EAA Founder Paul Poberezny) was a master promoter of the organization. Phil managed to not only build up the membership roster of AOPA to heights it has never seen before, but to levels we honestly doubt anybody ever truly envisioned.

Under Boyer's leadership, the AOPA membership ranks have swelled to well past 400,000 and even to as high as some 413,000 at one point. While the numbers may seem clumsy to some, they are truly massive in the eyes of a politician, daunting in the face of a foe, and impressive to a public that really doesn't understand how pervasive the aviation world truly is.

Finally; Phil assembled an amazing staff of people who not only make AOPA operate exceedingly well (and certainly far better than any equivalently sized governmental agency), and has also overseen the expansion of the Air Safety Foundation, both in terms of size and scope. For nearly 2 decades, AOPA has been "the house that Phil built."

In just a few minutes, as I write this, the responsibility for running the world's largest pilots organization passes from Phil Boyer to Craig Fuller. And while we feel the selection of Fuller to be an inspired one, full of promise, and one that seems especially suited for the years ahead, we have to admit that we're going to miss working with Boyer. He was more than good at his job, he has been a ball to work with.

So… Phil Boyer retires, and while we hope this means everything that he personally wants it to mean for him and his family, we doubt he'll be a stranger. Knowing of his deep love for aviation, and his commitment to the world of GA, I have no doubt we'll be hearing from him again and again… which can only benefit us all.

So here's to Phil Boyer… The Aero-News Network's unanimous selection as our 'Aero-Hero of 2008' and one of the best friends general aviation has ever had.

Blue skies, Phil… Thanks for everything!



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