ANN Readers: What’s The Point of ‘Next-Gen’ If ‘Now-Gen’ Crashes/Burns? (Part 5) | Aero-News Network
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Tue, Oct 26, 2010

ANN Readers: What’s The Point of ‘Next-Gen’ If ‘Now-Gen’ Crashes/Burns? (Part 5)

ANN Readers Respond, Vociferously, To 'Aero-Rant' Series

Aero-Analysis/Commentary by ANN Readers Around Planet Earth, (Intro By ANN E-I-C Jim Campbell)

Last month, I finally committed myself to publishing a long-thought-out editorial series entitled "What’s The Point of ‘Next-Gen’ If ‘Now-Gen’ Crashes and Burns?" So far, its been a helluva run...

The first four parts have seen daylight and I have a feeling that we're looking at a dozen or more parts to this magnum opus if I keep this series going along as much as I fear I'll need to adequately voice my concerns and thoughts... and, MORE IMPORTANT, to relate yours as well. At this point, though, I think its a good time to once again look at some of the THOUSANDS of responses we've had to this series and let ANN Readers take over the editorial helm for the evening.

I think it particularly important after a chance meeting with AOPA's Craig Fuller, and newly minted EAA Boss Rod Hightower... The two conversations could not have been more different. My chat with Fuller was quite similar to one I had decades ago with my High School Principal after yours truly got caught, hidden behind the lockers, in a serious but none-the-less illicit lip-lock with a really cute little girl from my theater arts group. The tone was much the same... stern, condescending, disappointing, and without much room for counterpoint. I found that sad... as Fuller seemed none too interested in actually discussing the matters we brought up (principally in Part 4), and more in complaining that we had actually had the temerity to voice complaints about the almighty AOPA. Oh well... I realise that criticism isn't all that pleasant (believe me, I KNOW), but we progress through critical examination and proper examination of our missions and actions -- and if AOPA wasn't so interested in squelching/crushing/inhibiting criticism (or non-AOPA generated news reporting), they might be a better organization, as a result -- much like they USED to be.

Campbell and Fuller...

On the other hand, the conversation with Hightower was constructive, two-way and actually quite enjoyable (and a good part of it will be on Aero-TV shortly). While there are a number of things that worry me about the direction of EAA, I get the feeling that Hightower is a guy that will at least be open to discuss the issues... and not send me to detention (which, in the embarrassing case of the aforementioned incident at High School many moons ago, was WAY worth the down-time... that girl had 'talent'). 

But... enough of the memories -- herewith, a representative sampling of the opinions, thoughts and concerns of ANN readers all over the globe...

From Bill S: Jim, so far you are hitting the nail right on the head.I have gone to Air Adventure for the last twenty some years and stopped going the last two, because I didn't like what I was seeing or hearing.The decline of general aviation is a matter of fact as far as I am concerned.Does Ford Motor company run Air Adventure? Thank you for being a voice for GA.

Robert A: In the years before LSA, EAA was looking for ways to increase aviation participation. I suggested to EAA and FAA the following:
De-certify aircraft over 40 years of age with the following restrictions.

  1. The aircraft must be certified first ( to keep people from rebuilding basket cases.)
  2. The aircraft would revert to experimental status.
  3. Must be no more than 2 seats
  4. Not used for any commercial purpose
  5. Be maintained as experimental ( by owner )
  6. Condition inspection done by owner if attended school. ( otherwise by A&P)
  7. Aircraft owner must belong to a type club or association.
  8. The FAA went along with the Light Sport concept because they were dead set to some how regulate and license all those ultralights and their unlicensed pilots.

The EAA let the FAA in the back door to get their LSA , and now look what we have. Thank goodness for home builts and kit planes, general aviation is hanging on by a thread.

Bill H: Thanks for the ranting on the aviation groups. I too have been irritated for some time and have written the ones I belong to and magazines I subscribe to. I no longer take Flying magazine. Redundant, boring and written for the rich guy. ABS, Bonanza Society, has become more and more nothing but a private club for the rich, living on the dues of the peasants. Stories of how much money they can spend on their plane and the countries they fly to is the norm. Too many 'adds' also. I have told them I may drop the membership next year when it is due. AOPA is our only voice in Washington but I think they are playing politics just like the crowd up there. I have also told them that I really don't see a reason to belong any more. They represent the FAA more than they do the members! I don't think any of the organizations represent the average pilot any more. They are in it for 'Empire' building and the money.
Thanks for speaking up.

Robert S: FYI, I sent this to AOPA before I read today’s Propwash. I agree with your editorial.
Subject: Attn. Mr. Craig Fuller RE: Your request for donations to your PAC

As a member of AOPA for many years I am insulted by your request for donations to the AOPA PAC.
If there are that many senators and representatives in jeopardy then they must be on the side of the direction this administration is taking our country. Just because they are an incumbent, and have supported AOPA does not make them the correct choice for our nation.
You do not provide any names and the states they are in. I would consider supporting candidates that are AOPA friendly if they also are trying to stop this insane administration that is trying to destroy our country.
Mr. Fuller I sense a definite change in the direction you are taking AOPA. I don’t know what your personal beliefs are, but I think changing the direction this country is headed is more important in the long run.
One other point, AOPA has no business getting into the wine business.
As it stands now I am seriously considering not renewing my membership due to the direction you are taking AOPA.

David P: As one of the "less than a dozen" telling you that you were at least partially wet about AOPA, I appreciate your further clarification and can't disagree anymore.
I did not realize how many issues there were. I love your aggressive honest style I just worried about alienating the AOPA membership such that even if AOPA improves, they are gone. I guess my attitude is, tell people to hang in there a little longer while making their concerns known to AOPA and give AOPA a chance to improve. And, make sure AOPA knows that it is "on the bubble" so to speak and if improvements are not made, then the membership may or will leave. I will take my own advice and give them a call. In the meantime, I do still think we are better off with them in their current form than without them, unless someone starts a competing organization that is better.
An example is old Rhinebeck aerodrome. While I hear reports that things are improving, even though a lot of the membership is unhappy with the board of directors, they are still members because the alternative would kill the organization. So they are supportive by being members while working to change the leadership, though, like your rant, some of that effort is public so it dissuades others from joining even when those same critics say please join. At least they are calling for people to be members even as they try and improve the situation.
I could not agree with you more about the EAA and yes I am a member that makes a yearly pilgrimage there, even when it floods.
Keep up the hard nosed journalism. It is and always has been refreshing!

Brent S: Thanks for your editorial series exposing the aviation organizations deterioration over the past several years. When I read in October's AOPA Pilot "Flight Service - five years later" that the transition to Lockheed FSS was "fairly seamless" and that flight service users ALL agree that the system has been working pretty well" is so absurd and deviates from truth in such a material fashion as to be laughable if it wasn't so sad. AOPA is supposed to represent my interests in these matters but such a fundamental misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of the truth really negates their ability to do that.
The FSS system is so fundamentally flawed now I only contact them to record my TFR check before a flight. For preflight I now use DUATS, Wx Channel, NOAA ADDS and private pay flight planning services and if I want the level of service I used to get from FSS and Flight Watch for "free" I am forced to buy additional cockpit equipment and subscribe to satellite and provider services. I guess that would be OK except I'm still paying for the so called free services, which have ceased to exist in reality, through aviation fuel taxes.
My last encounter with Flight Watch, long after that seamless transition, rendered so much misinformation and confusion that I have stopped using it all together for fear of outright life threatening misinformation. I understand that asking for Hot Springs weather is not the correct way to ask for weather but when you spell out KHOT and get back the weather for KHSP and the briefer doesn't even have the good sense to read back the identifier with the weather report it is impossible to even help them overcome their own incompetence. Add to that they knew I was enroute from Montgomery AL to Albuquerque NM the absolute depth and breadth of incompetence is starkly apparent. I used to use Flt Watch in lieu of dispatch weather occasionally when I was an airline pilot because I felt it was easier to get real time info in some circumstances but now that option is obviously long gone. When you have to walk these people by hand through any briefing, in-flight or preflight, to the point of what state your talking about and they omit critical information or misstate it drastically, you realize your on your own. If you are using Lockheed FSS as your sole or even primary source of weather and NOTAM info you are risking the safety of your plane, your passengers, and yourself. For AOPA to paint such a glowing picture of this situation amplifies your own criticisms.
AOPA now finds it necessary to continually beg for funds to lobby the criminals in Washington, hawk legal services for pay that used to be a right of membership, and then tries to sell non aviation related services like the infamous wine club but then is so completely clueless on the reality of flying the system that I am becoming convinced that this organization has gone the way of the FSS and FLT Watch. Not only are they quickly becoming useless but probably have become a force contrary to the wishes and needs of the General Aviation pilot in the USA.
I know you are inundated by comments like mine and I appreciate the opportunity to get this off my chest, even if you haven't been able to read it in it's entirety.

Ron M: Keep it up! You're covering what needs to be covered.
I wonder if the general theme is that the freedom and possibilities that used to be aviation has been lost.
Our country seeks perfect safety and more regulation instead of freedom. We want to be Europe.
Little boys are no longer exploring the woods and falling out of trees on their own. Instead their moms drive them to soccer games and make them all play by the rules all the time. None of them will be allowed to jump off the roof into a rose bush with their self-designed airplane. (as did Gen. Robert L. Scott as he wrote in GOD IS MY CO-PILOT)

Mike P: I enjoy ANN and appreciate your point of view in your editorials. A few comments on today's editorial:
- I totally agree that organizations supported by members need to have a "real" vote in electing the leadership of the organization. Specifically, EAA needs to have a more open voting process for it's Board of Directors. The nominees get their bios published in Sport Aviation but the only chance to vote is in person or by proxy. But when the current leadership holds the proxy of the vast majority of members, the vote is a mere formality - Leadership will always get their choices elected. EAA is a dictatorship, not a democracy. I can't even find who actually was elected in this year's EAA BoD elections (can you find the results and publish them?). Why so secretive? Why isn't EAA proud to announce their new Board?
Towards the end of your editorial, you mentioned you would be writing about the demise of flying clubs. I wanted to offer our St Louis Flying Club as an example of a club that is growing and thriving. In existence since the 1940s, we just expanded to 2 planes and from 8 to 16 members. Take a look at our website: www.stlflyingclub.org

Jim W: I agree with your comments about the aviation alphabet groups. I received a mailer from AOPA this week that leaves me kind of questioning their positions. I am extremely pro aviation, but I am also pro America. The entire subject of their mailing was bemoaning the possible upcoming elections anti-incumbent and anti-democrat tone. The current crop of congressional critters have shown themselves to be less than effective in leading this country and as such they need to go. The key to advancing GA is not pandering to poor congressional leaders, but choosing new ones with the right attitude in support of this country including aviation. I don't care how much they support aviation if the over all economy is in the tank GA is not going to do well because no one will be able to afford to participate. Then we measure their support for GA.
I also agree that GA has become way to expensive and one major part of that is fuel. When fuel is $5.00 a gallon range that puts a large damper on the ability of people to fly enough to stay proficient. Even an economical bird like my M-20C becomes burdensome to operate. There is no reason for the cost of most of the technology in my aircraft. I have been in electronics and aviation for many years and there is no justification for the cost. The projected cost/benefit for ADS-B that is now to be mandatory in some airspace is ridicules and being driven by poor management and planning by the FAA.

Dan V: Your comments regarding AOPA are accurate and appropriate. I would like to add-

  1. The volume of solicitations for additional donations for activities that should have been budgeted for as consistent with the core mission of AOPA is out of control. Any informed pilot knows that biennial federal elections are critically important to the health of general aviation as is the reauthorization of the FAA enabling legislation. AOPA should have budgeted for its lobbying activities and not need to solicit additional member funding for this.
  2. The add-on costs for "services" and products bearing the AOPA label are far in excess of their value. The AOPA insurance, credit card, car rental costs are far higher than comparable products available from many sources not affiliated with the AOPA.
  3. My experiences at the AOPA Summits, Fly-Ins, and ASF "Webinars" have been consistently disappointing. They are poorly organized, do not meet my needs as a GA pilot and aircraft owner and seem to be designed to burnish the image of senior AOPA staff and place impossible burdens on the rank and file employees.
  4. My ten year membership and support for AOPA is probably going to end this year. I can't afford to support an organization as top heavy and non-responsive as it has become.
    PS. Wine Club??? Who in their right mind would link the consumption of alcohol with the promotion of general aviation and aviation safety? What were they thinking or drinking?

Larry S: On the subject of EAA:
In 2008 - just after I had written for ANN at AirVenture - I saw an ad for a job with EAA that had MY name on it. I applied for it, received a telephone interview and a subsequent invitation to come in for an in-person interview.
When the subject of compensation arose, I wish you could have heard the violin players they brought out telling me that they just couldn't pay very much for a job which demanded many skills. Already retired - and with my formal residency in Florida - I decided I could not afford to live full-time in Wisconsin and asked that my name be withdrawn. Basically, I couldn't afford to work for EAA at the compensation level they offered ... despite WANTING to.
Subsequently, I discovered that Tom Poberezny receives compensation of nearly $500,000K + perks annually. I did the math and decided that his salary alone was eating into a major portion of EAA's active members yearly membership fees. It's no wonder that EAA charges SO much for food and admittance at AirVenture and is always hawking some new fund raising scheme to buy bricks on a path or paint your name on the old gateway to the flightline, etc. All the while, the working rank-and-file employee is just scraping by ... and they can't draw in good talent with insufficient compensation. I know several EAA staffers and what they earn ... it ain't much ... relative.
Since I summer just 35 miles west, I spend lots of time in Oshkosh five months of each year. Around there, the 'talk' of EAA always leads to the Poberezny "dynasty." As ANN reported in Part IV, the retirement of Tom Poberezny will actually be a puppeteering act ... he'll be pulling the strings from behind the scenes, likely hauling in a nice retirement paycheck while EAA continues to find ways to drain its constituency of every discretionary dollar they can grab. Rod Hightower was likely hired because Tom thought he could continue to find new ways to generate revenue for EAA and because he'll fall in line following his "instructions."
Maybe they'll start an EAA Wine Club?
Oh for the days when the antique and classic parking area was in a beautiful grass field just south of where the old tower/gateway to the flightline was.
... and for the days when you didn't need a people mover to get your carcass to see antique airplanes. The old grass field is now AeroShell Square. EAA is NOT a business ... it is an organization of like-minded members and EAA has lost sight of this, I feel. I came close to resigning after 35 years over their attempted "grab" of the C-47 "Last Time" gathering in Illinois.
And I told them so, too.
Maybe the problem with both AOPA and EAA is that they have grown to the point of 'critical mass' and are trying to run their organizations like a business ... which they is not.
Keep up the good work, Jim ... you're right ON with your journalistic position.

**************

Next (REALLY -- We Mean It This Time)… There used to be a time when Flying Clubs were a prevalent and popular aspect of the GA and Sport Aviation landscape… and in the last few decades, they've all but disappeared. However; a revitalized and modified version of such entities… relevant to the 2010 generation… might provide inestimable value to rebuilding the popularity, affordability and accessibility of GA. And by the way... while we seem to be throwing some rocks at certain entities in aviation, do be advised that some of the toughest criticism we have coming up is for our own ilk... and the truly deplorable state of aviation journalism.

More to follow in the coming days… Stay tuned!

Jim Campbell -- Unrepentant Aero-Advocate, Professional Trouble-Maker/Pain-In-The-Ass/Aero-Evangelist (YOU Choose which one truly applies)
FMI: ANN's 'Great Rant' -- I've Got Some Comments! -- Reader Responses

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