Focus On General Aviation

AOPA’s Craig Fuller talks general aviation, giving his 10,000-feet view on everything from user fees and 100 Low Lead to pilot shortages and improving general aviation’s image

We have so many incredibly generous people doing things like flying our wounded soldiers; flying in the Angel Flight program for those needing treatment; and flying animals in programs like Pilots N Paws. This happens every day. All of these stories need to be told. We have formed a group called General Aviation Serves America, and Harrison Ford was very generous in his participation, to help tell that story.


Talks of user fees have reared their ugly head again. What are your thoughts on this issue?

The fact is a $100 per flight user fee, regardless of who it applies to in the general aviation community, is a bad thing. It raises operating costs but also deters people from using air traffic control or practicing approaches they need to learn. And eventually, as has been the case nearly every time user fees have been adopted across the world, even though a certain aircraft is exempt in the beginning, once the bureaucracy is set up to collect this fee, it begins to expand to all aircraft.

The AOPA opposes user fees but it’s not that we oppose any kind of charge. We have even said to Congress: ‘If you need additional funds that go toward aviation then an additional fuel tax is something we’d be in favor of. ’However, there is little likelihood that a user fee will pass this year. It’s not getting much traction in Congress.


Let’s talk 100 LL

The threat to Avgas, 100 Low Lead, by environmental groups, is a policy matter we can do something about. Research for an alternative fuel is included in the budget. Everyone is focused on whether there is a fuel that will work as well as 100 LL. There are some encouraging developments but there is not any one fuel that is viewed as a drop-in substitute. There are aircraft flying with special fuels that are being vetted and evaluated. In the years ahead, I believe there will be an alternative for 100LL.


What is the biggest challenge threatening general aviation’s future?

We need to encourage more young people to explore aviation. AOPA started asking people if they have the aspiration to actually fly an airplane some day and found millions of people share that aspiration. Millions! For one reason or another they don’t ever do it. That says to me we need to get more creative in our outreach and help nurture the idea I had at age 14. This is an area I hope to explore further … after I give up my day job.

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