AOPA President Phil Boyer will retire at the end of 2008. Succeeding Boyer as president will be Craig L. Fuller, an experienced Washington public affairs executive and political operative, and a passionate pilot and aircraft owner for 40 years.
William C. Trimble III, chairman of the AOPA Board of Trustees, announced the leadership change on June 30.
“Phil informed the board some four years ago that he would retire in three years,” said Trimble. “We convinced him to continue his extraordinary leadership of AOPA for another year. Now, we must move on, but AOPA and the entire general aviation community are in a better place for his inspired 18 years at the controls.”
Fuller has held top positions in the White House, a national trade association, a Fortune 50 corporation, and in global consulting and public affairs firms. He is currently an executive vice president at APCO Worldwide, a global public affairs and strategic communications company with offices in Washington, D.C., and major cities throughout the world.
Flying has always been a part of his career. He earned his private certificate at age 17. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in political science and earning a master’s degree in urban studies from Occidental College, he joined the public affairs consulting firm of Deaver and Hannaford, founded by two principal assistants to then California Gov. Ronald Reagan, Mike Deaver, and Peter Hannaford. He frequently flew Cessna Skyhawks and Skylanes and Grumman Tigers to client meetings in California and Arizona. He later bought a Cessna 172RG Cutlass.
When Reagan was elected president, Fuller joined the new administration as the assistant to the president for cabinet affairs. And he flew his 172RG from California to the East Coast, ultimately basing the aircraft at AOPA’s home field in Frederick, Md.
In 1985, Vice President George H.W. Bush asked Fuller to be his chief of staff. He was part of the team that managed Bush’s presidential campaign, and he co-chaired the transition operation when Bush became president.
Fuller returned to the private sector, with high-level positions at several public affairs/government relations firms. In 1999, he became the president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). And he bought a Beechcraft Bonanza A36, in which he logged more than 200 hours a year speaking at events and meeting with NACDS members.
The AOPA Board of Trustees’ search committee began looking for AOPA’s new leader last year, hiring the national search firm Heidrick & Struggles to help identify final candidates from among 597,000 U.S. pilots.
“After hundreds of interviews and a painstaking review of 100 potential candidates, it was clear that Craig Fuller, a recognized leader in business, public affairs, and association management, would be ideally suited to carry on Phil’s tremendous legacy,” said Trimble. “Craig is a committed 40-year pilot, aircraft owner, and AOPA member. He is as comfortable with fellow pilots and ‘hangar talk’ as he is facing a congressional committee.”
“Being selected by the trustees as only the fourth president of AOPA in 70 years is a tremendous honor and a serious responsibility,” said Fuller. “I am fully dedicated to ensuring that the best days of general aviation remain ahead of us. And AOPA is ready with a strong organization bolstered over two challenging decades by an individual we all admire.”
Trimble said, “Phil Boyer transformed the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association into a forward-thinking and tech-savvy leader for vastly changed times in general aviation. The GA community will remember Phil’s remarkable contributions that prepared us for the twenty-first century.”
Enhancing AOPA management skills and member service, Boyer engineered a 40-percent growth in membership despite the declining U.S. pilot population. His many new ventures funded novel GA advocacy and member benefits, all while holding AOPA annual dues at $39.
“Phil orchestrated regulatory and legislative backing for civil aviation use of GPS satellite navigation, led consumer support for aviation product liability reform that was decisive in Congress, and averted onerous user fees during three FAA reauthorizations,” said Trimble.
“Moreover, he facilitated general aviation’s return to the skies following a long post-9/11 grounding by talking sense - and common-sense cooperative programs - with lawmakers and security officials.”
Said Boyer, “I have made no secret in the aviation community that I have had a retirement plan for several years. And I wanted to make sure prior to stepping down I was leaving a world class set of AOPA organizations and the best management team to continue our leadership position in general aviation advocacy, information, and education.
“At the end of this year, I will be able to ‘get my life back’ and enjoy fully the general aviation that AOPA fights so hard to preserve for its member pilots. Every great team needs a coach, every great business needs a CEO and every great association needs a president. I am delighted Craig will captain AOPA on the ‘next leg’ of this remarkable journey to preserve and advance general aviation.”
Fuller is to take office on Jan. 1, 2009, following formal election at the trustees’ September Annual Meeting of Members. He and Boyer will be working together on the transition for the remainder of this year.