This year has flown by faster than most, pun intended. March seemed like it was about 18 years ago, but at the same time seems like yesterday. While this year’s aviation gatherings were definitely not what event planners, organizers, vendors, and attendees had in mind, this year gave rise to grassroots events. Though not nearly as grandiose as Sun ‘n’ Fun or Airventure, several type club fly-ins, group camping, and other similar events organized entirely through social media have sprung up nationwide. This has made me ponder the worth of the various alphabet group aviation organizations that many of us have supported over the years. After all, the big events are run by them. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I am of each organization’s value. While social media groups and knowledge sharing is an incredible addition to our available resources, the organizations are still the backbone. The national groups such as AOPA, EAA, and the RAF are outstanding at helping to shape legislation in favor of GA flying. BasicMed and the Pilot’s Bill of Rights are prime examples of your dues at work. Type clubs are also critical for your continued flying safety and help vendors provide state-of-the-art avionics, repair/replacement parts, and services to your specific aircraft type. They often have tool loan programs and some subject matter experts on hand to answer all sorts of questions. Regional organizations, such as your APA, are valuable for helping shape local legislation, working with land managers for airport access and restoration, ensuring GA has a voice in airspace use discussions, and for local social events. Airport pilot associations allow pilots to have a unified voice at their airport for local concerns and rules. Most of us won’t bat an eye at heading out for a hamburger that eventually costs more than all of these dues combined. If you’re not a member of each of these organizations, I highly recommend you join and support them. If you already belong, please consider volunteering within them.
With that awkward segue, APA has several volunteer opportunities coming this year. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to open a new airstrip and to upgrade another. APA and the land managers at the Forepaugh airstrip near Wickenburg are close to an agreement to open the strip. While it is not yet open, we have made some great progress for use as an airstrip again. This means we’ll soon be mobilizing several large work parties to clear and improve the runway to provide safe access. Over the next couple of years, we plan to work with other groups to renovate some of the historic structures on the field. This is an exciting opportunity for us all.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, our scholarship program has already started up for this year. Last year, we awarded eight deserving youth scholarships totaling $20,000 to pursue a career in aviation. We’ve been following up and reporting on them over the past several months. Some have already completed their private pilot licenses and are well on their way. This year, our program is even more meaningful. Many aviation career paths have been impacted by COVID and the uncertainty it brought along. We want to attract the brightest people into aviation and we need your help to do it. This is a core APA program that supports Arizona’s aviation enthusiasts and I’m asking you to consider donating to it. If you know of a deserving student considering aviation, point them to the APA website for the application. https://azpilots.org/pilot-info/scholarship-program