They came to Texas to meet the new guy—AOPA’s 2013 Aviation Summit was held for the first time in the center of the country, but the draw wasn’t longhorns and beefsteak. It was Mark Baker. To a packed standing-room-only audience, AOPA members met their new president at the opening session Thursday morning.
Although a small percentage of AOPA’s vast membership attends the annual Summit, interest in the association’s new leader reverberated. Introduced by AOPA Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Trimble, Baker told the assembled attendees that he is “very lucky to be the new president of AOPA.” A self-professed “airport kid,” Baker’s theme throughout Summit was clear: “Our goal and vision is the same as it was 75 years ago—we won’t let general aviation disappear.”
The 2013 Summit marked the last of this style assembly and Baker introduced his vision of his presidency, one that will be marked by “lots of opportunities to talk.” Regional fly-ins will be held throughout the country and Baker—who loves to fly “anything and everything”—plans to spend his weekends at the places he loves most: airports. “I pinch myself realizing I’ve got the world’s best job,” Baker said.
Airport access is a top priority for Baker and he thanked AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers for their work as the Association’s first line of defense. He acknowledged that many of them work regularly with AOPA to promote, protect and preserve their airports, and said, “But guess what, I want more!”
Baker and members of his leadership team took to the stage at Airportfest at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport to answer questions at a pancake breakfast. The questions from the audience covered issues including the new focus on regional events, Customs and Border Protection’s scrutiny of general aviation aircraft, the status of user fees, efforts to save GA airports, and how sequestration and the government shutdown are affecting GA.
From doctors to baseball players to animated airplanes, the Friday morning general session featured all types of aviation enthusiasts, including baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., a GA pilot who flies a Cirrus SR22. AOPA’s AV8RS program hosted a day of aviation for local schoolchildren at Meacham Airport. More than 100 kids experienced aviation—and several Boy Scouts earned their aviation merit badges. OK, so maybe some members came just to see the longhorns.
This article is provided courtesy of AOPA.