Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)

What It Is: An organization representing more than 700,000 general aviation pilots and aircraft owners from 75 countries. AOPA provides educational initiatives, government advocacy, and other aviation-related activities. 

How It Grew: Incorporated in May 1939, AOPA urged passage of federal legislation to establish the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which allowed thousands of people to earn pilot certificates under government subsidy. More than 5,000 pilots joined the AOPA Air Guard in 1940, learning military rules and procedures that prepared them for World War II.

In 1942, AOPA moved from New York to the Washington, D.C., area to facilitate lobbying efforts. Over the years, the association became instrumental in fighting proposals by military and commercial aviation entities to eliminate general aviation, proposing compromises instead. AOPA initiatives covered aircraft and air traffic control communication, fuel and luxury taxes, personal and product liability insurance, airspace restrictions, airport closures, and more. 

The organization hired former Flying editor Max Karant to serve as assistant general manager of AOPA and editorial director for AOPA Pilot magazine in 1948. Over the next 30 years, Karant and AOPA executive director J.B. Hartranft, Jr. “set a leadership style that would quadruple AOPA membership from 50,000 to more than 200,000 by the mid 1970s,” according to AOPA.org.

The organization established what would become the AOPA Air Safety Institute in 1950, published its first AOPA Airports USA directory in the 1960s, formed a political action committee in 1980, launched a website in 1995, created the Airport Support Network in 1997, and purchased Flight Training magazine in 1999. By 2000, AOPA had grown to over 350,000 members.

AOPA began hosting annual aviation summits in 2009, then expanded the concept to offer multiple regional fly-ins starting in 2014. 

What It Offers: 

Membership benefits. Multiple online and print publications, regional fly-ins, app and multimedia resources for flight planning, access to safety courses, pilot and medical certificate protection, pilot information helpline, travel planning tools and discounts, and more.

Finance and insurance resources. Financing information and availability for general and business aircraft, flying clubs, and flight training. AOPA also offers aircraft financing and life insurance quotes through its website.  

AOPA Foundation. Funds educational initiatives such as the You Can Fly program, flight training scholarships, and the AOPA Air Safety Institute. 

AOPA Air Safety Institute. Provides online and in-person safety seminars, courses, videos, podcasts, and other content for pilots and aircraft owners.

Fast Facts:  

Founded: 1939

HQ: Frederick, Maryland

Employees: 225

Revenues: $52.9 million in 2018

President and CEO: Mark Baker

Website: aopa.org