Andrew Andersen, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia (AOPA) has responded to criticisms over AOPA not participating in the Australian Aviation Associations Forum (TAAAF) policy released on Wednesday.
The TAAAF policy was released and signed by six leading aviation groups, and TAAAF hopes it will foster and promote aviation within Australia. AOPA was not one of the groups that signed the policy. See the news story here.
"The absence of AOPA's signature on the recent policy document issued by the TAAAF does not indicate any lack of support by AOPA for the contents of the policy package or the various Associations that have prepared the document," Andersen said.
"AOPA has a very strong working relationship with most of the Forum members and has attended TAAAF meetings itself. Almost all the policies adopted by the TAAAF members are either positions that AOPA would support, or correspond to policies of AOPA too.
"At industry events and consultation meetings AOPA frequently takes strong positions in support of members of the TAAAF involved in general aviation and on several occasions in recent months, AOPA has shared advance copies of its submissions to CASA discussion papers and NPRMs with various members of the TAAAF.
"AOPA both gives and gains a great deal from these exchanges and wants them to continue.
"The question as to whether AOPA should include its name on the TAAAF policy document was given very serious consideration by the AOPA Committee. For any representative organisation, subscribing to a common industry policy document can be problematic and present issues that may not be apparent at first glance.
"For more than 60 years, AOPA has been the voice of general aviation and it has no intention of retreating from that role.
"AOPA's focus must be, first and foremost, on general aviation. Other representative organisations speak for other parts of the industry and, sometimes, for GA too, but AOPA's business is purely focused on general aviation.
"The membership of the TAAAF, quite consistent with its aims, draws on a wide cross-section of the aviation industry and is directed accordingly. From time to time, however, it is necessary for AOPA to take positions and make statements which do not necessarily align with other industry sectors. For example, AOPA frequently takes strong positions in relation to airports, and is necessarily wary when airlines seek to shift costs onto GA to support facilities that only exist to facilitate airline operations.
"Additionally, AOPA is active in several policy areas that the TAAAF policy document does not address, for example, Space Based Augmentation System (SBAS) to support GPS approaches with vertical guidance.
"If AOPA had agreed to include its name on the TAAAF policy document, it may have been interpreted by government as a diminution of our interest in matters not addressed by the TAAAF or stepping back from our ability to speak independently on matters that differently affect other sectors of the aviation industry.
"That would not be in the interests of the thousands of AOPA members who look to us actively and responsibly represent their views to government agencies and other parts of the aviation industry."
Andersen went on to commend the TAAAF for preparing "such a well-structured and meaningful paper" and encouraged active consideration of its contents by those the policy was aimed at.