Those of you new to aviation might be wondering about some aviation membership programs that are worth pursuing. You’re in luck. Aviation has no shortage of fine associations that support a variety of worthwhile causes. Regardless of your specific passion(s), you’re bound to find an organization or two that satisfies your interests.
The sheer number of aviation membership programs makes highlighting each of them beyond the scope of this post. Instead, we’ll look at four of the most well-known and far-reaching associations, as well as the unique features of each.
The granddaddy of aviation membership programs, AOPA boasts around 400,000 members, more than half of the US pilot population. One of AOPA’s numerous missions is maintaining the freedom of aviation that pilots in this country are so fortunate to enjoy. The organization is constantly going to bat for general aviation (GA) on Capitol Hill and is extremely resilient when political maneuvering attempts to impose cumbersome restrictions on GA. AOPA was especially helpful following 9/11 and the security restrictions that shut down US airspace.
In addition to its political prowess, AOPA has developed a host of products and services that improve the safety and affordability of flying. Take a quick visit to their website and you’ll see the wealth of free training courses, info, and pilot assistance services available 24/7. On top of that, AOPA puts out three top-notch magazines every month, Pilot Magazine, Turbine Pilot Magazineand Flight Training Magazine.
The Experimental Aircraft Association is extremely popular with the homebuilder crowd, and for good reason. EAA chapters are scattered throughout the country, where they remain active arranging events like pancake breakfasts, poker runs, airshows, and several other varieties of aviation fraternization. The group also introduces children to GA by providing free flights through its Young Eagles program. To date, volunteer pilots have exposed over 1 million youth to the marvels of aviation.
EAA is no doubt best known for its annual mega gathering in Oshkosh, Wisconsin known as EAA AirVenture, or simply “Oshkosh.” This aviation super event is the one place where the who’s who of the aviation world are guaranteed to gather year after year. In fact, during the weeklong event, which takes place in late July/early August, the throngs of attendees make Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport the busiest aerodrome in the world. This event is so important that aviation manufacturers continually debut their new products here, and representatives of all other aviation membership programs are guaranteed to be on hand. No doubt about it, EAA knows how to throw a party!
As the name implies, WAI caters to the female members of the aviation community. The group encourages women to pursue aviation activities, both for entertainment and employment purposes. WAI sponsors and participates in several events throughout the year and even offers scholarship opportunities. Despite the name, men are welcome (and encouraged) to take part in the association’s cause.
Unlike the previous aviation membership programs, NBAA is geared specifically toward business organizations. The group works to facilitate the use of GA aircraft to allow companies to thrive. NBAA claims over 9,000 members, more than 100 products & services, and the world’s largest civil aviation trade show (NBAA Annual Meeting and Convention). Membership options are pricey, but the level of support and service provided can easily make the dues a worthwhile investment. Any companies curious as to how aviation can improve their bottom line should give NBAA a serious look.
Whether you prefer seaplanes, helicopters, gliders, or balloons, aviation membership programs are available to provide the flying, fellowship, and fraternization of your choice. To increase your circle of aviation buddies, check out the associations above, head to your local airport, or search the web for the aviation arena that strikes your fancy. Aviation is a close-knit community, and industry associations are a great way to connect with others who share your passion.