RAF is more about doing what we say than saying what we do, but at the end of each year it is important to both report our accomplishments and verify we are on the right track in meeting our mission of “keeping the legacy of recreational aviation strong by preserving, maintaining and creating public use and backcountry airstrips nationwide.”
Our 2012 efforts to preserve and maintain recreational aviation included successes to retain ongoing access to airstrips like the Minam River Lodge (7OR0) in Oregon, the Chicken Strip in Death Valley National Park in California and the Grand Gulch Mine and Double-Circle Ranch airstrips in Arizona through a combination of agreements, collaborative projects like the Minam Airlift and volunteer maintenance efforts. We also worked closely to fight off potential restrictions and out right bans on the use of seaplane on public waters in New Mexico, Washington and other states.
To achieve these successes RAF relies on the dedicated efforts of members, volunteers and network of state liaisons. We also rely on collaborating and building relationships with other aviation organizations, regulators and land managers like the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Park Service as well as private land owners. Efforts are underway to identify new airstrip opportunities and collaborations in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington and Utah.
On the national level, we continue meeting with leaders in Congress and the Executive Branch building relationships with federal land management agencies. We continue finding open minds and open doors. Importantly, our issues are finding their way into both policy and legislation. Combining our work in D.C. with our grass roots work in each state, we are finding more and more that the conversation tends to break in our favor over time.
One of the most critical ways the RAF has helped further recreational aviation is through the advocacy for and passage of state-level recreational use statutes or RUS. This year two more states (MN and VT) passed RUS legislation and WA amended their statute to specifically include aviation. This opens the door for private land owners to welcome public use aviation activity by protecting them from the liability. RAF liaisons have efforts underway in 8 other state. We encourage our members to see if their state has an RUS on the books or in the works. Start by contacting (or becoming) a state liaison.
This year, as part of its effort to train and equip volunteers with the tools to be successful, the RAF hosted Glacier Summit, a multi-day series of presentations, panels, discussions and seminars focused on aviation advocacy. It was attended by RAF board members, activists, state liaisons, members along with representatives from state and federal agencies and other aviation non-profits. The event provided an incredible forum for training, sharing and networking. The summit culminated at the end of the week with the annual Ryan Field RAF Flyin which had the highest attendance ever.
If membership growth is a measure of success, the RAF nearly doubled in size this year reaching 4,600 members and adding 17 new state liaisons, we now have more than half the states covered by an RAF liaison. To help add to our voice we have been fortunate to gain the sponsorship of Signature Flight Service who have been hanging RAF posters in FBOs across the U.S..
In terms of recognition, the RAF began the year receiving the Flying Magazine Editor’s Choice Award for innovative service to the pilot community and ended the year receiving the Lightspeed Pilot Choice Award a major grant by the Lightspeed Aviation Foundation. We also saw our name shared in a very positive light in numerous national publications like AOPA Pilot, AvWeb, Flying, GA News, Pilot Getaways,etc. We also earned a great deal of recognition through our association with AOPA and the Tornado Husky. We are grateful for the positive coverage and are hopeful that we earned all the ink. It is humbling to see such praise and serves as a challenge to the organization to live up to such high esteem.
In terms of giving recognition, we were proud to attend Oshkosh Airventure with Ben and Butchie Ryan and acknowledge their generous gift of Ryan Field with a placement of a brick beneath the brown arch honoring them and their contribution. The “Legacy Rock” project was made possible by a generous RAF supporter to pay tribute to our large financial contributors whose generosity insures a generational future for the RAF and its mission.
In 2012, the RAF also launched its Fire Hub initiative at Sun-N-Fun. Fire Hubs create both a natural gathering place for recreational pilots while also serving to increase awareness and provide an opportunity to acknowledge others through the purchase of engraved bricks. The first Fire Hub was created at the Sun-N-Fun grounds in Lakeland, FL with the second one dedicated in San Marcos, TX in October. The Fire Hub initiative is gaining momentum with 3 additional Fire Hubs planned at this time.
At its heart, the RAF is about people. People who enjoy both recreation and aviation and are willing to work today to keep that legacy viable for future generations. More than anything else, we value the involvement of members in our mission. We rely on our members to help us show both land managers and law makers that recreational aviation is important. We count on RAF members to write letters, have positive conversations with land managers and other pilots and to reach out to solve real and perceived problems. The more members with have, the greater our voice has become and we are grateful to all who have joined and those who continue to remain active.