History of AOPA UK

The origins of AOPA UK go back to 1928 when the 'Council of Light Aeroplane Clubs' was formed as a subsidiary of the Royal Aero Club. The Royal Aero Club, however, also had extensive air racing and social interests as well as general flying interests. The Council split from the Royal Aero Club after the Second World War and became independent as the 'Association of British Aero Clubs and Centres'. In 1966 it merged with the 'Aviation Centre of the Royal Aero Club', (which had by now also separated off from the Royal Aero Club,) to form the 'British Light Aviation Centre'. BLAC still exists today – 'AOPA UK' is its adopted 'trade name'.

Adopting the AOPA UK trade name

With the formation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in 1947, aviation began to become controlled internationally. So increasingly, it became important to be able to influence the development of standards at an international level. In addition, in the late sixties Eurocontrol was set up, raising the prospect of even more new regulation arising from European sources. However, ICAO remained the more important organisation and arguably remains so to this day.

At about this time, AOPA US had already tried to gain for itself recognition by ICAO as the voice of US general aviation. ICAO, however, was only willing to recognise organisations that were international in scope but indicated that it would be prepared to recognise AOPA if it became an international organisation representing general aviation in at least six countries. So AOPA US set about the task of creating an international representative body and to this end began to seek cooperation with private flying associations in other countries.

In 1967, AOPA US approached the BLAC in the UK and asked if the BLAC would become Britain's AOPA, and participate with them in International AOPA. Our participation required, however, that BLAC must conform to a few simple rules, namely to:

  • operate under the name AOPA UK,
  • be the only AOPA in the UK,
  • be autonomous and not a subsidiary of any other organisation, (including any other AOPA),
  • be free of government funding or control.

BLAC agreed to these terms, began to operate under the name AOPA UK and became a full participant in IAOPA, (i.e. International AOPA). Eventually the AOPAs, not only of the UK and the USA, but also of many other countries became constituent members of IAOPA. Today IAOPA has been representing the interests of pilots and owners for over 35 years. It is the largest association of pilots in the world, and has a total of 67 national AOPAs in membership and represents a membership of more than 470,000.

So national AOPAs are all totally autonomous and exercise no control or influence of any sort whatever over one another, although frequently there is inter-AOPA liaison to handle problems affecting more than one nation, especially through the increasingly active European AOPA.

The rules of the AOPA movement suited BLAC perfectly, except for its competition arm, which ran air races and events and which received a subsidy from the Sports Council. In order to comply with the rules, the competition arm left BLAC/AOPA UK.

The new arrangement showed its worth when in 1974 AOPA UK’s Ron Campbell represented IAOPA on ICAO’s PELT Panel, the Pilot Education, Learning and Training group which undertook a root and branch review of training. This led to a revision of ICAO Annex 1 – standards and recommended practice in training – and also made it easier to fly across national boundaries. Previously, a pilot had to have written permission from the overflown state before intruding into its territory.

In summary AOPA UK's representation before national and international regulatory bodies can be considered to take place at three levels. In regard to national issues, AOPA UK is able to act on its own. At European level, AOPA UK is able to act either alone or, in regard to Europe-wide issues, in concert with other European AOPAs as a member of IAOPA-Europe. At global level, AOPA UK, together with other European AOPAs, is able to collaborate with AOPAs in other world regions to negotiate with ICAO.

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