March 2014- For those of us that are Piper Flyer Association (PFA) members, we get it. For the cost of several gallons of Avgas each year, we’re members of this great organization. The value proposition is obvious; we get more out of the organization than it costs.
For those pilots and Piper owners who aren’t members, the value isn’t so obvious. After all, PFA is not EAA, nor is it anything like AOPA. Rather, PFA is a type club. Collectively, we are members that have Piper airplanes.
That alone—being a Piper pilot and/or owner—makes us unique in the world of aviation. There are something on the order of 144,000 planes that Piper has built over the years and 52,000 currently registered.
Also, there are over 313 million people in the United States and over 7 billion people on Earth. This means that of those of us who are pilots and Piper owners, we comprise 1/100 of 1 percent of the population in the United States. Computed globally, the number is far smaller.
Let’s look at this from another direction. The universe is purported to be about 13.7 billion years old. Alas, I wasn’t here at the time of the Big Bang, despite what my wife says. The Earth has been here about 4.5 billion years and humanity has been hanging around for about 200,000 years. In all of that time, humans have been able to fly like the birds for just the last 100 years. We’ve able to fly safely in our Pipers for far less than that.
So here we are, special, unique and rare as we may be, wondering how we make the most of our passion for flying. We have AOPA as our governmental and regulatory watchdog. We have EAA to promote aviation to pilots, vendors and the non-flying public. And we have PFA to help us stay in the air safely and keep our sometimes-way-too-expensive airplanes flying for decades.
When there are so few of us positioned at random inside such a large population and geographic area, it takes this triad of organizations to keep us all together. To be a member of either the AOPA or EAA doesn’t do the job. The organization that assists us the most is PFA. Let me tell you why.
First, our monthly magazine is part of a dwindling population of magazines in our country. Before Google and Yahoo were here, magazines were a mainstay of information dissemination.
Advertisers used to pay many thousands of dollars per month, per advertising page, because the only alternative was direct mail. On a per-reader basis, magazines are far less costly to produce and mail than individual mailing pieces—even 20 years ago when magazines abounded and postage was a fraction of what it is today.
In today’s world, many advertisers would rather choose digital advertising using Google or Yahoo (or Facebook or Twitter), as they pay a few cents for each click on their ad.
The fact that PFA is able to attract and keep advertisers interested in a print magazine is a tribute to the outstanding job that the staff does. Vendors and members alike are put together in such a way that both can benefit. This is benefit number one, and worth a small fortune in dues. Fortunately, our association has the side benefit of keeping our dues very low while remaining very high in value.
Second, parts location service. Have you had difficulties finding a reasonably-priced part for your aging Piper? Perhaps price hasn’t had anything to do with your search; perhaps you haven’t been able to find a part at any price. You might consider giving PFA a call.
To give a good example, I’m restoring my 1977 Seneca II. It has a cracked glass lens on the ice light on the left engine nacelle, and Piper doesn’t have a part number for just the lens. The only solution seemed to be to buy a new ice light fixture—for $1,100.
That seems a bit pricey to me to replace a glass bulb cover. Solution? Kent called me up with the name of a local vendor that could replace the lens at one-tenth of the cost. I was out of town for a protracted time on business, and Kent phoned me—twice!— to make sure that I got what I needed.
This parts location service is worth the cost of membership all by itself. Don’t underestimate this service when you’re AOG.
Third, the PFA forum. It’s just like being a part of an EAA chapter. For those of you that aren’t familiar, EAA has more than 1,000 chapters worldwide.
I belong to EAA Chapter 838 in Racine, Wis. Every month I spend an evening with like-minded local EAA members. When I need a brain to pick, that’s where I go. When I need another pair of hands for a project, that’s where I go.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of Piper owners in my local EAA chapter. So what’s a Piper owner to do?
Use the PFA forum! Imagine being at a local chapter meeting—every day of the year—with a few thousand Piper owners all willing to share information and help each other.
The online forum is a proven piece of technology used worldwide to assist in keeping like-minded individuals together. Forums are decades older than other social media, and my ownexperience with forum software started in 1986 and used phone lines and modems to connect. Today we have high-speed connections and portable devices to keep us all together, anywhere and at any time.
I like to post questions to the Travel, Seneca and Avionics threads, as those are the forums that interest me. PiperFlyer.org’s forum has a category for each model of Piper out there along with many other categories for other specialized areas of interest.
If you have a suggestion for a new forum category just contact the PFA staff and let them know. Last month I made a request and the new forum topic was online the next day. Personally, I’m a very big proponent of forums and this is my favorite membership benefit.
Fourth, just belong. That’s it. Just belong. While you may not need anything from the association today or tomorrow, you might next month. You may trade in your old Piper for a newer model, or another model. You may have a question, or a need for others’ experience, or may be searching for a part. Perhaps you just want to know if the issue that you’re dealing with has been dealt with by another member in the past.
This is the insurance value of PFA. Just knowing they are there is worth much more than the dues that we pay every year. In order to have this organization ready and available when we need it has a cost. We need to provide Piper Flyer Association with a steady revenue stream—our membership dues—so that the staff can give us association service when we need it. The cost of annual dues is a small investment to ensure the future availability of the Piper Flyer Association.
Some months I belong because of the forum, but then two months ago I read a killer magazine article on adjusting Piper front doors that has resolved 20 years of frustration with my Seneca. Following the door adjustment instructions and investing a couple of hours of my time (and $10 dollars in parts) rewarded me with an airtight cockpit just in time for winter. While I would like to have had this article two decades ago, I’m grateful to have it now.
Next month, I may not need PFA on a daily basis, but I will still belong, secure in the knowledge that they’re there for me. And for you.
Help support our organization. Get your Piper friends to join and make the organization stronger. Use the forum; contribute your knowledge and experience and get the same in return. Use the discount program and/or utilize the parts location service. And read the magazine.
Greatness has found its way into the PFA and I’m very glad to be a very small part in it.