C-FBLY on a sunny day at Arnprior, Ontario

My name is Joe Abley and I'm standing for the COPA Board of Directors in Southern Ontario.

It would be a privilege to contribute to the future of general aviation in Canada as a director of COPA and to play a small part in our shared mission: to advance, promote and preserve the Canadian freedom to fly.

photo of Joe
I learnt to fly in the late 80s in the UK, in Cessna 150s and 152s at EGTC. After getting my PPL at age seventeen I spent the better part of three decades first at University where I had no money to fly and later working in the tech industry in Europe, New Zealand and Canada when I had no time. It took me until 2015 to get my priorities straight in the form of a Transport Canada licence. I now have a couple of hundred hours logged and hope to complete my instrument rating and commercial license this summer. Turns out, despite all that time not flying, I still get the same giant smile every time I sit in the left seat or open a hangar door to the delicious aroma of oil and avgas.

I own 1992 Grumman AG-5B Tiger C-FBLY which I bought in Kamloops, BC in January 2017 and flew back across the country to CYXU, where it is now hangared. I am a member of Aviateurs Quebec, COPA and COPA Flight 75 based at CYQS, St Thomas, Ontario, which is where I am doing my Instrument and CPL training. I’m also, a current member of AOPA and the AYA (a Grumman type organization).

I would like to be a COPA Director because it seems like a great opportunity to contribute back to the Canadian GA community whilst also getting a better insight into aviation in Canada in general. I have not-for-profit board and governance experience in a consensus/community context through my work designing and operating global Internet infrastructure; however, I think the most useful skill I can contribute is the desire to focus on pragmatic, real-world answers to real-world problems.
Ask most school-age children in 2018 about what it's like to fly in a small plane, or how someone might go about becoming a pilot, and you will get blank stares in return. Pilots are people
who work for airlines that you might catch a glimpse of as you wait for your flight to Florida, not people that you know. General Aviation as a concept is even more alien to most people – private aircraft are more likely to trigger images of billionaires and private jets to the average person than a flock of 70s-era Cessnas parked around a fuel pump.

So here we are: it's 2018, there's a worldwide pilot shortage, the number of licensed GA pilots continues to decline and in Canada flight schools struggle to keep their doors open as their instructors leave to take up careers in regional and northern airlines.

There has never been a better time for an organisation like COPA to make a difference.

Programmes like COPA For Kids do a great job at giving kids of all ages the chance to experience flight in small aircraft, first-hand, as well as giving GA pilots the chance to enjoy the shrieks of delight as the wheels leave the ground that they perhaps remember from their own childhoods. But more can be done: if kids in high school can make decisions about careers in law, teaching and medicine then there should be no reason why they can't get excited about a future in aviation. If we can help build bridges between high schools, colleges, flight centres and COPA flights, perhaps we can give more young people the opportunity to find out that aviation is a future that is wide open to them.