Behind The Scenes with Phil Boyer
Although he is leaving AOPA after having been its president since January 1, 1991, Phil Boyer, leaving a legacy that is remarkable, has a side to him, the personal one, that few know about. In a half hour conversation, he revealed some very interesting facts. We did a Q & A session.
Q. What aircraft ratings do you have?
A. So many pilots come up to me and say, “I’m only a Private Pilot…” and I tell them immediately that I’m only a Private Pilot, too, like the majority of us! I do have a seaplane rating, an IFR, a multi-engine, and single pilot rating in the Citation 525. After retirement I’d like to get my CFI and Commercial.
Q. Aircraft you've owned?
A. One third of a Bonanza in the 70s, a Beech Baron, a Cessna 340, and a Waco UPF-7, and am currently in the pre-purchase phase of a Bonanza A-36.
Q. Other aircraft you’ve flown?
A. Just about any single certified in any name, and some experimental. AOPA used to own a Cessna Conquest I (aka 425) cabin class turbo, and I have about 3,000 hours on that.
Q. Aircraft you’ve liked the most?
A. My Waco UPF-7.
Q. One that you’ve found most difficult to fly?
A. My Waco UPF. I’m still learning with it, in crosswind landings and such, because before (owning) it, I had no tailwheel time. It’s an ongoing learning experience.
Q. Total hours you've logged?
A. 8,000+ hours.
Q. Married and children?
A. 21 years, a second marriage. I didn’t suggest it to my wife, but after attending so many conventions with me and being asked so many times if she was a pilot, I saw ‘Flying lessons’ scheduled on the calendar, and she got her license in 1993.
A. Two girls and a boy from the first marriage, all grown up and married now. Interestingly, none of them showed any interest in flying, but there are eight grandchildren, and…(Here he paused, and one couldn’t help inferring that some of them may very well be given some encouragement.)
Q. Number of presentations you've been making yearly?
A. A speech every week in pilot town meetings and other functions, sometimes as many as three in one week. In the 11-month period (December is slow because of the holidays) I still can say at least 52.
Q. How many miles traveled for the above? (And here he gave a conservative estimate for readers to figure out)
A. Figure 3000 hours in the Conquest @ 240 knots and 2800 hours in the jet at 380 knots. I’ll let you do the computations and conversions if you wish to in miles.
Q. National figures you’ve dealt with?
A. Almost anybody from governors on up; anybody in any office dealing with aviation since 1990, including the two Bush presidents and Clinton, and at least ten FAA administrators.
A. I enjoyed (most) their understanding of those who were pilots, especially those with a strong knowledge of aviation. James Oberspar, Democrat, of Minnesota, Chair of Transportation in the House, an expert, comes to mind. He will be very important in the new administration. Also Senator Imhof, even though not a pilot, I respect very much. He has even attended Oshkosh.
A. I had 32 years in broadcasting (i.e., ABC’s “Wide World of Flying”), with editing, photographing, and management of some of the flagship stations such as WABC-TV, at which point, that was a career and flying a hobby…changed that avocation into my vocation…nowadays there are videos I am editing…I ski in Colorado and Utah’s Deer Valley. In February, after the busiest Presidents Holiday period skiing is over, I’m going skiing with my wife for two weeks. I’ve also been a Harley owner for 10 years. I really enjoy that. I like photography as well as with video…am going back to the University of Cincinnati to take a course in photography and do some teaching. I have taught at Cal State, too.
Q. Any regrets?
A. Not being able to save Meigs Field.
Q. Anything else you want to say?
A. I’ve flown to Europe and back with my wife, in 1990, two months before coming to AOPA. The plane was equipped with two cameras, one facing forward, the other back at us, recording all the time, in July and August of 1990, 28 days. I’ve flown in every state, including Hawaii; Mexico; Canada; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Central as well as South America.
(On retirement) I will really enjoy a less hectic life, and will continue to enjoy general aviation the way most of the members do.
• The CD of a trip to Europe, “Phil and Lois Boyer’s Atlantic Adventure,” recorded 50 hours and 8,000 miles over 28 days in his Twin Cessna 340, N24CP, equipped with added fuel tank (ferry permit was used to make it legal with 800 pounds over gross weight), radio, immersion suits, etc., equipment. Asked by a friend why he was doing it, Boyer’s reply: “The ocean is there; the plane flies.” Right to the point.
• The route from Caldwell, NJ, had consecutive stops at Bangor, Sept Isles, Goose Bay, Greenland, Iceland, Glasgow, Cranfield (England), Amsterdam, Venice, Salzburg, Vilshofen, Geneva, Bordeaux, St. Emilion, Agen, Nantes, and then return. Nine countries were covered, with careful, complete planning ahead, and the trip was “…full of experiences’ as he put it, with comments ranging from the beauty of fjords to a ride in an antique biplane at an airshow. Included was a critique that customs was most difficult in Canada and the U.S. In Europe? “No problem.” Interesting.
Going online, one can find at AOPA such information as Boyer’s guiding a student pilot in another aircraft down through clouds to a safe landing; his fight against product liability; his involvement in ‘Project Pilot’ to mentor potential pilots; and the resultant growth in AOPA membership from 300,000 in 1991 to 414,000 today, at the end of his 28-year presidency.
A remarkable man, both privately and publicly.
Interviewed By Herb Hill