Pilots are always looking for a reason to fly. Whether it’s the quintessential “hundred dollar hamburger” or a longer cross-country trip to see family and friends, there is something very satisfying and unique about being able to fly yourself to your destination instead of driving or relying on the airlines. 

Flying a small airplane is particularly meaningful when there is a mission to accomplish. On November 16, I flew our Cessna 172, N65842, to Tallahassee to participate in a peaceful rally at the state house to support medical freedom. The Florida legislature was called into a special session to consider four bills aimed at protecting residents from being impacted by federally imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions. The legislation passed and was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and will provide much needed relief for many Florida residents. However these measures do not protect Florida based pilots and airline workers from medical discrimination and termination. More work needs to be done.

Now, more than ever, flying is a symbol of our freedom as Americans to come and go as we please, to travel around this beautiful country without restrictions. The problem we face now is that our government, which our forefathers intended to protect our freedoms, is actually working to destroy them. Much like an autopilot that’s failed and causes a loss of aircraft control, our government has “gone rogue” and can no longer be trusted to guide the nation safely. Airline pilots and other essential aviation workers are being told that they must submit to mandatory COVID-19 vaccines or lose their jobs, even if they’ve already recovered from the virus and have natural immunity.

Adding insult to injury, many of the aviation industry organizations that pilots have relied on over the years to help protect our freedom to fly, are now abandoning their mission. On November 18, I sent an email to Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), asking him to explain why AOPA has not stepped up to help defend general aviation pilots from COVID-19 mandates:

Mr. Baker,

As an AOPA member for the last 20 years, as an active flight instructor and dedicated aviation safety advocate, I find it absolutely appalling that AOPA has not made any attempt to address the mounting COVID vaccine injuries in this country and fight the COVID vaccine mandates that US airlines continue to impose upon pilots and crew. Many of these commercial pilots are also active in the GA community and likely are members of your organization. Flight schools like mine are directly affected by the mandates because our students and instructors now face the “jab or job” ultimatum when they enter the aviation workforce. These pilots are mostly young men who are at very little risk of COVID yet they are being told they must take these experimental injections without any consideration for the short and long term medical consequences, which are not yet fully understood given that this entire “vaccine” program was developed at “warp speed.” 

Mr. Baker, have you looked at the VAERS database? Do a simple search for “pilot” and you will find stories like this:

VAERS ID 18009611: 26 yr old Military Student pilot (previously in excellent physical condition without any underlying conditions), reports that he received in June 2021. He presented to clinic with concerns about fluttering/racing of hear, heart noticed his heart rate has felt elevated in the last 2 months. Patient reports the heart rate feels racing during the morning for approximately 2 hours , and that he feels fairly tired following the event. Patient reports that his physical training has been harder to complete due to the racing heart race, the patient feels as though he is losing his breathe more often and getting tired more quickly. Patient reports no intervention, but he did attempt to change diet and exercise. EKG demonstrated pericarditis sent for labs, ECHO and cardiology consult to rule out myocarditis.

This is just one heartbreaking example. I used to respect AOPA but am now considering canceling my membership because your organization, along with other aviation alphabet groups and the FAA, is turning a blind eye to the Biden administration’s unconscionable policies and the threats they pose to aviation safety and the future of our aviation industry.

Respectfully requesting a thoughtful reply.

His email response four days later was shocking and extremely disappointing:

Dear Ms. Holladay,

I am in receipt of your message. First, thank you for your membership and for everything you do to promote general aviation.

It is indeed unfortunate that companies must resort to vaccine mandates. We all wish COVID was not an issue, but it is and must be dealt with. The mandates help protect co-workers and customers. If customers don’t feel comfortable interacting with staff, a business can be lost.

This is not an aviation issue; it is one of public health. As with any vaccine, there will always be the outlier adverse reaction; in reality, the vaccines have saved thousands of lives. That is a scientific fact backed by all leading medical bodies.

Further, the VAERS site you referenced is one full of opinion; anyone is free to offer a belief. None of these opinions are reviewed by anyone in a medical or scientific capacity, or in a position of trust.

According to a leading scientist at Johns Hopkins: “VAERS is a passive reporting system, which anybody can report to, which means there is no checking.” Even the CDC and FDA, which manage the VAERS site, clearly point out in bold type that “VAERS is not designed to determine if a vaccine caused a health problem.”

At the request of the vast majority of employees, we have a vaccine mandate here at AOPA. More than 90 percent of staff were vaccinated when we opened our offices back up in October. Those who were vaccinated clearly told us that they were not comfortable being around those who might not be.

The young men you refer to are at no lower risk of contracting COVID than anyone else. The consequences for them if they are infected may be lower than some other population segments, but their ability to spread the virus is as high as it is for anyone else. Personally, I couldn’t imagine getting into a training airplane next to a flight instructor who is not vaccinated, and we do not allow that.

The vaccines have now all received CDC and FDA approval and are no longer considered experimental.

My sentiments are not political. They are rooted in science and with the firm conviction that vaccines save lives.

Again, thank you for reaching out and for continuing to support general aviation.

Sincerely, Mark Baker

After reading his email, I picked up the phone and called AOPA to cancel my membership, which I’ve held continuously for 20 years. I can no longer support an organization that refuses to support me, my customers and my staff.

Pilots must immediately take control of their lives and their careers and “fly the airplane” to a safe landing.