In May 2014, the COPA Safety and Education Foundation took flight to raise funds and resources to expand our safety and training programs. The initial fundraising campaign achieved $350,000 in contributions that has helped our COPA University initiative take off. This blog will appear in the January/February 2017 issue of COPA Pilot magazine.

Why a Foundation?

After a decade of success with safety programs that helped COPA Pilots reduce our accident rates, we wanted to do more.

Both the overall Cirrus accident rate and the fatal accident rate are now half of the NTSB general aviation accident rate.

Importantly, few participants in our safety programs have been involved in Cirrus accidents; no attendee of the CPPP has died in a fatal accident in the past three years.

Yet, we knew there were bigger and bolder efforts required.

Growing Our Safety Programs

Most of that incredible progress built on the dedicated work of numerous volunteers over the past 15 years.

To get to the next level, we faced challenges to broaden our course offerings, reach more pilots in more places around the world, and deliver content in new ways, especially using online learning experiences.

What a Foundation Can Do

Establishing a safety foundation provides a path for raising capital to invest in growth. 

Our planned needs were much greater than could be achieved by raising fees for participants. We needed much more, especially for course development, global outreach and online delivery.

Safety foundations exist in several other aviation groups, such as the American Bonanza Society Air Safety Foundation, the Malibu Mirage Safety Training Foundation, and the granddaddy of them all, now called the AOPA Air Safety Institute. They raise funds to offer effective safety training programs to their members.

In May of 2014, we incorporated the COPA Safety and Education Foundation. In December of 2014, the IRS determined that this was a tax-exempt public charity that could raise funds through tax-deductible contributions.

Organizational Structure

With professional advice on how to structure this foundation, the Board of Directors split off two entities from the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association.

COPA would still operate the social activities, such as the forum discussions on cirruspilots.org, the annual migrations and our expanding regional events program (technically a 501(c)(7) IRS designation).

The first split, the COPA Safety and Education Foundation, gave us a charitable non-profit that could raise the money we needed (technically a 501(c)(3) IRS designation).

The second split, the COPA Training Foundation LLC, provides a firewall from liability involving a training accident (technically a wholly owned LLC under the Safety Foundation). All of the training activities using the umbrella of COPA University happen through the COPA Training Foundation.


Organizational structure for the existing Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association, the COPA Safety and Education Foundation and the COPA Training Foundation LLC. COPA operates the social activities, the Safety Foundation raises funds, and the Training Foundation operates the COPA University initiative.

Raising Funds through Charitable Contributions

With the IRS designation as a 501(c)(3) public charity, the COPA Safety and Education Foundation began raising funds for our training initiatives.

Generous COPA Community

As one might expect of the members of the COPA community, who have been generous in so many different ways, contributions to support the COPA Safety and Education Foundation have reached $350,000 towards a target of $500,000 for the Founding Donors Campaign.

All of the Trustees of the Foundation have contributed. Some donors have contributed large amounts of $25,000 or more. Many more donors have contributed $1,000 or more. Some donors contributed through family or private foundations. And we are starting to receive annual contributions.

Variety of Ways to Contribute

These donations have come in a variety of ways. Some wrote checks delivered to the COPA Office in Las Vegas. Some used credit cards through our online donation link at copasafety.org.

A few donors contributed appreciated shares of stock, where the tax-deductible amount is based on the fair market value (please do not rely upon this as tax advice!).

One donor, the estate of John Leber, contributed tangible property in the form of his Visual Motion TouchTrainer flight simulator.

Many participants in our safety programs have contributed through RegOnline when they make optional donations.

Total of Over 350 Donors

For the Founding Donors campaign, over 350 people have contributed. Past-President  arranged to provide the Foundation with pins to honor those founding donors. The initial distribution of pins happened in conjunction with the COPA @ Oshkosh dinner.

The design of recognition pins given to donors in the Founding Donor Campaign for the COPA Safety and Education Foundation.

Our Safety Programs have a new home: COPA University

With the initial success of fundraising, the Foundation obtained the funds to grant money to the COPA University initiative.

, Provost of COPA University, leads this initiative. At M14, he gave an update on progress to date.

YouTube video of Trip Taylor’s update on COPA University at M14 in Duluth, September 2016: 

https://youtu.be/qqLPb5o4sBw

The initial grant enabled COPA University to acquire and develop the John Leber Memorial Procedure Trainer Laboratory. Four desktop flight simulators travel to each CPPP event to provide scenario training that compliments the knowledge courses.

A second subsequent grant funded a planning and strategy project to explore how COPA University will build an online learning experience in 2017.

The third grant funds an annual development workshop to expand the COPA Pilot Proficiency Program for 2017.

COPA University Colleges

This annual development workshop involves the deans of the colleges of COPA University:

In addition, the 2016 development workshop invited additional course developers, Cirrus Aircraft training collaborators, and online learning experts.

Safety Programs

All of our current safety programs operate under the umbrella of COPA University:

Growth of CPPP Attendance in 2016

With the funding from the COPA Safety and Education Foundation, COPA University achieved breakout attendance in 2016. Over 700 people attended 14 CPPP events in four countries: 11 in the US, 2 in Europe, and 1 in Australia. Half of the events had more than 60 participants.


Attendance at COPA University CPPP events in 2016 increased by 60% over each of the previous 7 years. With over 700 participants, we hosted more than 200 partners and 500 pilots. The expansion of these events was funded by the COPA Safety and Education Foundation.

What You Can Do?

Contribute to the COPA Safety and Education Foundation

We welcome your interest in supporting COPA University and our initiatives.

Two projects for 2017 are underway and might appeal to your interests:

  • Initial development of an online learning experience
  • Support and expansion of the Partner in Command program.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made in a variety of ways. See copasafety.org for details.

Or contact the COPA office at 702-920-2120 or email Donna.

Attend a Safety Event

Since our ultimate achievement will be the safety of all pilots flying Cirrus aircraft, you can invest your time in attending a safety event, listed in the Safety Calendar.

Spread the Word

And if you have attended one of our events and found the experience helpful to you, please spread the word.