The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of the U.S.A. spearheaded the formation of IAOPA. An interim organization came into being on February 2, 1962, with four other groups joining AOPA-U.S. to form the nucleus of what was to be the permanent organization. The founding groups were:
One of the provisions in the IAOPA Constitution and Bylaws is that only one organization will be accepted from each country.
An informal objective worked out between the founders and ICAO headquarters officials was that a minimum number of countries would be represented in IAOPA before the organization would apply to ICAO for official status. In the interim, IAOPA participated in ICAO meetings by specific invitation.
The permanent IAOPA organization came into being on October 22, 1964. On this day the organization also was accorded accredited status by ICAO.
There are currently 68 IAOPA affiliate organizations representing the interests of more than 470,000 aircraft pilots and owners worldwide.
The governing authority of IAOPA is the Executive Board, consisting of the chief executives of all affiliate organizations. Regular meetings of the Board are held at least every two years in conjunction with the associations World Assembly. Regional meetings are held periodically, normally semi-annually.
The President and five Regional Vice Presidents are elected for four-year terms. The Senior Vice President is appointed by the President from the ranks of the Regional Vice Presidents. All serve without remuneration from IAOPA. An appointed Secretary General, ICAO Representative and Administrator constitute the Secretariat of the organization. The secretariat is located in Frederick, Maryland, USA and regional offices are located with their associated vice presidents
The association provides representation at all major ICAO meetings of interest to general aviation and to a number of the their regional meetings, working groups and panels wherein general aviation is involved. Experts on general aviation operations are drawn from the IAOPA affiliates to provide representation at ICAO meetings and at many other conferences of international bodies. The representatives for each meeting are drawn, so far as is practicable, from IAOPA affiliates in the area of the meeting. These are supplemented by staff of the IAOPA secretariat and as necessary.
IAOPA positions on contemporary matters under consideration by ICAO and other groups are formed through dissemination of agenda items and working papers to affiliates. The resulting comments and recommendations are consolidated by the secretariat to form policy. A monthly newsletter is sent to all affiliates and more than 150 other interested organizations and aviation leaders around the world.
Each IAOPA affiliate pays annual dues according to its total membership to support the secretariat operations of the organization.
IAOPA works closely with international association in the formation of policies and presentation of positions to ICAO and other world aviation standards setting and regulator bodies. These include the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations, International Air Transport Association, International Federation of Air Line Pilot Associations, Airports Council International, Civil Air Navigation Services Organization, International Business Aviation Council and Federation Aeronautique International.