AOPA also celebrated Dick VanGrunsven and several Congressional members for their efforts in promoting general aviation.
If R.A. Bob Hoover was still with us, he’d be proud to see the long list of notable people who gathered in Washington last week for the third annual award ceremony named in honor of the late aviation master. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, along with aviation industry leaders and elected officials from Capitol Hill, assembled last week at Ronald Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A for the event, presenting actor Harrison Ford with the R.A. Bob Hoover Trophy for his contributions to general aviation.
AOPA president Mark Baker said the trophy is presented to an “aviator who exhibits the airmanship, leadership and passion for aviation and life demonstrated by Bob Hoover.” Ford, a longtime AOPA member, summed up the freedom of flight in the United States as “a legacy” that was “particularly American.” He closed by saying, “We have a responsibility to provide safe aviation for all future aviators. God bless America.”
The Joseph B. “Doc” Hartranft Jr. Award, named for AOPA’s first president, was also presented to Reps. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) and Ralph Abraham (R-La.) for their leadership and support of GA in Congress. Baker thanked the representatives who “spoke out on behalf of GA in the fight against ATC privatization when it mattered most.” A long list of other Congressional members was also given AOPA’s Freedom to Fly Award for their dedication and actions in support of GA.
Looking back on his entry into aviation, Russell said he began his journey a year and a half ago and quickly realized the challenges of an aviation industry that served all types of aviators, both GA and commercial pilots. “Airspace belongs to ‘We, the people’—it doesn’t belong to anybody else,” he said. Russell, a former Army Ranger before being elected to Congress, commanded the Army unit in Iraq that captured Saddam Hussein.
Abraham concurred, adding, “It takes a village, and Steve and I are proud to be part of that village.” He was referring to the battle to divest air traffic control from the FAA, which failed on Capitol Hill. He said, “It was a fight and, thankfully, we prevailed.” In addition to being a member of Congress, Abraham is also a private pilot, medical doctor, veterinarian and farmer.
Richard McSpadden, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Institute and a former commander and flight leader of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, presented the inaugural GA Safety Award to Van’s Aircraft founder, pilot and engineer Dick VanGrunsven. “Dick’s work stands as testament that excellence and safety go hand in hand,” said McSpadden.