Harrison Ford among many who received aviation awards from the AOPA at a recent R.A. “Bob” Hoover Awards Ceremony.
FREDERICK, MD – The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), along with aviation industry leaders, and elected officials from Capitol Hill, gathered in March at Ronald Reagan National Airport’s historic Terminal A in Washington, D.C., for the third annual R.A. “Bob” Hoover Awards.
Pilot and award-winning movie actor Harrison Ford received the R.A. Bob Hoover Trophy and AOPA presented additional awards to lawmakers and other individuals for their contributions to general aviation. AOPA President Mark Baker noted that the trophy is presented to an “aviator who exhibits the airmanship, leadership, and passion for aviation and life demonstrated by Bob Hoover.”
During his remarks, 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 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 general aviation in the fight against so-called privatization when it mattered most.”
Russell said he began his “journey to fly” 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 former dictator 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.
Past Hartranft honorees include Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), and Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). AOPA also presented Freedom to Fly Awards to four dozen members of Congress for their dedication and actions in support of GA.
AOPA Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden, 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.
VanGrunsven, whose homebuilt aircraft manufacturing company recently celebrated the 10,000th completed kit, pledged to work with the safety institute and other aviation entities to further the safety for builders and operators of homebuilt aircraft.
Baker also presented the Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award to Alaska Airport Support Network volunteer Ron Dearborn. The retired engineer, private pilot, and Bellanca Scout owner was instrumental in coordinating several initiatives at Fairbanks International Airport. The award, named for AOPA’s first chairman of the board, is given to individuals who do not work in aviation but have nonetheless made extraordinary contributions to GA.