Charles E. McGee, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, received the inaugural Aviation Inspiration Award that bears his name. (Photo: AOPA)
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association honoured aviators in a virtual presentation of the fifth annual R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy Awards.
Designer Burt Rutan, retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kenyatta Ruffin, and BRS Aerospace founder Boris Popov were all recognized for exemplifying courage, perseverance, and service.
The virtual ceremony celebrated the 2020 award winners due to the pandemic which canceled the event last year.
Rutan was recognized for the highest honour of the night, the R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy for exhibiting “the airmanship, leadership, and passion for aviation” that Hoover had, as well as for having a “distinguished career as a pilot and aviation advocate while also serving as a source of inspiration and encouragement for current and prospective aviators.”
Rutan joins Clay Lacy, Harrison Ford, Sean D. Tucker, and Bob Hoover himself as recipients of the annual award.
McGee, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, was awarded with the inaugural Aviation Inspiration Award that bears his name. As a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, McGee fought two wars at once during World War II, one against fascism in Europe and the other against racism in the United States.
McGee, now 101, persevered to make the world a better place, and he encourages others to do the same. In a pre-recorded message, he encouraged young people to follow four Ps: perceive, prepare with a good education, perform to the best of their ability, and persevere despite their circumstances.
“Safety is our DNA here at AOPA,” Baker said, introducing AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden, who presented the 2020 General Aviation Safety Award to Popov. “We’ve been able to drive the general aviation safety accident rate down year after year thanks to people like Boris,” McSpadden said.
Popov designed the whole-airframe parachute concept after he survived a hang gliding accident. Popov fell 500 feet and hit the water. He decided to develop a parachute safety device to help prevent similar accidents. Now, more than 30,000 general aviation aircraft are equipped with BRS parachutes.