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2003 Awards Release

       

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National Aeronautic Association

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Nicole Regele, 703-527-0226 August 25, 2003 awards@naa-usa.org

NAA Announces First Ever Winners of Public Benefit Flying Awards

"Above and Beyond" ceremony set for September 10 on Capitol Hill

Six individuals and organizations have been chosen by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) to receive new awards designed to recognize the many unsung heroes volunteering to help others through "public benefit flying" (PBF).

The awards--issued in five categories of service--were recently established by NAA in partnership with the Air Care Alliance (ACA), an umbrella group that supports the efforts of the many volunteer pilot PBF organizations.

According to NAA President Donald Koranda, "It is time we give credit to the amazing number of volunteers who work behind the scenes to devote their love of flying to humanitarian purposes. Every day, these people are serving their communities, both on the ground and in the air, flying people to medical facilities, airlifting supplies to disaster victims, and assisting with other charitable causes. Until now, there was no formal means of publicly acknowledging their dedication."

The award recipients will be honored for their distinguished service at "Above and Beyond," a reception and ceremony being held on September 10, 2003 from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm in the LBJ Room of the US Capitol.

The winners for 2003 are:

Distinguished Flying Volunteer: David Altman, Blue Bell, PA Over the past 10 years this volunteer pilot has flown more than 220 patient and medical transport missions for Angel Flight East (AFE), a nonprofit group based outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, near Wings Field. A retired Marine who went into the construction business, Altman contacts AFE every week to see if there is another humanitarian mission he can fly. Altman's enthusiasm for his work is infectious. According to AFE, "Currently, we have 23 pilots based at Wings Field who were recruited directly by David or by someone David recruited in the past." Altman, now 81 years old, flies a Piper Navajo.

Distinguished Volunteer: Kevin Sell, Bridgeville, PA Kevin Sell is President and one of the founders of the Volunteer Pilots Association (VPA), which focuses on medically critical transportation. He serves as coordinator of the Association's missions, which number more than 200 annually. "Kevin has been, quite literally, 'on call' 24/7 for most of the past 13 years," says a VPA spokesman. "Always carrying a pager, cell phone, and a dog-eared pilot's list wherever he goes, Kevin willingly accepts calls anytime of the day or night, holidays, weekends, etc., to respond instantly to requests...." Sell does this on his own time out of his home near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Outstanding Achievement in Support of Public Benefit Flying - Individual: Tom Goodwin, Sacramento, CA Tom Goodwin pioneered the entire concept of volunteer pilots flying medical cargo and needy patients in their own planes. He is the founding spirit behind AirLifeLine (ALL), a 25-year-old public-benefit flying charity. Following his example other pilots joined and the group grew from 20 pilots to about 1,400 now. They have flown more than 30,000 charitable missions, transporting more than 9,500 people last year alone. Goodwin, who lives in Sacramento, California, now serves as a director of ALL, soon to merge with Angel Flight America.

Outstanding Achievement in Support of Public Benefit Flying - Organization: Mercy Med+Flight, Fort Worth, TX Also receiving an award in this category is Mercy Med+Flight (MMF), a Texas-based organization honored for significantly increasing the capabilities of public benefit flying by becoming the first successful national free volunteer crewed air ambulance. Each flight crew consists of two volunteer pilots and two volunteer medical attendants. Founded in 1996, MMF says "we can now help non-ambulatory patients and their families in and out of every [U.S.] state except Hawaii."

Public Benefit Flying Team Award: Angel Flight of Oklahoma, Volunteer Pilots Association, and all other groups cooperating to fly relief missions following Sept. 11, 2001 :

Responding to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a nonprofit group, Angel Flight of Oklahoma, contacted the Oklahoma Blood Institute, offering to ferry blood supplies to New York City. AFO in turn called on the Volunteer Pilots Association of Pennsylvania to fly the final legs of the trip. Together, the two groups accomplished the mission within less than 24 hours from the time of the first attack, operating with special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration and flying while all other civilian planes were grounded. Soon similar missions were flown by other groups all over the country. This award is shared by all participating groups, which include Angel Flight of Georgia, AirLifeLine, Angel Flight East, Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, Angel Flight Southeast, Angel Flights Network, Corporate Angel Network, the Civil Air Patrol, LifeLine Pilots, and more.

Champion of Public Benefit Flying: Civil Air Patrol.  In its 62-year history, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has trained thousands of cadets to assist with a multitude of public-service needs. Organized in 1941, the group was initially drawn into World War II in support of civil defense. After the war Congress made CAP an auxiliary of the Air Force, and the focus shifted to search-and-rescue and disaster-relief missions, with new missions being added more recently. The award recognizes CAP for being the leader in volunteer pilot operations and for illustrating to the American public the value of these services to the nation.

The winners were chosen by a committee of aviation industry and public benefit flying leaders, including Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, NAA Chairman; Pete West, Senior Vice President, National Business Aircraft Association; Donald Andersen, President, Aero Club of Atlanta; Richard Blacker, Former Director, Angel Flight West, and former advising counsel for EVAC, Air Care Alliance, and Angel Flight West; Phillip Kolcyznski, Aviation Attorney, Legal Columnist for Avweb, and advisor to several Public Benefit Flying groups; Ted Wolf, Trustee, the Wolf Aviation Fund and former Chairman, CheckPoint Systems; and Wanda Whitsitt, Chairman Emeritus and Founder, LifeLine Pilots, and former board member AirLifeLine and Air Care Alliance.

As indicated by the wide range of winning entries, there are many different kinds of flying that NAA and ACA seek to honor with the awards. According to ACA Chairman Rol Murrow, "Using their own time and general aviation aircraft pilot volunteers from the many public benefit flying organizations help hundreds of people each month. They and many non-flying volunteers work to transport needy patients to facilities where they are able to receive medical attention they might otherwise have to do without. They also provide relief following disasters, find lost hikers, and perform environmental support missions. They serve when financial need or other special circumstances mean a compelling human need would otherwise go unfulfilled."

The Air Care Alliance estimates that as many as 30,000 pilots nationwide are now participating in public-benefit programs. Besides the groups already mentioned, the Alliance lists many more, including Challenge Air for Kids, Emergency Volunteer Air Corps, Flying Samaritans, International Shrine Aviation Association, Liga--Flying Doctors of Mercy, LightHawk, Los Medicos Voladores, Mercy Medical Airlift, Miracle Flights for Kids, SouthWings, and Wings of Hope. For a complete listing of all known groups see www.aircareall.org.

Countless stirring and heroic stories have come from these groups and their volunteers. NAA and ACA say they hope that these awards inspire others to learn about this remarkable activity and the volunteer pilots who have helped so many individuals and communities.

ACA was founded in 1990 at a meeting hosted by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The Alliance's organizers recognized a need for public-benefit flying group leaders to share resources and ideas thus improving their missions of service. For additional about the Air Care Alliance see their website at www.aircareall.org.

NAA is a non-profit, membership organization devoted to promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. More information about NAA and its mission is available at www.naa-usa.org.

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Available online at http://www.naa-usa.org/website/html/newsset.html

 

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