Garmin Honored at Collier Trophy Gala

Dozens of team members from Garmin Aviation responsible for bringing Autoland to fruition surround the Collier trophy. Julie Boatman

It’s the one award in aviation that you can’t take home with you.

The National Aeronautic Association honored Garmin Aviation at a gala event in Arlington, Virginia, on November 4, bestowing its highest accolade, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, upon the group responsible for the Autoland system for light aircraft.

The trophy itself lives in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum just a few miles away and across the Potomac River. It only comes out one night each year—to fete those honored with its recognition.

President of NAA Greg Principato reflected on the trophy itself in his remarks leading to the presentation of the award.

“People are always interested in this: The trophy’s about seven feet tall, and weighs about 500 pounds … it requires great effort to bring out each year, and for that, and for its care throughout the year, we can thank the keeper of the Collier, Caroline Russo.”

Samantha Magill, vice chair of the NAA board of directors, announced the award committee’s basis for the award.

“For designing, developing, and fielding Garmin Autoland, the world’s first certified autonomous system that activates during an emergency to safely control and land an aircraft without human intervention.”

An Emotional Moment

Phil Straub, executive vice president and managing director-aviation for Garmin, accepted the award on behalf of the dozens of Garmin team members both in attendance and back in Olathe, Kansas.

“This is emotional—I didn’t know what this would be like before I got up here,” Straub said.

“I’m humbled and I’m honored to receive this prestigious award. It remains surreal to stand in the company of so many aerospace greats who forged their position ahead of us. As I reflect on their achievements, I recognize how they expanded the reaches of aviation, with speed, distance, and even into space.

“Autoland is not pushing any of those boundaries. It’s impact is different—and immeasurable in the hearts and minds of the passengers and pilots.”

Garmin was also awarded with the 2021 FLYING Innovation Award for its Autoland system. Garmin

About the Award

The Robert J. Collier Trophy is awarded annually “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.”

It was first commissioned in 1910 by Collier, the publisher of Collier’s Weekly and then-president of the Aero Club of America, National Chapter, which was the predecessor to the NAA.

This year marks the 106th award. Garmin was also recognized for the Autoland system with the 2021 FLYING Innovation Award.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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