National Aeronautic Association Names Recipients of Public Benefit Flying Awards

The NAA awards recognize volunteer pilots and organizations that conduct and support medical transport, emergency response, and other missions.

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced this year’s recipients of its 2023 Public Benefit Flying Awards. The awards recognize volunteer pilots, other volunteers, and organizations involved in aviation in order to help others.

Public benefit flying includes medical transport, search and rescue, emergency response, pet transport, and environmental and conservation support. The NAA said the award recipients “combine their love of flying with the capabilities of general aviation to create a rewarding and valuable part of the aviation story.”

The following are the award categories and this year’s winners.

Distinguished Volunteer Pilot: Dennis Phelan, a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight West and Earth Angel who has flown more than 880 missions transporting patients in need of lifesaving care.

Distinguished Volunteer: David Brubaker, founder of STEM Flights, an mentoring organization that encourages young people to pursue STEM careers. A former Air Force fighter pilot, Brubaker is known for his dedication to youth aviation education.

Teamwork Award: This award goes to all general aviation pilots who were involved in relief efforts on the island of Maui in Hawaii after this year’s deadly wildfires. Rainbow Helicopters represented the group and was recognized for its work transporting essential supplies to families displaced by the fires.

Outstanding Achievement in Advancement of Public Benefit Flying: Jim Hesseman received this award in recognition of his work as a volunteer pilot and president of the Air Care Alliance, an organization that builds awareness of public benefit flying.

Champion of Public Benefit Flying: Lightspeed Aviation received this award for its support of volunteer pilots and charitable aviation. The company has raised awareness of public benefit flying through a variety of media and published materials including its book, Flying for Compassion.

“The selfless dedication of these people is remarkable, and their impact is staggering,” said Amy Spowart, NAA president and CEO. “From a child with a terminal illness to an organ that needs to get across the country for transplant to the movement of people escaping natural disasters, these pilots represent the best in aviation. It’s our honor to recognize them and share their impact for the recognition and inspiration of others.”

Members of the 2023 Public Benefit Flying Awards selection committee include Ed Bolen of the National Business Aviation Association; Linda Daschle, LHD & Associates Inc; Jenna Gerdes, Angel Flight Central; John Lunseth, a 2022 Public Benefit Flying Award recipient; Rol Morrow, Air Care Alliance; Greg Pecoraro, National Association of State Aviation Officials; and

Patty Wagstaff, Patty Wagstaff Aviation Safety LLC.

NAA said the awards presentation will take place in Washington, D.C., on a date to be determined.


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