Aviation Notables Honor Volunteer Pilots

Photo by Evan Peers

About 400 people, including several astronauts and other aviation celebrities, were seated underneath the recently retired Endeavor space shuttle at the California Science Center in Los Angeles for the inaugural Endeavor Awards honoring pilots volunteering their services for public benefit flights.

The event was spearheaded by Angel Flight West, a charitable organization whose volunteer pilots fly critical transportation missions, mostly for patients in need of medical treatments away from home. However, the Endeavor Award honorees were selected from pilots flying missions for one or several of the nearly 150 volunteer pilot organizations nationwide.

Sean D. Tucker energized the crowd as he emceed the festivities. R.A. Bob Hoover made a special salute to the astronauts in attendance. Other aviation notables in the crown included Clay Lacy and John and Martha King.

There were many tear-filled eyes in the room as videos were shown from the honored volunteers' missions. The first inaugural Endeavor award was given to Jeff Hendricks for his flights benefiting the Veteran's Airlift Command and Angel Flight West. Hendricks has flown nearly 68,000 mission miles.

The second honoree, Joe DeMarco, Sr, founded Wings Flights of Hope and has flown 1,165 missions in his 10 years of flying for public benefit. One of the patients he flew is a young boy named Luke, who was in attendance at the gala and said he would not have been able to get his new lungs were it not for DeMarco's efforts.

Finally, Joe Howley, co-founder, president and chairman of the board at Patient Airlift Services, was honored for his 15 years as a volunteer pilot and fundraiser for public benefit flight.

The Endeavor Awards is expected to become an annual event.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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