AOPA 2003 journalism award winners honored for fair, insightful coverage of general aviation

October 30, 2003

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Larry Randa
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Mark Erskine
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Belle Adler
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Brad White
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Kim Green

A freelance reporter from Oak Brook, Ill., television producers from Seattle, Wash., and Bethesda, Md., and a radio reporter from Nashville, Tenn., have all been awarded the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's prestigious 2003 Max Karant Journalism Award.

Winners Larry Randa of The Business Ledger of suburban Chicago, Mark Erskine of NBC Seattle affiliate KING-TV, Belle Adler and Brad White of White Paper Productions in Bethesda, Md., and Kim Green of WPLN Radio in Nashville, Tenn., were presented with their awards during the Opening Luncheon today at AOPA Expo 2003, the association's annual convention and trade show, held this year in Philadelphia.

"Today we honor those members of the media who have made a real contribution to helping the general public understand what general aviation is and what it does," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These are reporters and producers who speak to the non-flying public and show them what we already know—that general aviation flying is useful, beneficial to the community, and, above all, fun."

Growing GA airports

Larry Randa, a former editor and publisher for a suburban Chicago weekly newspaper and currently a freelance writer, won first place in the print category for his two-part series on general aviation airports in the Chicago suburbs.

At a time when neighbors of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport are at war with the city of Chicago over airport expansion plans, Randa's articles look at five general aviation airports that are thriving because of enthusiastic support from their local communities. The articles point out the economic impact the airports provide to the communities, and the communities' awareness of the airports' value.

Randa's articles provided his readers with a clear picture of the benefits a GA airport brings to a community and what communities that understand and value those benefits can do to support the airport.

In addition to the two main articles, Randa wrote sidebar stories on each of the five profiled airports.

Alan R. Earls of Franklin, Mass., received an honorable mention in the print category for "Flying with the propeller set," an article in the Boston Sunday Globe on the pleasures and practicality of general aviation flying.

Lost in the clouds

Producer Mark Erskine of KING-TV in Seattle is this year's Karant Award winner in the TV—News or Short Feature category. Erskine put together a dramatic retelling of the story of a GA pilot who kept his head and the air traffic controller who helped him reach safety.

Using interviews with the pilot and controller, footage shot with the pilot while airborne and with the controller at his work station, Erskine created a gripping dramatization of an accidental entry into instrument meteorological conditions while flying through the Cascade Mountains.

Through Erskine's storytelling ability, audience members were led to understand that VFR pilots, who normally fly without talking to air traffic controllers, are highly skilled. They also got an inside look at how pilots and air traffic controllers can work together using a variety of tools available to avert a tragedy.

Eric Hurst of WFSB-TV in Hartford, Conn., received an honorable mention for his smile-inducing story about a pilot who never drives if he can fly somewhere, including his 11-minute aerial commute from his airpark home to his job at Bradley International Airport.

Operation Animal Shield

Producers Belle Adler and Brad White of Bethesda, Md.'s White Paper Productions are joint recipients of this year's Karant Award for TV—Program Length category for their work on Operation Animal Shield, which aired on the cable channel Animal Planet.

Adler and White followed American GA pilots Patty Wagstaff and Dale Snodgrass to Kenya to train wildlife rangers with the Kenya Wildlife Service. The rangers fly low-level patrols and often come under fire from poachers. With spectacular aerial and ground photography, Operation Animal Shield shows Wagstaff, a world champion aerobatic pilot, and Snodgrass, a decorated former combat pilot, training the rangers in potentially lifesaving aerobatic and evasive maneuvers.

Those who watched Operation Animal Shield saw one of the many facets of general aviation that often never crosses the non-flying public's mind. Like police officers patrolling from above or pilots and flight nurses in medevac helicopters, the rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service use general aviation as a law enforcement and protection tool. The program also showcased the willingness of GA pilots such as Wagstaff and Snodgrass to use their flying skills for the benefit of others.

Women in Aviation

WPLN Radio's Kim Green won this year's Karant Award for Radio. Using the annual Women In Aviation convention in Nashville, Tenn., as a starting place, Green, a flight instructor herself, looked at efforts to rectify one of the greatest imbalances in aviation—the number of female pilots.

Women currently make up only about six percent of U.S. pilots and 12 percent of flight students. Green followed one young woman interested in an aviation career as she attended the annual convention and mingled with seasoned female pilots eager to encourage young women to fly.

Today, GA is the entry point into aviation careers. Decades ago, airline pilots came predominantly from the military. But now, if not for general aviation, most airline cockpits would be empty. Green's report showcased the skill and confidence instilled by GA flight training and that there is a place and a need for female pilots.

Jason Paur of KUOW-FM in Seattle earned an honorable mention for his report on the inroads being made by upstart GA manufacturers like Lancair into a market long dominated by aviation's Big Three—Beechcraft, Cessna, and Piper.

The Karant awards honor the best of "fair, accurate and insightful" reporting on general aviation in the general (non-aviation) media. They include categories for print, TV or video, and radio, and carry an honorarium of $1,000 in each category. The awards are named for the late Max Karant, founder of AOPA Pilot magazine and the association's first senior vice president.

With over 400,000 members, AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization. It is dedicated to defending the interests of general aviation and educating the public at large about the benefits GA offers, whether a person is a pilot or not. Some two thirds of all U.S. pilots are members of AOPA.

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