October 12, 2012
By Sarah Brown
Flying magazine Editor Robert Goyer, AOPA Pilot Editor Tom Haines, Actor/Pilot Harrison Ford and Craig Fuller discuss GA issues at the Summit Keynote
Actor and pilot Harrison Ford draws a spotlight on flying from the big screen to the halls of Congress. On Oct. 12, the aviation advocate took the stage at the Palm Springs Convention Center to discuss how aviation helped him reinvent his life—and why all pilots should share the value of aviation with the general public—at the keynote session of AOPA Aviation Summit.
Ford said he was interested in aviation in college and took a few lessons, but ran out of money. Later, he said—when he had more money, and an airplane with a professional crew—“I realized pretty quickly that they were having more fun than I was playing with my toys.” He asked pilot Terry Bender to teach him to fly.
“He really helped me reinvent my life,” Ford told AOPA President Craig Fuller, seated with AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines and Flying Editor in Chief Robert Goyer in front of a standing-room-only crowd. “… When people asked me what I did [before], I said I was an actor. And didn’t want to go off into the sunset having only done one thing.”
Now Ford flies everything from taildraggers to helicopters; the actor recently flew in Africa with his wife and 11-year-old son. But he said a busy year—he’s been working on three films—has kept him from flying as much as he’d like lately.
“I’ve been working for a living, to support my airplane habit,” he quipped.
Ford’s remarks came at the conclusion of a keynote that included remarks from FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta, along with Haines and Goyer. A passionate advocate for general aviation, Ford has offered his celebrity to efforts to educate the public about the value of GA to the nation. Fuller credited Ford with drawing attention to the cause in the halls of Congress; many members of Congress are now members of the GA Caucus, a group Ford said is an effective tool.
Attendees may not have as wide an audience as Ford, but he urged them to share the importance of preserving the nation’s airport system and the freedom to fly, and to tell the story of GA to the general public. “It’s a lot of fun for us to talk about aviation amongst ourselves, but we’ve got to spread the word beyond our fellow pilots” and talk to the public about the benefits that accrue to them, he said.
Speaking out on behalf of aviation comes naturally to the passionate pilot, who retains an enthusiasm for the activity he began in earnest two decades ago.
“I love it as much now as when I first got the taste,” Ford said.
Patty Wagstaff is a patient teacher, with the skill and experience to get the most out of the Extra 300L—and her student.
Gene Leak is something of a local celebrity to local news outlets eager to cover his 102nd birthday flight.
Sporty’s Pilot Shop founder Hal Shevers said he might never have made aviation his career if not for local flying clubs.
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