It was a luncheon that covered all the bases—from industry stalwarts to movie moguls, congressional leaders to passionate volunteers, the “GA at the Movies” Luncheon Nov. 6 was more than a one-liner. Perhaps it was the allure of Hollywood that packed the sold-out afternoon event, but it was the stories told during the event that provided the real substance.
AOPA President Craig Fuller welcomed the 1,000 guests with the awarding of the Joseph B. “Doc” Hartranft Award to Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), members of Congress who helped form the General Aviation Caucus to educate lawmakers about the importance of GA to the nation’s economy and transportation system. Ehlers attended the luncheon, and Boyd sent his remarks via prepared tape. Ehlers quipped that he would probably not regain his seat next year because he chose to attend Summit while Boyd stayed in Washington, D.C. But there will be great support for Ehlers from the GA community, as evidenced by the cheers and laughter that greeted Ehlers’s remarks that USA Today and its recent articles were “stupid.”
Ehlers implored the assembled guests to get to know their own members of Congress and help spread the good word of GA.
Recognizing the good works of an industry leader, Fuller then surprised Sporty’s Pilot Shop founder Hal Shevers with a Presidential Citation—and his 50-year AOPA member pin. Shevers was visibly moved by the standing ovation.
In another moving tribute, Fuller presented the Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award to Walter Fricke, founder, CEO, and chairman of Veterans Airlift Command, an organization that provides free GA transportation to wounded veterans and their families. In the three years since its inception, Veterans Airlift has grown to 1,300 volunteer pilots—Fuller said he was “privileged” to give Fricke the award.
Then Fuller presented the second annual Let’s Go Flying award to actor Harrison Ford for his leadership in the General Aviation Serves America campaign.
“This serves as a nice segue to our next guests,” said Fuller, who introduced the moving and inspiring video clip of A Pilot’s Story, a film by two newly minted pilots. In the film, various pilots explain their love affair with the sky. On stage, Fuller interviewed filmmakers Will Hawkins and Rico Sharqawi, the friends who met while taking flight training and who formed Wilco Films and now share ownership of a 1978 Piper Arrow III and their new film, which will be released next year. Fuller suggested a release in Long Beach, Calif., site of the 2010 AOPA Aviation Summit.
Three members of the extensive team that made up the background material for the recently released movie Amelia, joined Fuller on stage. Susan Butler is the author of “East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart,” the book upon which much of the movie is based. Butler described her favorite scenes in the movie and said she was extremely pleased that the movie is “historically accurate.”
The two pilots who shared much the flying duties during the film also discussed their experiences on the film. Joe Shepherd owns a 1936 Lockheed 12A, which was featured in the film. Shepherd described how he wore makeup and a wig to appear to be Earhart—played by Hillary Swank--in the film, while pilot Jay McClure flew as Earhart’s love interest, played by Richard Gere in the movie. The pair filmed with the movie crew in Canada.
November 6, 2009