Colorado pilots receive Sharples award for advocacy efforts

October 10, 2013

Steve Wood accepts his award from AOPA Senior Vice President Melissa Rudinger.

When Colorado’s Grand Junction Regional Airport took ill-conceived stances on security, leasing, and other issues that were negatively impacting general aviation access to the airport, Dave Shepard and Steve Wood stepped up to protect pilots’ rights.

For their efforts, AOPA name Shepard and Wood the 2013 winners of the Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award. The award, given during the Oct. 10 keynote address at AOPA Aviation Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, is the association’s highest honor for individuals. It is presented annually to the person or people who have made the most significant contributions to the advancement of general aviation, which characterized the life of Laurence P. Sharples, one of AOPA’s founding fathers and its first chairman.

Shepard has been the chairman and catalyst behind the recently organized Grand Junction Airport Users and Tenants Association (GJAUTA). Shepard’s efforts to organize users and tenants at the Grand Junction Regional Airport in Colorado began in 2011 in response to concerns regarding the airport administration’s approach to security, leasing, public engagement, and other issues affecting the airport.

With Shepard’s leadership and determination, GJAUTA was officially organized as a 501(c)(3) group in January 2012. Today the organization has more than 300 members. Since the beginning, Shepard has led the charge to hold the airport’s leadership accountable to its GA users, particularly in regard to the airport’s reconfiguration of security infrastructure and policies, which has had a significant negative impact on GA users and businesses at the airport. The efforts of Shepard and the GJAUTA have brought airport users together, transforming them into an effective and unified voice and compelling the airport administration and TSA to reconsider ill-advised actions in an open and public environment. As a result, security issues at Grand Junction Regional Airport are close to being resolved, and users and tenants now have a powerful influence on other airport issues such as capital improvements, leasing polices, and airport governance.

Grand Junction Regional Airport-based AOPA member Steve Wood also has been an influential and effective force on GA issues at the airport, particularly in his role as a member of the Airport’s Security Solutions Committee, created in January of 2012 to re-evaluate the airport’s ill-devised security infrastructure and procedures. Thanks to Wood’s careful, thoughtful, and collaborative efforts, new dialogue has been established among airport officials, TSA, and airport users. In partnership with the Grand Junction Airport Users and Tenants Association, Wood has worked behind the scenes to make excellent progress on security issues. Despite the demands of his own entrepreneurial career, Steve takes the time to serve on the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority Board.

Shepard and Wood are both passionate and engaged pilots, and together, have been powerful advocates for GA and AOPA members in western Colorado.