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AOPA Air Safety Foundation honors Donald Freeman as top corporate partner for 2000AOPA Air Safety Foundation honors Donald Freeman as top corporate partner for 2000

D ALLAS—The AOPA Air Safety Foundation honored Donald S. Freeman, Jr., chairman and CEO of The Freeman Companies, with the foundation's Partnering with Corporate America Award, recognizing him as the nation's "top corporate partner for general aviation safety" in 2000.

The award acknowledges Freeman's support for ASF pilot education and research programs and his leadership in the use of general aviation in his corporate operations.

(General aviation includes all flying except that done by scheduled airlines and the military. GA accounts for more than 90 percent of all active aircraft, serving more than 19,000 landing facilities in the United States compared to fewer than 400 for scheduled airlines. GA pilots log an estimated 30 million hours annually.)

A member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) since 1968, Freeman was presented with the award at ASF's first annual Partnering With Corporate America black-tie dinner at the Hotel Adolphus in Dallas on March 14.

"Unlike less progressive CEOs, Don Freeman helped blaze a path for use of general aviation in corporate America," said ASF Vice President for Corporate Giving Robert Milanchus. "His unstinting support has ensured that ASF's motto of 'Safe Pilots, Safe Skies' will continue to be a reality for all."

The Freeman Companies now comprise seven companies that provide services for expositions, conventions, corporate events, and exhibit programs.

Last year, the 3,200 full-time employee owners and the more than 28,000 part-time employees produced 3,700 trade shows and more than 11,000 other events.

The Freeman Companies first embraced general aviation flying in 1966, when company founder D.S. "Buck" Freeman needed faster, more efficient transportation from the company home office in Des Moines, Iowa, to new offices in Dallas and Houston, Texas. The company utilized several different models of twin-engine Piper aircraft, all flown by full-time pilots.

But when son Don Freeman—a pilot himself—took over as president of Freeman Companies in 1973, he began using personally flown aircraft to build the company. Over the years, he has owned and flown such Piper aircraft as a single-engine Cherokee, a twin-engine Aztec, and a turboprop Cheyenne. Don Freeman's use of general aviation aircraft helped him build the companies into one of the largest convention and trade show service providers in the United States, now with 51 offices in 26 North American cities.

Freeman is the first recipient of the annual ASF Partnering with Corporate America Award, which recognizes CEOs who have demonstrated a life-long commitment to general aviation and GA safety.

Criteria for ASF's Partnering with Corporate America Award include:

  • Leadership in his or her industry;
  • Effective integration of general aviation into the corporate environment;
  • Corporate support for the Air Safety Foundation's mission of providing ongoing safety research and education for general aviation pilots;
  • A belief that an investment in safety will yield important dividends for all who fly;
  • Membership in the 365,000-plus member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which includes more than 57 percent of all active pilots.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation was chartered in 1950 to promote GA safety through research and education. Since ASF's founding, the GA accident rate has dropped by more than 87 percent.

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