Martin G. Christie tonight received AOPA's 2003 Laurance P. Sharples Perpetual Award for his efforts to help save Central Jersey Regional Airport in Hillsborough, N.J., from any threat of being sold. Christie accepted the honor during the closing banquet of AOPA Expo 2003 in Philadelphia.
Presented annually, the Sharples Award recognizes the year's greatest, selfless commitment to general aviation by a private citizen. The award is named for one of five founders of AOPA who formed the group in Philadelphia in 1939.
Christie is the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer at Central Jersey Regional Airport, where he rallied supporters who encouraged the state to purchase development rights at the privately owned field.
"New Jersey's unique state program to purchase development rights at privately owned public-use airports has become a model nationwide," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "A similar program has been proposed in the FAA's reauthorization bill that could benefit other privately owned public-use airports across the nation."
It was a three-year effort on Christie's part. At one point in November 2002, he encouraged more than 120 pilots to speak in favor of the airport at a meeting that drew only three citizens speaking against the airport. Backed by practically everyone including Gov. James E. McGreevey, supporters were told in November that funding was assigned by the state to purchase development rights of the airport.
Then funding was appropriated during the 2003 legislative session, and the state presented the check to the owners in March. The present owners will continue to operate the airport, but they have agreed to preserve the property as an airport in perpetuity.
The 400,000 members of AOPA make up the world's largest civil aviation organization. AOPA is committed to ensuring the continued viability, growth, and development of aviation and airports in the United States. These airports are a vital and critical component of a national transportation system.