John Luce, who served as AOPA's Eastern Region representative for nearly a decade, was honored posthumously with an AOPA Presidential Citation during AOPA Expo 2003's Team AOPA general session. The citation was given to his wife, Mary.
The citation read in part, "John earned the admiration and respect of countless AOPA members and government officials. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association commemorates John's enthusiasm for and dedication to advancing general aviation."
"John was a gentleman and an avid pilot who was willing to go in and fight the battles that needed fighting," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And he never forgot who he ultimately was working for...the AOPA members living and flying in his region."
As AOPA's Eastern regional representative, Luce covered Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In terms of pilot population, the Eastern region is the largest in the country.
He was an electrical engineer by training and worked for NASA, including serving as spacecraft director.
Luce's flying career began in the 1950s at Philadelphia's Wings Field, where AOPA was founded. After moving to Frederick, Maryland, in 1959, he completed his private license and acquired his commercial, multiengine, and instrument flight instructor ratings, mostly while flying tailwheel airplanes.
For a number of years, Luce operated an Aviation Ground School under contract with the U.S. Army at Ft. Ritchie, Maryland. During this time he was also appointed as the flight instructor for the newly formed NASA flying club at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
In 1964, Luce created Orion Airways, a Part 135 air taxi service operating out of Frederick. In addition to providing regional passenger service, Orion Airways was granted a special FAA hazardous materials permit intended for use in transporting critical rocket engine components for missile operations at NASA launch sites.
Over the years, Luce was an active instructor with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, primarily participating in the instrument refresher clinics.
"He was a pilot's pilot," said Boyer. "He loved to fly his Cessna 170 and often used it to travel on behalf of AOPA."
AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, headquartered just outside Washington, D.C., with 13 regional representatives spread out across the country to protect the interests of general aviation in state and local matters. General aviation includes all flying except the scheduled airlines and the military. Nearly two thirds of all U.S. pilots, and three quarters of the GA pilots, are AOPA members.