AOPA President Phil Boyer presents the
2005 Hartranft Award to Rep. James Oberstar.
The power of AOPA's 407,000 members carries a lot of political weight, but even so, it sometimes takes the special effort of dedicated political leaders who love general aviation to make good things happen. And to recognize those uncommon politicians, AOPA created the Hartranft Award, named after the association's first president.
Saturday evening in Tampa, AOPA presented the J.B. "Doc" Hartranft Award to Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.). "Jim has been a friend of AOPA's for many years and is recognized by his peers and by the aviation community as an aviation expert. Even though he isn't a pilot, I call him 'Mr. Aviation,'" said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "As the Ranking Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Jim has an influential role and has served the aviation community well."
Oberstar has been a strong and reliable ally in AOPA's efforts to defeat air traffic control privatization and user fees. He recognizes that a strong, viable air transportation system is critical to the nation.
"Just as you honor me, let me honor you, the citizen pilot," Rep. Oberstar said. "You support the aviation infrastructure with your landing fees and fuel taxes. You are an American phenomenon - the citizen pilot." Oberstar spoke to the closing banquet of AOPA Expo 2005 via videotape.
But these are troubling times for GA, he noted. Specifically, the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) "has had a profound affect on general aviation. I oppose the effort to make it permanent," Oberstar said. "Lighter aircraft flying at slower speeds should not be subject ADIZ requirements.... These restrictions impose requirements on pilots that are difficult to meet and cause many to reduce their flying hours, or to stop flying altogether."
Serving in his fifteenth term, Oberstar has long been a champion of general aviation. His leadership in passing landmark legislation over the years has included the General Aviation Product Liability Reform bill, and numerous multiyear aviation funding bills such as the historic AIR-21 and VISION-100 measures that dramatically increased federal funding available for important improvements and protections of GA airports. Oberstar has been tenacious in acting to ensure that much-needed resources paid into the aviation trust fund reach GA airports across the country.
In the 109th Congress, Oberstar has led efforts to protect airports, including standing up to increasing pressure by individual members of Congress to close facilities. He has also been a voice of reason as emotional responses ran high in the wake of inadvertent incursions into the Washington, D.C., airspace.
Oberstar recognized that education is a key component before difficult, burdensome, and costly mandates are applied to GA pilots. He personally spoke to both senators and congressmen to ask them to reconsider the effects of their legislation and to avoid placing a legislative mandate on GA. As a result of these efforts, Oberstar successfully prevented the legislation from being hastily considered by the House of Representatives before the August recess.
The J.B. "Doc" Hartranft Award is named for AOPA's first employee and president of the association for 38 years. It is awarded annually to the federal, state, or local government official who has done the greatest good on behalf of general aviation.
Updated: November 8, 2005, 4:38 p.m. EST