Jack Tunstill of St. Petersburg, Fla., was honored Saturday night as the 2004 recipient of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's Laurance P. Sharples Perpetual Award, given annually to recognize the greatest selfless commitment to general aviation by a private citizen. He is the Airport Support Network volunteer for St. Petersburg, Florida's Albert Whitted Airport. His ceaseless efforts and leadership helped rescue the airport from the brink of destruction and guaranteed the people of St. Petersburg much-needed green space by keeping the waterfront airport.
Watch a video of the Sharples Award presentation [broadband connection recommended].
"Jack epitomizes the ASN volunteer," said Boyer. "He spoke out in strong defense of Albert Whitted in the face of apparently overwhelming odds. He worked to coordinate the efforts of two airport support groups - the Airport Advisory Council and the Albert Whitted Airport Preservation Society. He helped St. Petersburg residents understand the true consequences of the anti-airport ballot initiative. In short, he supported his airport, and he never gave up."
Albert Whitted Airport had been under attack by a group that wanted to close the airport and turn half of it into a waterfront park. The proposal did not mention what was to become of the other half of the airport property, but because backers of the park proposal included a real estate developer, residents were concerned that more waterfront high-rises might be in the works.
By serving as the local face of the issue with the media, community, and elected officials, Tunstill explained to St. Petersburg residents the value of the airport and the true nature of the developers' plans. His efforts paid off handsomely. Voters overwhelmingly supported keeping Albert Whitted open in perpetuity, three-to-one in favor, and rejected a companion measure to turn the land into a park by a similar margin.
"Our nation continues to lose too many airports every year," said Boyer. "We desperately need people like Jack and the rest of our more than 1,600 ASN volunteers to ensure that our best-in-the-world aviation system remains strong."
With more than 400,000 members, representing nearly two thirds of all pilots in the United States, AOPA is the largest, most influential aviation association in the world. AOPA has achieved its prominent position through effective advocacy, enlightened leadership, technical competence, and hard work. Providing member services that range from representation at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, advice, and other assistance, AOPA has built a service organization that is without peer to any other in the aviation community.
October 23, 2004