P ALM S PRINGS, CA - The Federal Aviation Administration today honored the AOPA Air Safety Foundation in recognition of the foundation's continuing and dedicated work in advancing the cause of air safety. During an apprearance at AOPA Expo 2006, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey presented the Foundation's Executive Director Bruce Landsberg with the first Thomas H. Wardleigh Award the agency has ever presented.
The Wardleigh Award honors an individual or organization making a significant impact on aviation safety; created innovative training, equipment, or other improvements to safety; and shown leadership in aviation safety, all over a long period of time. The Air Safety Foundation, established in 1950, is the world's only safety foundation dedicated solely to improving general aviation safety.
"We don't give this thing out to just anybody," Blakey said while making the presentation. "The fact is, we've never given it out at all...until today. And I can't think of a more deserving recipient than AOPA's Air Safety Foundation."
Blakey noted that in fiscal year 2006 the United States had the lowest number of fatal accidents since records have been kept, and that most of the improvement was in the personal flying segment - a major focus area for the Air Safety Foundation.
"We're honored to receive the first award named for Tom Wardleigh, a dear friend of AOPA, the Air Safety Foundation, and pilots in general," said Landsberg. "My personal relationship with Tom goes back to when I first joined ASF in 1992. Tom was also just becoming involved with Alaska's Aviation Safety Foundation.
"Over the years Tom became a great friend and mentor. If I had a question about flying in Alaska, Tom was the go-to source. If there was a question on any aspect of flying or flight instruction, Tom was there."
The late Thomas H. Wardleigh was the dean of Alaska aviation. He was the former chairman of the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation board and a lifelong advocate for aviation safety in Alaska. He had worked for the FAA and a held the FAA's Master Pilot and Master Mechanic awards marking more than 50 years of active participation in those activities.
In retirement, Wardleigh also co-hosted Hangar Flying, a popular public television program on aviation safety that promoted continued training and new technology in Alaska. In 2004, shortly before Wardleigh died, AOPA gave a grant to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to archive all of the more than 1,000 episodes of Hangar Flying to DVD so that future Alaska aviators can benefit from Wardleigh's timeless wisdom. In 1994, Wardleigh received AOPA's Laurence P. Sharples Award for his lifetime of service to aviation safety and to Alaska's general aviation pilots.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation hosts hundreds of free safety seminars across the United States every year and provides some two dozen online courses free of charge to any pilot - not just AOPA members. These courses, says the FAA, "have made an immeasurable contribution to improving safety in general aviation."
Since the AOPA Air Safety Foundation was established in 1950, the GA total accident rate has dropped by more than 90 percent despite a large increase in GA flight hours. Foundation safety outreach efforts are funded through voluntary donations by AOPA members and tax-deductible contributions from individual pilots and companies interesting in promoting general aviation safety.
November 10, 2006