Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Harrison Ford, Dave Coulier, Flying Wild Alaska pilots, Bob Hoover, Clay Lacy, and a host of other notables, showed up to fete the AOPA Foundation at its annual Night for Flight fundraising dinner. The living celebrities and the Palm Springs associated musical legends drew a record 400 attendees, selling out the ballroom at the Riviera Palm Springs Hotel.
AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg handed out the first ever Aviation Achievement awards to four aviators. The awards ceremony was led by Hat in the Ring Society co-chairman Dave Coulier, a comedian and active pilot. The Marilyn Monroe lookalike vamped with Landsberg, providing an entertaining segment for the crowd.
Meanwhile, Ford, national spokesman for the GA Serves America campaign, told AOPA President Craig Fuller that general aviation underpins the fabric of American culture. Ford related his experience in flying light airplanes at low altitude all the across the nation, visiting small airports and hearing the compelling stories of pilots and business owners coast to coast. Ford thanked the attendees for their support of the Foundation, which allows AOPA and other entities to support the future of general aviation.
The foundation has been hosting an online auction for weeks. Among the items for auction is a flight, lunch, and hangar tour with Ford that had been bid up to $20,200 weeks ago. At the dinner, Landsberg announced that a dinner guest had committed to raising the bid to $70,000. In previous years, the most the Ford experience had been sold for was $50,000. The bidding is open until the close of AOPA Summit Oct. 13.
In addition, Alan Schrader of the Lightspeed Foundation presented the AOPA Foundation with a $12,000 check.