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Public benefit flying feted at annual awardsPublic benefit flying feted at annual awards

Third annual Endeavor Awards honor charitable flying

It wasn’t the Hollywood star-studded event it has been in the past, but the third annual Endeavor Awards held this year in Denver featured aviation’s stars, and that was enough for the enthusiastic crowd of pilots and their patients.
The 2016 Endeavor Awards gala was held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Photo courtesy of Angel Flight West.

The Endeavor Awards, originated by California pilot and Hollywood producer Mark Wolper, honors pilots for their work in charitable flying—from patients to pets to veterans to others in need. Wolper began the event as part of his own charitable work with Angel Flight West, which hosted the event in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Situated overlooking Denver’s spacious city park, the gala had music, entertainment, awards, and a few tears.

Receiving the 2016 Inspiration Awards were inventor and visionary pilot Dick Rutan and Bell 407 pilot of “Prayer One” Jeffrey V. Puckett. Rutan entertained with stories of his exploits, adventures, and legendary flights. And, as he usually does, he admonished his listeners to always be striving for the next adventure; he is still pushing for space exploration and life outside the Earth’s atmosphere. He received standing ovations for his words.

Every Monday morning in Denver, helicopter pilot Jeff Puckett provides rides over Denver for ministry leaders, to encourage interfaith work in the region. He has flown more than 6,000 community and religious leaders, including opposing gang members. He told the story of one young gang member who was frightened of heights—his mother’s boyfriend had threatened him as a child by hanging him by his feet over a building ledge—who was transformed by seeing his city from the air.

The three 2016 Endeavor Award winners were introduced by Denver television personality and pilot Amelia Rose Earhart. She was joined by Charlie Plumb, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot and POW from the Vietnam War era. Honored for his work with Veteran’s Airlift Command was Col. Richard Iverson. He is active with JEFFAIR providing air transportation for medical or compassionate reasons to wounded U.S. soldiers, veterans, and their families. He lives in Guemes Island, Washington.

Patient Airlift Services pilot Jim Platz of Maine has flown more than 5,000 missions for PALS and other volunteer organizations including Air Life Line, Northern Wings, Angel Flight Northeast, Make A Wish Foundation, and the Maine Audubon Society.

“The Most Dedicated Female Pilot in the World,” according to the Institute of Women of Aviation Worldwide, is Dianna Stanger, who in addition to the work she does to promote flying to women and girls, is the chair of Angel Flight South Central.

The highlight of the Endeavor Awards is meeting the recipients of these charitable flights and hearing their stories. Patient Adrian Duran from Santa Fe, New Mexico, thanked Stanger for flying him to University of Colorado Denver for his liver transplant and post-transit procedures. Also on hand were patients Riley Stump, a 14-year-old boy with sunken chest; Zavien Chavez-Valdez, a six-year-old boy and burn survivor; and Tracey Black, a 55-year-old woman with Lyme disease. Zavien stole the show—and the hearts—by saying thank you to all of the volunteer pilots.

“It’s such a humbling experience to be surrounded by such an amazing group of courageous patients, aviators, philanthropists, and celebrities tonight,” said Josh Olson, executive director of Angel Flight West. “We hope the Endeavor Awards can serve as a platform for raising support and awareness for charitable aviation so that we can reach more people in need of donated flights.”

An auction concluded the evening with money raised to support the work of benefit flying.

For more information, visit the website.

  • Charlie Plumb, right, presents a 2016 Inspiration Award to inventor and visionary pilot Dick Rutan. Photos courtesy of Angel Flight West.
  • Josh Olson, left, executive director of Angel Flight West, with California pilot and Hollywood producer Mark Wolper, originator of the Endeavor Awards.
  • Charlie Plumb, right, presents a 2016 Inspiration Award to "Prayer One" pilot Jeff Puckett.
  • 2016 Inspiration Award honoree Dick Rutan addresses attendees.
  • Charlie Plumb and Amelia Rose Earhart served as award presenters for the gala.
Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
Topics: Awards and Records, Public Benefit Flying

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