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Celebrating volunteer pilotsCelebrating volunteer pilots

Fourth annual Endeavor Awards raises awarenessFourth annual Endeavor Awards raises awareness

Pilot Jeff Bennett has rescued more than 5,000 animals in his Cessna 172 and Cirrus SR22; Steve Danz has flown more than 1,000 missions for Angel Flight West; and Lt. Col. Dick Stoops has flown a free flying ambulance service in isolated regions around the world for Remote Area Medical. These volunteer pilots were honored at the fourth annual Endeavor Awards at the California Science Center in Los Angeles May 6.

Endeavor Awards founder Mark Wolper, and 2017 Inspiration Award recipient Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger. Photo by Chris Rose.

More than 450 volunteer pilots, celebrities, and aviation luminaries attended the gala event, held under the massive space shuttle Endeavour, which is suspended from the ceiling of the science center. The Endeavor Awards is a red-carpet event in the tradition of Hollywood openings and award ceremonies and is the brainchild of television and movie producer Mark Wolper of the Wolper Organization, Warner Brothers. Wolper is a pilot and flies missions for Angel Flight West. He sought a way to honor the volunteer pilots who dedicate their time and aircraft to charitable flying and to help raise funds for the operations of volunteer pilot organizations.

“Each day of the year, across America, everyday Joes are getting into their personal aircraft and dedicating their time, their airplanes, and their own money to make a difference,” Wolper said. “They are flying sick kids, cancer patients, rescue dogs, wounded vets, environmental scientists, disaster response flights, and many other missions of assistance. We established the Endeavor Awards to honor these volunteer pilots and support the nonprofit volunteer pilots organizations that make these flights possible.”

Each year the organization honors three pilots and presents an inspiration award. The 2017 Inspiration Award was presented to Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot responsible for the successful emergency ditching of Flight 1549 known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

A live auction that included items such as a helicopter ride with stunt pilot Chuck Aaron and use of a Gulfstream IV for 12 people raised enough money to fund 2,200 donated flights.

Space shuttle “Endeavour.” Photo by Chris Rose.

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: Public Benefit Flying, Pilots

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