Cheers and applause greeted aviation legend Clay Lacy as he was presented the 2019 Hoover Trophy by actor and general aviation advocate Harrison Ford on March 20.
Ford complimented Lacy as an “inspiration cut from the same cloth as Bob Hoover” as he presented the award to the record-setting air race champion, military test pilot, airline captain, cinematographer, and entrepreneur at the fourth annual R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy Awards presented by AOPA during a ceremony in the historic Terminal A lobby at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.
Lacy said he was “very humbled” and “honored” to receive the award named after the famed test pilot, aerobatic showman, and aviation mentor who inspired a generation of pilots. He added that he felt like he was “lucky” to be in an industry that he loved. “The greatest thing about aviation is the people,” he emphasized.
The pilot recalled his 1988 record-setting around-the-world flight in a United Airlines Boeing 747 as a life highlight, with Hoover among the passengers—along with moonwalker Neil Armstrong, and others.
Lacy, an airman from Wichita, Kansas, has logged 53,000 hours in more than 300 aircraft, earned 32 type ratings, set 29 world speed records, and flown more than 2,500 film missions from his adopted Los Angeles home. More than 50 years ago he founded a fixed-base operation at Van Nuys Airport that bears his name and today counts more than 500 employees. The entrepreneur was recognized by industry peers for helping fund aircraft maintenance scholarships; host open houses; and provide outreach, mentorship, and financial support to the next generation of aviators.
AOPA President Mark Baker noted that the trophy is presented to an “aviator who exhibits the airmanship, leadership, and passion for aviation and life demonstrated by Bob Hoover.” Baker recalled that Hoover “gave his heart and soul to America” and “represented the very best of us, not only as the greatest pilot in the world, but as a true gentleman.”
Hoover’s name was memorialized as a tribute to those who ignite a passion for aviation in others. He died in 2016 at age 94 after an illustrious aviation career. His videotaped message to introduce honorees was a moving moment for the ceremony's 230 attendees.
AOPA Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden, a former commander and flight leader of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, presented the second annual GA Safety Award to ForeFlight founders Tyson Weihs and Jason Miller for delivering “exceptional performance in safety to benefit the entire general aviation industry.”
Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele, a commercial airline pilot and commissioned officer in the Hawaii Air National Guard, was presented the Laurence P. Sharples Award, named after AOPA’s first chairman of the board. The award recognizes those who have made “extraordinary contributions” to GA. Baker noted that Kahele was “instrumental” in starting an aeronautical science program at the University of Hawaii, which created an opportunity for local students to pursue professional aviation careers. The airman also established the first aviation caucus in Hawaii, which he chairs.
Kahele thanked his parents for his entry into aviation. Their high school graduation gift to him was six weeks of flight lessons, and he said, “It was the greatest gift my parents could have given me.” He credited his mom in particular because she would tell him stories about far-away places she encountered as a flight attendant. “I’m the kid who would drop his mom off at the airport and race around the back side to hear the roar of the Boeing 747” taking her on another assignment. Kahele now flies an Airbus 330.
The Joseph B. “Doc” Hartranft Award, named after AOPA’s first president and former chairman of the board, was presented to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). The award is presented to elected or appointed government officials for their significant contributions to the advancement of GA. Baker cited Moran’s leadership in closing the aviation skills gap to provide more industry jobs, and the lawmaker’s opposition to air traffic control privatization.
Aviation luminary and 2017 Hoover Trophy winner Sean D. Tucker was the master of ceremonies, and he noted the affection for aviation among the attendees. “All of us have a little bit of Bob in ourselves,” he reminded them. “We own the passion of aviation.”