Famed aerodynamicist Burt Rutan, who designed Voyager, the first aircraft to make a nonstop, nonrefueled global circumnavigation in 1986—and SpaceShipOne, which made three successful suborbital spaceflights in 2004—was honored with the prestigious R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy Award. Rutan has designed 49 manned aircraft, 25 of which the public can view in museums worldwide; 17 models are still flying.
“Rutan’s work and life represent the airmanship, leadership, and passion for aviation demonstrated by his good friend Bob Hoover,” AOPA said. The first trophy was presented to Hoover himself in 2016, Sean D. Tucker in 2017, Harrison Ford in 2018, and Clay Lacy in 2019. Rutan was announced as the winner in 2020, but the awards ceremony was postponed until this year because of the pandemic.
During the awards ceremony, AOPA presented the inaugural Brig. Gen. Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award to retired Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. In addition to honoring McGee with the first award, AOPA also presented it to its second recipient, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kenyatta Ruffin, an F–16 pilot and commander of the 71st Operations Support Squadron. Ruffin founded the nonprofit Legacy Flight Academy, which helps youth discover their passion for aviation careers and hosts programs that draw upon the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden presented the GA Safety Award to Boris Popov, founder of BRS Aerospace. The company’s whole-aircraft parachute rescue system has saved more than 400 lives; more than 35,000 systems have been installed on experimental, sport, certified, and military aircraft. The award honors those who “have delivered exceptional performance in safety to benefit the entire general aviation industry.”
The GA Safety Award was first presented to Dick VanGrunsven of Van’s Aircraft in 2018, and to Tyson Weihs and Jason Miller of ForeFlight in 2019.