National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen presented longtime AOPA media leader Tom Haines with the David W. Ewald Platinum Wing Award for his lifetime achievement in journalism.
“The Platinum Wing Award is for outstanding careers in journalism. In 2007 we named the award after David Ewald, who many of you know created Flight Training. And it’s entirely appropriate that this year we are honored to be able to present it to Tom Haines,” said Bolen. “Tom Haines is a remarkable individual and a remarkable human being. At 16, he got his pilot’s license and for the rest of his career he has been able to share with us his passion and his joy for aviation.”
“Wow, what an honor,” said a surprised Haines. “I’m particularly pleased that it’s an award named after Dave Ewald who I knew from day one when I started at Professional Pilot magazine, was one of the ones who welcomed me into the industry. I’ve gotten to fly general aviation airplanes all over the world. And hopefully told a few stories and maybe helped some people along the way to being a little bit safer and maybe to inspire them a little bit to go out and fly an airplane a little bit more. But, really, for me it’s been a thrill and I’ve been inspired by so many people in this room and in other parts of aviation.”
Haines was hired in 1988 as an associate editor at AOPA Pilot magazine. Before that, he earned a degree in journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and was a broadcaster at a local TV station.
He moved to Washington, D.C. (actually Alexandria, Virginia), to work at Professional Pilot magazine. Then he came to AOPA Pilot.
His rise in the ranks at AOPA took him from associate editor to being named editor in chief of the magazine, and senior vice president of publications and media, in 34 years. He was key to establishing and widening AOPA’s digital coverage, including the AOPA ePilot and Flight Training digital weekly newsletters aimed at both AOPA’s core audience and those subscribing to AOPA Pilot's sister publication, Flight Training.
In keeping with his interest in turbine-powered airplanes, he followed the industry closely, and was key to expanding AOPA Pilot’s Turbine Pilot section into a monthly special edition.
He also initiated a program of video coverage to accompany stories that appeared in print. Continuing in that theme, he established a weekly online webcast—AOPA Live This Week—and served as its insightful, yet sometimes jocular anchor, alongside Melissa Rudinger and more recently Alyssa Cobb.
After he announced his retirement in early 2022, his daughters “ambushed” him by barging into an AOPA Live news segment he was recording, taking over the show (all this was pre-planned), and turning the rest of it into a tribute to his time at AOPA—and his role as a family man.
He didn’t just walk the walk, he talked the talk—he owned a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, then a 1972 Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, and a Van's Aircraft RV–12, and is now a partner in a 1998 A36.
Haines was always generous in letting others on the staff use his Bonanza for personal or business trips, and eager to develop new methods of doing air-to-air photography, including expanded use of GoPro cameras for better videos.
Haines conceived the idea of an entire issue of AOPA Pilot dedicated to coverage of the 9/11 attack, and led AOPA’s disciplined response to anti-GA measures proposed by certain elements in the government. This coverage continued until the airspace and other proposed restrictions were ironed out.
Similar expanded coverage was given to issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilot shortage, and themes centered around learning to fly.
Haines earned type ratings in the Eclipse 500, the Cessna Citation CJ, and the North American Mitchell B–25 medium bomber. He also got some air-to-ground gunnery practice while working on a helicopter story.
Haines was the longest-serving (from 1994 to 2022) editor of AOPA Pilot in the publication's history. That’s 27 years, serving under four AOPA presidents—John Baker; Phil Boyer; Craig Fuller; and the latest Baker, Mark Baker (no relation).
He’s won writing awards from the Associated Press and the American Society of Business Publication Editors, and has appeared as a guest on NBC, MSNBC, and CNN as an aviation expert.
Now that he’s retired, he spends time roaming the countryside in his Mercedes RV, flying around in his A36, and serving on the board of directors for Redbird Flight Simulations.
In his off moments he sometimes glances at a beloved, unique, and very expensive lamp in his living room. Its base consists of a worn-out camshaft from one of his A36s. That, or he’s piloting a tractor to cultivate his world-class garden, or attending major aviation events, such as the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, or NBAA-BACE.
—AOPA Senior Vice President of Media and Marketing Kollin Stagnito contributed to this report.