Last month, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt helped the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) present the 2010 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy to none other than actor Harrison Ford.
The award, established in 1948, is given annually to someone who demonstrates “significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” As a Wright Brothers award recipient, Mr. Ford is among very storied aviation company, including Neil Armstrong, Charles Lindbergh, and my predecessor Norman Mineta.
While we know Mr. Ford best for his movie roles, he has long been an aviation enthusiast. He was chosen as this year’s award recipient because of his efforts to bring the experience of flying to America's youth. The plaque on his trophy reads: "For engaging our nation's youth in aviation and inspiring tomorrow's leaders, innovators and enthusiasts to secure a strong future for all of aviation.”
For more than five years, Mr. Ford served as the chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Young Eagles program. The Young Eagles gives kids between the ages of 8 and 17 an opportunity to get their first taste of flight. Since launching in 1992, over 1.5 million kids have flown in their first airplane thanks to 42,000 volunteer pilots.
I’ve written here before about the importance of inspiring today’s students to pursue education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) on their way to careers in transportation. Experiencing the thrill of flight firsthand is a great way to get kids’ imaginations soaring.
By sharing his passion for flying, Harrison Ford has helped open up a new world for these kids, showing them just how exciting aviation can be. And that’s truly an award-winning accomplishment.