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Fifth annual Endeavor Awards honor AOPA Trustee Bill AyerFifth annual Endeavor Awards honor AOPA Trustee Bill Ayer

Editor's note: This article was updated May 15 with the final total of the funds raised for Angel Flight West.

The fifth annual Endeavor Awards took place May 12 under the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. This star-studded event recognizes the work of pilots engaged in public benefit flying; volunteering; and donating their time, piloting skills, and aircraft to transport those in need. Among the awards is the Inspiration Award, which this year was presented to AOPA Board of Trustees member and former CEO of Alaska Airlines Bill Ayer and Cirrus Aircraft co-founder Dale Klapmeier.

  • The space shuttle "Endeavour" provides a suitable backdrop as volunteers, business people, and community leaders attend the Endeavor Awards, a humanitarian recognition for charitable aviation by Angel Flight West, held at the California Science Center's space shuttle Endeavour pavilion in Los Angeles, May 12, 2018. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Retired CEO of Alaska Air Group Bill Ayer is recognized with the 2018 Inspiration Award for his humanitarian and leadership efforts during the Endeavor Awards in Los Angeles. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Award recipient Dale Klapmeier of Cirrus Aircraft addresses attendees at the Endeavor Awards during Angel Flight West's recognition for charitable aviation services. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Award recipient Wanda Whitsitt, right, addresses attendees at the Endeavor Awards during Angel Flight West's recognition for charitable aviation services. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Endeavor Awards emcee Alison Sweeney, right, presents an award during Angel Flight West's recognition for charitable aviation. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Attendees gather during the Endeavor Awards, Angel Flight West's recognition for charitable aviation services. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Silent auction prizes are displayed during the Endeavor Awards. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Volunteers, business people, and community leader gather for the Endeavor Awards. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Astronaut Jim Wetherbee joins aviation luminaries at the Endeavor Awards. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Volunteers, business people, and community leaders chat at the Endeavor Awards. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The Endeavor Awards are Angel Flight West's recognition for charitable aviation services. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The Endeavor Awards recognize those involved in humanitarian and charitable aviation. Photo by David Tulis.

Ayer has been a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight West since 1993 and has flown more than 50 missions. He served on the group’s board of directors and is currently the executive coach for its executive director, Josh Olson. Ayer was instrumental in partnering Alaska Airlines and Angel Flight West, with more than 16,000 donated flights for patients with health care needs.

Klapmeier was recognized for his company’s commitment to giving back; the largest percentage of new volunteer pilots fly Cirrus Aircraft, according to Angel Flight West. “The Cirrus life,” Klapmeier said, “is more than just a hobby.”

AOPA Board of Trustees member and former CEO of Alaska Airlines Bill Ayer received the 2018 Inspiration Award for his humanitarian and leadership efforts. Photo by David Tulis.

The 2018 Endeavor Award winners as selected and chosen by their peers are Dr. Kevin D’Angelo of Wings Flights of Hope and Wanda Whitsitt, founder of LifeLine Pilots. D’Angelo combines dentistry and piloting, flying volunteer missions into remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains, as well as the Dominican Republic and other developing nations. Whitsitt founded LifeLine Pilots in 1981, now the oldest regional volunteer pilot organization in the United States. LifeLine Pilots has flown more than 8,000 missions and more than 5 million miles with a perfect safety record.

Receiving the Endeavor Awards “1,000 Award” was Bob Schaper, who has flown more than 1,000 missions for Angel Flight West since 2010.

The Endeavor Awards gala also recognizes U.S. astronauts, members of the military, and all volunteer public benefit flying pilots. The event holds both a silent and live auction; this year it raised more than $670,000 for Angel Flight West.

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: Awards and Records, Public Benefit Flying

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