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Celebrating the legacy of R. A. “Bob” HooverCelebrating the legacy of R. A. Bob Hoover


Burt RutanIt is our honor to continue to foster Bob's legacy as we award the next trophy to an aviator who has shown the same passion for aviation, drive to share flying with others and impact on those that follow in our footsteps, BURT RUTAN. Burt is being honored for his contributions to aviation as an inspired aerodynamicist who never let the laws of convention stop him from innovating.

We will be honoring Burt through a virtual ceremony at 8 p.m. EST on Feb. 3 on this page. Join AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker and emcee Rob Reider for an engaging 45-minute ceremony that will feature live and taped presentations with Burt and our other winners: USAF Brig. Gen Charles McGee, Legacy Flight Academy founder Kenyatta Ruffin, and Boris Popov, founder of whole-aircraft parachute manufacturer BRS Aerospace. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask questions of our winners and congratulate them on their achievements.

Burt was chosen as the 2020 R. A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy winner because of his life’s work in aerospace design. As a result of his efforts, we saw pilots fly Voyager around the world unrefueled and civilian astronauts fly into space on reusable spacecraft. His work on experimental aircraft brought generations of pilots into aviation. He designed 49 manned aircraft, 25 of which are in displays in museums around the world and 17 of which are still flying. Rutan’s work and life represent the airmanship, leadership, and passion for aviation demonstrated by his good friend Bob Hoover.

The first trophy was presented to the great R.A. "Bob" Hoover in 2016 and since then, the recipients included to Sean D. Tucker in 2017, and Harrison Ford in 2018 and Clay Lacy in 2019.

The awards will look a little different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will LIVESTREAM the event on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 8pm EST.

In addition to the Hoover award, we are honored that Retired Tuskegee Airman Brigadier General Charles McGee will receive the inaugural Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award as well as be present for the first presentation of this award to a deserving young military aviator and aviation leader, Kenyatta Ruffin.

Portrait of Retired Tuskegee Airman Brigadier General Charles McGee

Retired Tuskegee Airman Brigadier General Charles McGee

Portrait of Kenyatta Ruffin

Kenyatta Ruffin

In addition, Boris Popov, Founder, BRS Aerospace, will receive the GA Safety Award.

Boris Popov

This event, which typically takes place in the historic Terminal A at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., is free and open to everyone through the livestream. The awards presentation will start at 8 p.m. Eastern time on February 3 and will last about 1 hour. Set a reminder to watch the livestream.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact

History of the Hoover Award

AOPA was founded nearly 80 years ago on one simple mission: “Protect the Freedom to Fly”.

No one embodies the spirit of that more than the late R. A. “Bob” Hoover.  A true pioneer, Bob inspired so many with his passion for flight, unbelievable flying skills and his humility. 

The first Bob Hoover Trophy was presented to the late, great R.A. "Bob" Hoover himself in 2016 during the unveiling of the statue in his likeness at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center.

Bob agreed to have his name forever memorialized as a tribute to aviators whose airmanship, leadership, mentorship, and passion for aviation inspires a love of flight in countless others.  And AOPA has been entrusted with carrying on his memory through this annual award.

In the words of Bob, “The most important thing any aviator can do is to encourage others to want to fly”.

And that is one of the reasons why all of us here at AOPA share Bob’s passion, and one of the reasons we started AOPA’s You Can Fly initiative.

Sean D. Tucker was awarded the trophy in 2017.  After Sean D. Tucker, Harrison Ford was the recipient in 2018, and Clay Lacy in 2019.   

    photos of the 2019 Bob Hoover Awards at Regan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Other awards presented during this special evening are the Hartranft Award, named after AOPA’s first president and former chairman of the board “Doc” Hartranft. It is given annually to elected or appointed government officials for their significant contributions to the advancement of GA.  It was presented in 2017 to Congressman Todd Rokita (IN); in 2018 to Congressman Ralph Abraham (LA) and Congressman Steve Russell (OK); and in 2019 to Sen. Jerry Moran (KS).

The Sharples Award, named for AOPA’s first chairman of the board, Laurence P. Sharples, is given to people who do not work in aviation but who have made extraordinary contributions to GA.  It was presented in 2017 to Pat Hartness; in 2018 to Ron Dearborn, AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer; and in 2019 to Hawaii State Sen. Kai Kahele.

In addition, the AOPA Air Safety Institute believes that knowledgeable people, well trained and proficient in their craft, operating reliable equipment wrapped in a culture that promotes sound aeronautical decision making, will achieve strong safety performance. They recognize that there are individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary safety enhancements in one or more of these areas for general aviation. We established the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s General Aviation Safety Award to honor those that have delivered exceptional performance in safety to benefit the entire general aviation industry. We not only thank them, but also ensure our industry is aware of their work and its impact. This award was first presented to Dick VanGrunsven of Vans Aircraft in 2018, and in 2019 to Tyson Weihs and Jason Miller of Foreflight in 2019.

In 2017, we honored several members of the United States Congress for their strong support of General Aviation with the 2017 AOPA Freedom to Fly award. We thanked them for their leadership in protecting and growing the lifestyle, business, economic driver, and adventure that is general aviation.