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‘A passionate and tireless advocate’

AOPA President Mark Baker will be the 2024 recipient of the Donald D. Engen Aero Club Trophy for Aviation Excellence in recognition of his fierce leadership and passionate commitment to general aviation.

Photo by Chris Rose.

Each year the Engen Trophy is awarded to an individual, organization, or team who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in aviation that reaffirms the standard set by the Wright brothers. The award was established in 1993 and named for the previous FAA administrator and former director of the National Air and Space Museum. Previous recipients include former CEO of Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the STS-114 Discovery Shuttle crew. The 2023 recipient was Carol B. Hallett, former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas.

Baker’s extensive résumé of accomplishments over his 11-year tenure at the helm of AOPA earned him the 2024 award.

“Mark Baker is a passionate and tireless advocate for the general aviation community and has led several initiatives over the past decade that have advanced aviation safety and innovation, and made flying more accessible to more people,” said Aero Club President David Richardson. “On behalf of the Aero Club of Washington, I am honored to be the person who will hand the Donald D. Engen Trophy to Mark Baker.”

Under Baker’s leadership, AOPA has championed the protection and future for aviation on behalf of the 300,000 member pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation enthusiasts.

The organization’s advocacy arm has seen robust success on the local, state, and national levels—repeatedly being recognized by The Hill as a top 50 advocacy organization. In 2016 Baker led the charge to see through long-overdue reforms in medical processes, resulting in the passage of a law introducing third class medical reform—commonly known as BasicMed—which allows a private medical physician to conduct a physical exam. Since the program’s inception, more than 80,000 GA pilots have flown safely with BasicMed.

Seeing the negative impact of privatization on GA in other countries, Baker also led an impressive and successful fight against privatizing our nation’s air traffic control system during his tenure. 

Baker’s credibility as the leader of the world’s largest pilot organization and his keen understanding of the value of advocacy earned him multiple opportunities to testify before Congress and impact a number of aviation policies for private pilots and AOPA members.

While Baker has triumphed in protecting the freedom to fly, he finds the most joy when he is able to share his passion for flying. During his tenure, AOPA introduced the You Can Fly program under the AOPA Foundation. Designed to grow the pilot population, the program has launched more than 250 flying clubs across the country; allowed more than 13,000 rusty pilots to return to the flight deck; introduced an innovative flight training app (AOPA Flight Training Advantage) to make the learning process more efficient for students and instructors; and has introduced aviation to more than 71,000 high school students through a free aviation science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum. The high school STEM curriculum has achieved great success, with 60 percent of program graduates indicating they are pursuing an aviation-related career.

Another pillar of Baker’s tenure at AOPA has been his unwavering commitment to safety—with a mission to reduce the GA accident rate. Thanks, in part, to the broad consumption of free educational resources and content produced by the AOPA Air Safety Institute, GA is experiencing historic safety metrics. The award-winning online courses, in-person seminars, flight instructor renewal courses, and accident analysis videos help all pilots fly with more proficiency.

As a lifelong pilot and steward for GA, Baker knows the importance of maintaining the health of the industry, and securing a bright future for GA.

“Since I started flying as a teenager, I have seen firsthand the value of a strong and prosperous general aviation community,” Baker said, reflecting on his extensive experience and achievements. “No other place on Earth allows the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy in this great nation, and I am honored and humbled to be recognized as having had a hand in promoting, protecting, and growing general aviation for the aviators of today and tomorrow.”

Baker has announced plans to begin the search for his successor, and during the transition period he continues to work diligently for the future of GA. Chief among his priorities is the safe and smart transition to unleaded fuel. Baker sees this as the greatest threat to the industry and continues to lead AOPA in its collaboration with the FAA, fuel manufacturers, and other stakeholders to make sure progress is made toward unleaded fuels that work for the entire fleet.

Baker’s affable personality belies his dogged devotion and commitment to GA, which will have a long-lasting and positive impact on the GA industry.

The Aero Club of Washington will present the Engen Trophy to Baker at the organization’s June 17 luncheon.

Lillian Geil
Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Advocacy, Capitol Hill, AOPA Foundation

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