Minnesota native, AOPA's Mark Baker, awarded Living Legend award
FREDERICK, MD – Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), was awarded the ‘Harrison Ford Legacy in Aviation Award’ Friday during the 12th annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards celebration in Beverly Hills.
Baker, a native of Minnesota, was recognized for achievement in aviation and as the head of the world’s largest aviation member organization.
“It’s obviously a very proud moment to have this kind of recognition,” Baker said upon receiving the award named in honor of the actor who has served as a spokesman for AOPA’s GA Serves America campaign and as chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle Program. “Anytime you can spotlight aviation and what it can do for people, it’s healthy. And it’s also about the importance of having an AOPA since 1939 and protecting the freedom to fly.”
Harrison Ford himself presented what he called “the awkwardly named” award to Baker, whom he has gotten to know through their backcountry flying together, as well as their recent efforts to preserve the Santa Monica, Calif., Municipal Airport (SMO).
“We are in danger of losing the gains that we have made in aviation, especially in the general aviation area,” Ford said. “The recipient of this year’s award is in a position to do something very constructive about that. Mark Baker is a long time pilot, new president of AOPA, and has the opportunity, the wit and the capacity to make a great contribution to the aviation community in the general aviation area.”
There are 89 “Living Legends of Aviation,” who have been recognized for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions to aviation. Living Legends honors the accomplishments made by aviation and aerospace entrepreneurs, industry leaders, innovators, record breakers, astronauts and pilots who have become celebrities, as well as celebrities who have become pilots.
The evening began with actor-pilot John Travolta, the official ambassador of aviation, inducting three new Living Legends— Southwest Airlines founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher, FlightSafety International President, CEO and Chairman Bruce Whitman and Maj. Gen. Carl McNair (Ret.), a decorated combat helicopter pilot who oversaw the Army’s Aviation Branch.
Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner, B-24 bombardier and Japanese POW who inspired the book and movie Unbroken, was named an honorary Legend.
Other award winners included Michimasa Fujino, founding president and CEO of Honda Aircraft Company and Elling Halvorson, chairman of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters