Airshow announcer Rob Reider hosted the one-hour event with AOPA President Mark Baker, who dedicated the evening “to honor four remarkable aviators” who are following in the steps of the legendary Hoover. The ceremony celebrated the 2020 award winners because that event was canceled last year by the coronavirus pandemic.
“While he was a very humble man, Bob Hoover radiated a remarkable spirit and overcame many obstacles in his life’s journey to become an inspiring and motivating, innovative pilot—not the least of which was surviving (and escaping) a POW camp during World War II,” Baker said. “It’s this spirit for adventure, and for giving back to the aviation community, why this award and this evening exists.”
Rutan was bestowed the highest honor of the night, the R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy for exhibiting “the airmanship, leadership, and passion for aviation” that Hoover had, as well as for having a “distinguished career as a pilot and aviation advocate while also serving as a source of inspiration and encouragement for current and prospective aviators.”
Rutan has designed 49 aircraft, including Voyager, which flew around the world in 1986 and SpaceShipOne, which put the first civilian astronaut in space in 2004.
Rutan is well known as an innovator, but he was also one of “Hoover’s Heroes,” actor, pilot, and aviation advocate Harrison Ford and airshow performer and aviation mentor Sean D. Tucker noted in special tributes recorded for the presentation. The late Hoover admired Rutan and the aircraft he designed.
“He is someone I have admired for his many contributions to aviation over the years,” Baker said, announcing the award.
One of Rutan’s goals that he achieved was designing a stall-resistant airplane—the VariViggen—to reduce the number of stall/loss-of-control accidents. He revolutionized the homebuilt world by designing composite aircraft in part because he discovered that he could build and flight test a composite aircraft within one year. The Long-EZ is one of Rutan’s popular designs, and more than 2,000 of them are flying.
“You gotta have some courage” to design and be the first to fly your own aircraft, Rutan said, while accepting the honor.
Rutan recalled the first time he met Hoover 47 years ago at a Reno Air Race where Hoover agreed to fly the Bede BD–5J, which had only made a couple of flights before that. Rutan left viewers in suspense regarding Hoover’s first flight in the jet, saying that the
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