Russ Meyer Jr., John and Martha King, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves among award recipients

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2024—Recognizing select individuals with a fierce commitment to general aviation, the 2024 AOPA R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy awards reception was held March 20 at the historic Terminal A at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Russ Meyer Jr. was presented the title award of the night. 

“After every Hoover awards, we ask ourselves ‘how are we going to top that event?’” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “Once again, we have succeeded. This year’s celebration was full of energy and excitement, bringing together many of our aviation friends and celebrating special leaders who keep our GA community vibrant and strong.”   

The R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy is one of the most distinguished recognitions in aviation—reserved for those who inspire a love for flight through their airmanship, leadership, mentorship, and passion for aviation. Previous recipients include Sean D. Tucker, Harrison Ford, Clay Lacy, Burt Rutan, Wally Funk, and Sen. James M. Inhofe. Meyer joins these aviation legends as the 2024 recipient for his enduring commitment and impact on the general aviation industry.  

Meyer started in aviation as a jet pilot with the U.S Air Force. His career has included terms as President and Chief Executive Officer of Grumman American Aviation Corporation and as CEO and Chairman Emeritus of Cessna Aircraft—where he played a significant role in creating the original Cessna Citation, as well as Cessna’s Be A Pilot program.   

A commercial, instrument-rated pilot with more than 17,000 hours of flight time, Meyer is type-rated in all models of the Cessna Citation. His friendship with Bob Hoover—the inspirational U.S. Air Force veteran and airshow display pilot for who the award was named—spanned more than 50 years.   

“For a long-time aviator like me, it is clearly the honor of a lifetime,” Meyer said. “I could not be more grateful and I count my blessings every single day to have devoted my career to aviation.”  

There were five additional prestigious awards bestowed during the celebration.    

The newly renamed Richard G. McSpadden General Aviation Safety Award was presented to John and Martha King for delivering high quality instructional learning materials to over a million pilots in various stages of training. Over the past 50 years, the Kings have become synonymous with safety and flight training excellence.   

Theresa Claiborne, the first African American female pilot in the U.S. Air Force, was honored with the Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award. She is currently the president of “Sisters of the Skies,” a non-profit organization which introduces aviation to women of color. The award is presented annually to an individual who, like General McGee, persevered to overcome challenges en route to learning to fly—all while inspiring others along the way.   

The Hartranft Award, given to an elected or appointed government official for significant contributions to general aviation, was presented to U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, who currently serves as the chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Throughout his career in Congress, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that general aviation continues to thrive. It marked the second time Graves has won the award, named after AOPA’s first president and former chairman of the board “Doc” Hartranft.   

The Sharples Award is given to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to GA, allowing us to enjoy our shared passion. The recipient of this year’s award was John Dobson, President of the Washington Pilots Association, who also helps direct the Washington State Aviation Alliance, through which he is fiercely advocating for general aviation and airport funding.     

Lessing Stern, a longtime supporter of AOPA’s safety programs and an early advocate for the You Can Fly program, was honored with the AOPA Foundation Future of Flight Award. His passion for AOPA programs and initiatives that introduce people to flight and keep them flying safely perfectly embody the award, which celebrates outstanding dedication to strengthening aviation in all forms.  

Read more about the 2024 awards and their recipients here.