One of the National Business Aviation Association’s most important roles is to make the case for private aviation to the larger community. The organization hit one out of the park by presenting Harrison Ford with its 2013 Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership.

Ford has played many heroes – Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan – but his real-life efforts propel him above anything he’s done on the big screen. Just look at this partial list of humanitarian efforts.

  • Chairman and volunteer pilot transporting athletes for the Cessna Special Olympics Airlift.
  • Volunteer pilot for the Corporate Angel Network, flying cancer patients to treatment centers.
  • Chairman and volunteer pilot for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program, giving hundreds of young people their first taste of flight.
  • Regular volunteer for search-and-rescue missions, including finding and transporting lost hikers.
  • Participant in relief missions flying doctors and supplies into Haiti after its catastrophic earthquake.
  • Frequent and effective spokesman for the critical humanitarian and economic roles of general aviation.
Harrison Ford Giving NBAA Speech
Past recipients of this award include Fred Smith (2012), Bill Frist (2011), Haiti business aviation response (2010), Civil Air Patrol (2009), Corporate Angel Network (2008), Veterans Airlift Command (2007), and Cessna Citation Special Olympics Airlift (2006).

Doubly Dedicated

“I am humbled and not just a little embarrassed by this award and this attention,” Ford said, visibly moved. “I have done what I’ve been able to do and upon receipt of this high honor I promise to redouble my efforts to be of more use, to try and make myself available for more of the good missions that can provide service to people in need.”

Ford’s celebrity makes him an ideal choice for this award. Not only does he deserve the honor, but his fame increases the likelihood that the story will play outside the close-knit aviation community, helping to spreading the word about the many contributions aviation makes to a better our world.

Advancing a Legacy

On a side note, this award carries special resonance for our agency and for our client, FlightSafety International. The late Al Ueltschi started FlightSafety in a small rented space at LaGuardia and built it into an internationally recognized training leader. He devoted that same drive to various humanitarian pursuits – most notably Orbis, which works in developing countries to save eyesight. It began as little more than an idea and, with Ueltschi’s help, has become a global organization that has trained hundreds of thousands of eye-care professionals and treated millions of blind and visually impaired people.

Good things happen when we celebrate the industry’s humanitarian efforts. Ford said that “can only help to bring credit and proper understanding to the role that general aviation plays.”

Congratulations to Harrison Ford and to NBAA for its solid choice.

Ford and Bolen
NBAA President Ed Bolen said Ford “channels his passion for flight into demonstrating the vital humanitarian role that general aviation provides every day, in places all around the world.”