" “Harrison Ford”"
J. Randolph Babbitt, Washington, DC
December 17, 2010

Wright Memorial Dinner


Good evening, and thank you, Lisa [Piccione].  I’ve got to tell you … I had to resist the go-to move to, in the interest of safety,  to spend some time talking about why doing “Indiana Jones” style stunts in an airplane would be a really, reallybad idea.

But that’s not what tonight is all about.  We’re honoring a pilot, a man who in spite of being a very well known celebrity has used his passion to serve as a springboard for aviation.  Even in this room, Harrison Ford’s passion for aviation stands out.  When he and I met and talked at a fundraiser at Oshkosh a few years ago, I learned pretty quickly that this is somebody who just loves aviation.  Here’s a guy who is on Hollywood’s speed dial, and he wants to talk about hisidea of fun… which is actually a two-parter:  flying, or talking about flying.

In my book, he’s very clearly a student of the craft.  Our system is as good as it isbecauseof him and people like him.  There’s no special setting for pedigree on the yoke.  You have to know your aircraft, and youhave to make sure that you’re both current and qualified when it comes to flying it.

The good news here is that is exactly what we find in Harrison Ford.  I’ve been flying now for almost five decades myself, and after a while you learn that you really can separate the ones that have it from the ones that don’t…  Well, trust me, he’s got it. 

There’s a hangar in Santa Monica that shows he’s got it bad for things that fly.  Fixed wing and rotorcraft rated.  Walk in that hangar, you’ll find a Bell, a Beaver, a Husky, a Bonanza and a Caravan.  He’s a one-man air show.  That’s the inventory of someone who is a student of aviation.

But I must tell you, that list of aircraft takes a back seat to what he has given toour industry.  As chairman of the Young Eagles, he has been instrumental in giving our youth their first taste of aviation … their first flight.  In his case, the word “chairman” was not a ceremonial title.  You might expect that as chairman, he might have flow a fewyoungsters by himself. But you know what?  He’s actually flown 306 … to be exact.  That’s right kids; Han Solo is the pilot in command.  Except you can bet those kids didn’t want to be Han Solo.  They wanted to be Harrison Ford, the pilot.

We’re always looking to ways to boost aviation… to inspire the next generation into aviation, especially to the youth of America.  Here’s a guy who does it.  We’re all about getting more science, more math, more engineering into our school curriculums.  With aviation, you can do all three in with just a barrel roll or two.  Wall Street can have Michael Douglas.  We got Harrison Ford.  Score one for aviation.   

Harrison has also been an outspoken advocate for aviation safety.  He’s spoken up about runway incursions and airborne turbulence.  His ticket shows me enough ratings to know that he’s not casual about aviation … he’spassionate. And when I talk about professionalism, I’m talking about the man we’re honoring here tonight. 

He has given much to aviation, but his legacy will be as a pilot… as an advocate… as a man whose passion is to enjoy the cockpit view of the horizon … and to give others a chance to do the same.  And thatis a very fine legacy and certainly worthy of the honor he’s receiving tonight.  Thank you. 

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