Woody Lesikar of Houston, Texas, is this year’s recipient of the George Palmer Putnam Award, which recognizes support provided by a non-member to The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots.
Submitted by the Houston Ninety-Nines for his support of their chapter, Woody was selected as the epitome of an individual who gives his energy, time, advice and wisdom to others.
A fifth generation Texan, Woody was enamored of everything aircraft and aviation since the age of 4. By sixth grade he had read every book on flying that the local Bookmobile had to offer. In high school he landed a job at the local airport, learned to fly as a teenager and became a flight instructor by the time he was in college. Still in college, he started a flight school at a small airport far west of Houston, then Lakeside Airport, now known as West Houston Airport.
Operating from a field that had fewer than 50 airplanes and no structures near it, Woody acquired a $25,000 line of credit from Cessna and developed a flight service, including selling airplanes. Working day and night to save up money, Woody purchased the airport at the age of 26 in 1973.
Over the next 53 years Woody built up the airport and the aviation business. In 1984, he had improved the airport and its facilities so substantially that it became the first FAA approved Part 139 private airport in the United States to serve both private and air carrier aircraft.
Woody built the new terminal building to not only service the demands of the local aviation market, but also to serve the first airline to fly from West Houston Airport and to accommodate aviation enthusiasts.
Today West Houston Airport is the home to more than 400 based aircraft, multiple businesses and has an economic impact of $25 million annually to the community. Thousands of people have learned to fly at West Houston Airport, including many Houston Chapter 99s, and thousands have worked there.
The Houston Chapter of The Ninety-Nines has been the grateful beneficiary of Woody’s support, along with the Civil Air Patrol, American Bonanza Society, Harris County Air Search and Recovery, the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America, EAA’s Young Eagles Program, and Commemorative Air Force.
From selling shoes door to door as an adolescent to selling the fun and exhilaration of flight, Woody has shared his passion and love of aviation with all who have come under his influence, Ninety-Nines officials note.
Woody Lesikar currently lives in Houston, Texas, and has two daughters who are both pilots, members of The Ninety-Nines, and got their passion for flying through their father.
The Ninety-Nines was founded in 1929 by Amelia Earhart and 98 other women. Currently spanning the globe with some 5,000 active members, its goals are to advance aviation through scholarships, education and mutual support while honoring the unique history of women in aviation. The organization owns and operates two museums: the Museum of Women Pilots at its Oklahoma City headquarters and the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas.