The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) on Saturday awarded its highest honor for government officials to Victor Bird, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.
The Joseph B. “Doc” Hartranft, Jr. Award is presented annually to an elected or appointed government official, whether federal, state, local, or foreign, who has made significant contributions to the advancement of general aviation. This year’s presentation was made during a special awards program on the AOPA Live stage at the AOPA Aviation Summit in Long Beach, Calif.
“State aviation directors are often overlooked as key promoters and protectors of general aviation,” said AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller. “As the director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, Vic Bird has done an outstanding job in using the state’s resources to advance the cause of the state’s 113 public airports, creating a climate in which general aviation will grow and thrive. “
In 2007, Bird was instrumental in winning support for the Oklahoma Airport Modernization Bill, which would have made 49 of the state’s regional airports eligible for grants for specific airport-improvement projects, including the costs for projects primarily used for general aviation.
In 2008, he followed that with the Aerospace Industry Engineer Work Force Bill, which provided new engineers with a $5,000 state tax credit for choosing to work for an Oklahoma aerospace company, and also provides state tax credits for the companies that hire them.
He also lead the push for 2005’s House Bill 1577, which exempted aircraft maintenance, repairs, and overhauls performed by Oklahoma aerospace companies from sales tax.
His most recent accomplishment centered on the passage in 2010 of the Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act, which protects the state’s public-use airports and military bases from height obstructions and incompatible land use by giving the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission authority to regulate construction in designated approach areas. With the increasing prevalence of tall man-made obstructions all over the country, this legislation provides a model for other states to follow to ensure that development of this nature will not undermine aviation safety, AOPA officials note.
Bird is the immediate past chairman of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, is a member of the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development, and is on the aviation advisory boards for both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. He was the 2009 recipient of the General Thomas P. Stafford Award, named for Oklahoma native and retired Astronaut Thomas Stafford, which is given to a person who has made a significant contribution to aviation in the state.
The Joseph B. “Doc” Hartranft, Jr. Award is named for AOPA’s first employee, longtime president and former chairman of the board. For more information: AOPA.org