Alexandria, VA, April 27, 2011 - The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) annually recognizes individuals, offices, and organizations demonstrating excellence in their field and the highest level of customer service. NATA's Industry Excellence Awards are given to exceptional individuals and organizations that have helped improve the general aviation community. This year's winners will be honored during the NATA Industry Excellence Awards Dinner on May 4 at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C. The dinner will be held in conjunction with the association's Day on the Hill, Annual Meeting and Election of Officers, and Spring Committee Meetings.
Pat Epps, president of Epps Aviation, will be presented the William A. "Bill" Ong Memorial Award, named in honor and memory of the association's co-founder and first president and given for extraordinary achievement and extended meritorious service to the general aviation industry.
A native of Athens, Georgia, Epps graduated from Georgia Tech in 1956 and entered the U.S. Air Force in 1957. A distinguished graduate of Class 58L, he was the fifth of Ben Epps' sons to become a military pilot.
With over 10,000 flying hours as a commercial pilot and type ratings in North American B-25 Mitchell, Douglas DC-3, Learjet, and Cessna Citation, Epps continues to go "Above and Beyond." Epps has been recognized amongst the honorees of the 1998 Gatherings of Eagles, an international group setting standards and paving the way for future air and space power.
Epps led an 11-year quest to recover the Lost Squadron. In 1992, he succeeded in retrieving a WWII Lockheed P-38 Lightning buried beneath 265 feet of the Greenland ice cap. In June 1994, Epps piloted a friend's DC-3 to France. As he flew over Normandy, veteran War World II paratroopers jumped to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day landings.
In 2011 more recognition is bestowed on Pat Epps. In January, Epps received the Harrison Ford Aviation Legacy Award at the 8th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards event in Beverly Hills, California. Epps was also honored as an inductee into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in April 2011.
"Epps Aviation continues to be one of the crown jewels in the FBO industry thanks to Pat and his leadership," stated NATA President James K. Coyne. "The NATA Board of Directors is absolutely thrilled to be able to present this award to such an aviation legend."
The NATA Award for Distinguished Service is given to an individual or organization still active in general aviation on a regular, day-to-day basis and recognizes outstanding service and ongoing contributions to the industry. This year's NATA Award for Distinguished Service will be presented to James C. Christiansen, whose involvement in the aviation community spans 46 years. His achievements from the late 80s to early 90s include managing a fleet of approximately 70 aircraft for Jet Aviation Business Jets as president of the company and serving as president for Executive Jet Aviation of Columbus, Ohio. Subsequently, he was recruited by the Rockefeller family to be president of its aircraft management company, Wayfarer Ketch, in White Plains, New York. While at Wayfarer, Christiansen and his team started a new fractional aviation company called StarShares. The company was eventually sold to TAG, where a 50/50 partnership with Cessna was formed creating CitationShares. Christiansen was a member of the board of directors of CitationShares. In 2001, Christiansen re-joined Executive Jet, now known as NetJets Inc., to undertake the project of bringing the NetJets fractional aircraft ownership product to existing corporate flight departments for supplemental lift. He was promoted to president of NetJets Aviation in January 2007. In March 2010, Christiansen was appointed vice president of sales, Central U.S. at Hawker Beechcraft, where he manages a sales team responsible for the sale of Hawker jets in the central U.S.
Christiansen has served as chairman of the National Air Transportation Association and as chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Fractional Ownership Aviation Rulemaking Committee that developed the new FAR Part 91K to regulate fractional operators. He currently serves as chairman of the Air Charter Safety Foundation, an organization devoted to raising the safety awareness of Part 135 charter operators and the traveling public.
"The NATA Board of Directors is deeply honored to celebrate Jim's many outstanding achievements," stated Coyne. "Jim's contributions in leading the development of new Part 91k regulations as well as being chairman of NATA and now the ACSF are just a few of his many outstanding accomplishments."
Jeff Burger, editor of Business Jet Traveler, will receive the Aviation Journalism Award that identifies a journalist, writer, or publication excelling in consumer education or editorial support that is beneficial to the FBO/Air Charter industry. Burger joined Business Jet Traveler in early 2004, a few months after the publication's launch. Besides editing the magazine, he writes its "Inside Fractionals" column and has conducted its interviews with such people as Sir Richard Branson, James Carville, Suze Orman, David Neeleman and F. Lee Bailey. He helped to oversee BJT's redesign and its introduction of an annual Buyers' Guide issue, which is now in its fourth year; he also conceived last year's popular special issue on The Bizav Advantage. During his years with the magazine, it has won one bronze and two silver awards in the prestigious Folio: Editorial Awards in the Best Transportation/Travel Magazine category. Articles edited by Burger have also won national and regional awards.
The Columbus Flight Standards District Office will be the recipient of NATA's FAA Customer Service Excellence Award and will be recognized as an FAA facility that has represented the highest degree of customer service and elevated the quality of interaction between the FAA and aircraft maintenance and repair facilities, Part 135 certificate holders, airport service organizations, and flight schools. They were nominated by NetJets for their dedication, professionalism, and willingness to work through a very challenging project.
The ATP/NATA General Aviation Service Technician Award acknowledges the exceptional performance of a licensed airframe and power plant mechanic or radio repairman who has practiced his or her craft for a period of 20 or more years. Steve Taylor, long-time Epps Aviation employee, has been named as this year's recipient. After securing his A&P certificate in 1973, he was employed by Epps Aviation and has been a fixture since that time. Rising through the ranks from mechanic in the piston shop to head of all maintenance services at Epps, Taylor epitomized the virtues of loyalty, commitment, continued education and patience. During his tenure, Epps Aviation has developed into one of the leading service centers in the southeast United States.
John Bales, airport director of Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Missouri, is this year's recipient of the NATA Airport Executive Partnership Award, sponsored by Airport Business Magazine. The Airport Executive Partnership Award recognizes an airport manager for his or her outstanding efforts to foster relationships between aviation businesses and airport operators. Recipients of the award must illustrate leadership in the "partnership" between airport operators and airport tenants. Bales has been the airport director at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport since 2008. He has done an exemplary job of maintaining a customer service mentality, and at the same time promoting responsible growth and development of the airport. Bales takes a partnership stance with regard to all airport tenant business dealings, and he is always willing to help with any problem. He has successfully lobbied for state and federal funding for key infrastructure projects, and also successfully introduced a Missouri House of Representatives bill establishing tax incentives to help promote aircraft maintenance operations in Missouri.
William M. Hays will be this year's recipient for the Excellence In Pilot Training Award for his outstanding contributions in safety, professionalism, leadership, and excellence in the field of pilot training. As a flight instructor, he has recommended a countless number of pilots for certificates and ratings from Private Pilot through Transport Pilot with a pass rate near 100% for the past 36 years. Hays presently focuses the majority of his efforts on the overall operations of ATD flight training and air charter operations with an emphasis on quality, safety, standardization and regulatory compliance.