NATA Bestows Industry Excellence Awards

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- 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 in a ceremony during NATA's Air Charter Summit and FBO Leadership Conference on June 10 at the Westfields Marriott in Dulles, VA.

Richard (Dick) Van Gemert receives NATA's highest honor, the William A. Ong Memorial Award -- named in honor and memory of Bill Ong, NATA's co-founder and its first president. Van Gemert is being honored for extraordinary achievement and extended meritorious service to the general aviation industry. His illustrious aviation career began in 1960 when he earned his wings and joined the Naval Patrol Squadron 47. After a short stint as a development engineer for Blackmer, he returned to the skies in 1966 when he joined Xerox as a first officer flying the Lockheed Jetstar. He later became chief pilot and then manager of travel services. He was then promoted to director of general services at Xerox.

In 1991, he retired from Xerox and joined KC Aviation as executive vice president of transportation services. In 1996, KC Transportation Services was sold and he joined an investor and started New World Jet, where he served as president until 2006. During this time, he joined the NATA Board of Directors and became a member of the Air Charter Safety Foundation Executive Committee.

In 1978, he was selected as Ziff Davis Corporate Pilot of the Year for demonstrating leadership in integrating modern management practices into corporate aviation. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Van Gemert held several leadership positions on boards and committees at Flight Safety Foundation, NBAA, and International Flight Safety Foundation.

"Without question, Dick Van Gemert is an icon in our industry. Dick's counsel, support and dedication to the general aviation community is surpassed by few and valued by many. It is a privilege to recognize his lifelong achievements with NATA's highest honor, the William A. Ong Memorial Award," says NATA President James K. Coyne.

This year's NATA's Distinguished Service Award, recognizing outstanding service and ongoing contributions to the industry, goes to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) former long-time director of the Flight Standards Service, James J. Ballough. He joined the FAA in August 1986 and was appointed director, Flight Standards Service in December 2001. Flight Standards is responsible for promoting the safety of flight for civil aircraft by setting regulations and standards for air carriers, air agencies, general aviation, airmen, and designees. It also is responsible for the certification, inspection, surveillance, investigation, and enforcement of the Federal Aviation Regulations. In addition, the organization manages the aircraft and airmen official registry system. As director, Ballough was involved in such issues as Part 135 operational control, continued airworthiness and the development of the Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft regulations. Before this appointment, he served as the acting manager, Continuous Maintenance Division, at the FAA Washington headquarters.

"Jim Ballough's dedication and commitment as one of the longest serving directors of FAA's Flight Standards Service can only be described as remarkable. His attention to safety issues and exemplary efforts to improve the entire aviation industry are just two of the many reasons he will be honored with NATA's Distinguished Service Award," says Coyne.

William (Bill) Garvey, editor-in-chief of Business & Commercial Aviation, 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. Garvey also serves as deputy managing editor, Business Aviation for the AVIATION WEEK group. Before joining McGraw-Hill in 2000, he was the top editor for both Flying and Professional Pilot magazines, and a senior editor at Reader's Digest. He has authored or co-authored three aviation books, was an essayist for National Public Radio, wrote aviation documentaries for The Discovery Channel, and served as host of "Aviator's World," a cable television series. During his stewardship at Business & Commercial Aviation, the monthly magazine has received dozens of awards for editorial excellence.

The DuPage FSDO will be recognized, as an FAA facility representing the highest degree of customer service and elevating the quality of interaction between the FAA and aircraft maintenance and repair facilities, Part 135 certificate holders, airport service organizations, and flight schools, as the recipient of NATA's FAA Customer Service Excellence Award. The DuPage FSDO covers the northern part of Illinois, serving 23 counties. The FSDO supports the FAA's Safety Mission through implementation of the local, regional, and national performance plans and provides aviation enthusiasts with a variety of aviation safety-related data and activities, seminars, and meetings.

"NATA applauds the DuPage FSDO's commitment to improving their service and response continually for their customers in pursuit of the highest level of safety," says Coyne.

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. Jimmy Ray fits that bill well as a respected, accomplished licensed A&P who has been involved in aviation for 31 years. For the last 11 years, he has contributed as a technician, lead technician, service department manager, maintenance inspector and now as the chief inspector for Million Air-Salt Lake City. Jimmy is credited with helping to implement many procedures and policies to reduce rework and to increase safety, and quality within the company. Ray is described as a dedicated, professional leader who is always willing to help others. This award is sponsored by Aircraft Technical Publishers.

The Airport Executive Partnership Award, sponsored by Airport Business Magazine, will go to Gary Schmidt as an airport manager whose outstanding efforts nurture the relationships between aviation businesses and airport operators. Schmidt is the director of reliever airports for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission. He oversees the operation and management of six reliever airports in the Twin Cities area. Schmidt has been involved in aviation for nearly 35 years and was an air traffic controller before becoming an airport manager.

Bill W. Griggs will be awarded the Excellence In Pilot Training Award for his outstanding contributions in safety, professionalism, leadership, and excellence in the field of pilot training. Griggs co-owns, with his son, Aviation Facilities Inc., a flight training center located on the Fullerton Airport, Fullerton, CA. He founded AFI nearly 44 years ago and is still active on a daily bases in the operation. He is a flight instructor, with over 15,000 hours of instruction given. AFI has averaged over 6,000 hours of flying per year at their operation for over 30 years.