On March 21, 2018, Van’s Aircraft founder Dick VanGrunsven was presented the AOPA General Aviation Safety Award in recognition of his efforts and contributions toward safety in general aviation, and in the experimental community in particular. Below, view a video of the presentation and read a letter from Van to the RV community, in which he recognizes the community effort that has resulted in the improvements we all benefit from, and in which he encourages us all to continue along this positive path.
A letter from Dick VanGrunsven to the RV Community
Congratulations! I write this to honor the entire RV community, which has contributed to the culture committed to flight safety that we have been able to foster. In case you are unaware, AOPA has recognized the advances in general aviation safety and have recently created a new award aptly titled the “General Aviation Safety Award.” I am humbled and honored that they have selected me as the inaugural recipient. Flattered by this recognition, I am fully aware that it was by no means a singular accomplishment on my part. The text of Richard McSpadden’s column in the April ’18 issue of PILOT magazine and in the attachments to this post, clearly recognize the team effort that brought about this honor. Most are aware of the efforts such as the RV Transition Training initiative and the many safety articles published in the RVator over the years. Also, the extensive mentoring and encouragement you have offered to one another has resulted in safer airplanes and pilots. It is very rewarding to see that our efforts and success has been recognized by the Safety Program leaders at AOPA.
Reception of this award is gratifying but should not be viewed by any of us as a basis for complacency. RV accidents still occur for various reasons, with most being preventable. Also, the bulk of the homebuilt community does not yet enjoy a level of safety equal to ours. Therein lays the challenge: To broaden the base of transition training and other safety practices that has been promoted by the culture and benefited our RV community.
While in Washington D.C. for the award ceremony, I was able to meet with Richard McSpadden , Executive Director of the AOPA Air Safety Institute and several others for a discussion on safety. The details of which, though not superfluous, are not entirely cogent to this announcement. However, there were some interesting topics well worth mentioning. One not directly related to safety statistics was their envy over the amount of flying that the members of the RV community amass, i.e., your level of enthusiasm toward flying and flying as often as possible. They wanted to know how “I” spawned this flying fervor, if you will. Obviously, I and the Van’s staff helped facilitate this through the quality of our kits, our aircraft’s performance, and our product support. However, it is your passion for flight that is the secret ingredient in the formula.
Another topic discussed was that of determining pathways to “reach the unreachable.” This obviously refers to those pilots who live in their own chosen reality and do not recognize the conventional wisdom that we accept as necessary to fly safely. This is an old refrain with no new answers other than perhaps the “trickle-down” principle. That is, YOU accept and practice safe flying principles and practices, and encourage others to do likewise. Then, those new converts reach out to the next level of “non-believers.” Some outliers are unlikely to ever listen to the word from “on high”, but hopefully will respond to the examples that you, their peers, set and the respect they have for your character and your skills. There is certainly no way to guarantee the success of this approach, but many have already seen fruitful examples of this positive trend. This is the long, hard road to achieving positive culture change.
The significance of our community being singled out for this award is testimony to all of our/your efforts, and motivation to continue striving for greater flying safety and enjoyment.