AOPA appreciates all the help it can get from members in defending airports but Richard Beach's dedication to eliminating part of an illegally built high-rise near Montgomery Field in San Diego was beyond the call of duty. "People told me my life was in danger," Beach told the packed wind-up dinner at AOPA Expo Saturday in Hartford. Beach was awarded the Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award given annually to the AOPA member who, as a private citizen, works on behalf of general aviation. Beach mobilized members in the San Diego area when, in defiance of city and FAA orders, a developer continued to build a condo complex that was 20 feet higher than is allowed in that location. As AVwebreported earlier, not only are the top two floors of the building coming down, a number of highly placed heads at city hall have also rolled as a result of the scandal that Beach and his supporters uncovered.
Beach got a standing ovation from the crowd after President Phil Boyer recounted how he led local pilots in a reasoned and fact-based campaign that drew local media attention and inspired such well-known San Diego pilots as John and Martha King to join the battle. Beach, a Cirrus owner, said the job would have been much more difficult without AOPA's Airport Support Network. AOPA President Phil Boyer said Beach's effort epitomized the kind of action that is sometimes needed to protect aviation facilities from encroachment.