ACA and NAA Recognize the Best in Humanitarian Flying

The Air Care Alliance (ACA) and the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) are honored to announce the 2023 Public Benefit Flying Awards recipients.

Uniting their love of flying and selfless devotion to humankind, pilots and other volunteers engaged in Public Benefit Flying combine their talent and time with the desire to help others. Types of Public Benefit Flying include medical transport, environmental and conservation support, search and rescue, emergency response, and pet transport. The people chosen to receive Public Benefit Flying Awards this year combine their love of flying with the capabilities of general aviation to create a rewarding and valuable part of the aviation story.

The 2023 Public Benefit Flying Awards recipients are:

Distinguished Volunteer Pilot

Dennis Phelan, for altruistically giving his time, talent, and resources to transport hundreds of passengers to their life-saving medical care as an Angel Flight West volunteer pilot and Earth Angel. Phelan has flown over 880 volunteer flights to help passengers reach life-saving medical care.

Distinguished Volunteer

David Brubaker, for his dedication to youth aviation education. Brubaker is helping to build the next generation of Public Benefit Flying pilots through STEM Flights, an organization mentoring youth and encouraging them to pursue STEM careers.

Teamwork Award

All General Aviation Pilots Involved in the Maui Relief, represented by Rainbow Helicopters, in recognition of their outstanding efforts to transport essential supplies to displaced families on the island of Maui after the deadly wildfires of 2023.

Outstanding Achievement in Advancement of Public Benefit Flying

Jim Hesseman, for outstanding service to public benefit flying and as a volunteer pilot with generosity and compassion that exceeds all expectations. Hesseman works tirelessly to build awareness of volunteer flights.

Champion of Public Benefit Flying

Lightspeed Aviation, for their outstanding and inspiring support for volunteer pilots and charitable aviation. Lightspeed spreads the word about Public Benefit Flying through media and published materials, such as their book, Flying for Compassion.

“The selfless dedication of these people is remarkable, and their impact is staggering,” said Amy Spowart, NAA President and CEO. “From a child with a terminal illness to an organ that needs to get across the country for transplant to the movement of people escaping natural disasters, these pilots represent the best in aviation. It’s our honor to recognize them and share their impact for the recognition and inspiration of others.”


Members of the 2023 Public Benefit Flying Selection Committee:

Ed Bolen, National Business Aviation Association

Linda Daschle, LHD & Associates, Inc

Jenna Gerdes, Angel Flight Central

John Lunseth, 2022 Public Benefit Flying Award recipient

Rol Murrow, Air Care Alliance

Greg Pecoraro, National Association of State Aviation Officials

Patty Wagstaff, Patty Wagstaff Aviation Safety, LLC


The presentation of the Public Benefit Flying Awards will occur in Washington, D.C., on a date to be determined.