Keeping Pilots Safe.
Safeguarding the future of GA.
Harrison Ford, Co-Chair
With instrument and fixed-wing single- and multiengine ratings and a helicopter certificate, Harrison Ford is an experienced pilot who values the utility and joys of aviation. Channeling his passion for the industry, Ford touts its benefits to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Morgan Freeman, Co-Chair
Morgan Freeman joined AOPA soon after passing his check ride, and is proud to call himself a Hat in the Ring Society member. Morgan began flying only 10 years ago and like many pilots he wishes he’d started sooner. The more he flies the more he realizes that America’s general aviation system is truly a national treasure, and that as pilots we have a significant duty to protect that treasure.
Michael Goulian, Air Show Star, Honorary Co-Chair
Dierks Bentley, Country Music Icon, Honorary Co-Chair
Dave Coulier, Comedian and Actor, Honorary Co-Chair
Chris Meloni, Actor, Honorary Co-Chair
Ken Griffey Jr., Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Honorary Co-Chair
Stuart Woods, Aviation Author, Honorary Co-Chair
Hear Hat in the Ring Society Member Paul Diette talk about the program. Find out why you should join this group of leaders who take enormous pride in shaping and strengthening our freedom to fly.
Paul T. Vesely began his computer programming career working at two most exciting places; Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and Grumman’s Calverton Flight Test Center. The roar of F-14’s, EA6B’s, EF-111’s, P3B NAV MOD’s, etc. was such a motivator, as he developed software initially for mission data reduction of ASW flights at NAS Pax River, then for flight testing at Calverton. One of the highlights of Paul’s software development work was creating a failure status monitor application for the Grumman/DARPA X-29, and spending one Thanksgiving at Edwards to transition the software to NASA, in support of its first flight.
Paul says, “I was 25 years old then, and can say that I actually flew out of Edwards! When I finished work there, one of our chief test pilots flew me in his Bonanza from Edwards to John Wayne field, and that was awesome!”
On July 4, 1986, Paul decided to take an introductory lesson at Brookhaven Airport on eastern Long Island. From there, he was hooked. Vesely trained primarily in Warriors, and passed a nerve-wracking checkride at Islip on March 15, 1987. Paul says, “Let’s just say that the examiner was not very kind. After yelling at me several times during the flight, presumably to create distractions, we finished, and then he pulled out a pink failure slip from his drawer and laid it on the desk. Keeping that failure slip in front of him, he kept me in agony while he shuffled papers for a few minutes, then pulled a temporary certificate out of the garbage. That was my ticket!” After coming back from the checkride, he took his now husband Vince for his first flight in an aircraft. Paul flew for a few years in the Grumman Flying Club on Long Island, before moving to Virginia. He achieved his Instrument Rating in 1993 and Commercial certificate in 1997.
In 1990, he partnered with another individual to purchase a C172. “Establishing a partnership is certainly an easy and most affordable way to aircraft ownership. At that time, we each paid little more than 15K for the aircraft, and 1500 per year in operating expenses to fly”, says Vesely.
“One day” Paul says, “I was coming back on the metro from DC to Vienna, and met two pilots from South Africa who were going to Dulles for recurrent training. They were staying at a hotel in Fairfax but didn’t have a car, so I offered to take them to their hotel. It was a real treat when they invited me to fly the Jetstream 41 simulator the next day.”
Paul is President & CEO of an IT firm, Blue Mountain Data Systems Inc. He also owns Anna Valley Farm, a horse and mustang training facility in Louisa, VA. In addition to Warriors, he has flown numerous single engine piston aircraft; C150, C172, C182, C210, C82R, Arrow and Mooney. He’s received some training in several multi-engine aircraft; Seminole, Seneca, Apache and Navajo. Paul currently owns a TR182, based at Louisa County Airport (LKU) in Louisa.
Vesely has been a supporter of AOPA for 29 years, and a Hat in the Ring Society member for 12 years. Paul primarily flies the northeast corridor to Islip, Stewart and Provincetown, as well as south to Merritt Island, Florida. “Flying is such an attitude adjuster, and I always try to find the time to fly more”.
On May 24th, Paul lost his flight instructor, John J. Quinn, known as JJ. Paul had flown with JJ for years, and he says that he’s still there and will always be in his right seat. He’s “JJ Trained.”
*Hat in the Ring Members are listed by tax year of donation.
*Members listed on these pages are Hat in the Ring members for 1 full year from the time of their donation.
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Meet and mingle with fellow society members at these upcoming events:
Aug. 20 at Bremerton National Airport (PWT) in Bremerton, Washington;
Sept. 17 at WK Kellogg Airport (BTL) in Battle Creek, Michigan;
Oct. 1 at Ernest A. Love Field (PRC) in Prescott, Arizona.
AOPA also will participate in other aviation events, including EAA AirVenture and Sun 'n Fun.
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