2018 Award Winners

Bill Ayer

Alaska Airlines
Bill Ayer is the retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air. Ayer served as Chief Executive Officer of Alaska Air Group and its subsidiaries from 2002 to 2012, and chairman from 2003 through 2013.

AFW Involvement:

Bill has been a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight West since 1993 and has donated and flown more than 50 missions. He served on AFW’s board of Directors from 2000 to 2010 and currently volunteers as an executive coach for AFW’s Executive Director. Bill played an instrumental role during the merger between fellow volunteer pilot organization AirlifeLine and Angel Flight West and furthered the partnership between Alaska Airlines and Angel Flight West to better serve Alaska Airline communities in need of access to healthcare.

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A veteran of more than three decades in aviation, Ayer began his career with Piper Aircraft Company, and was the founder of Air Olympia, a small commuter airline in Washington State. He joined Horizon Air in 1982 where he held a variety of marketing and operations positions. He joined Alaska Airlines in 1995 as Vice President of Marketing and Planning and subsequently held the posts of Senior Vice President; Chief Operating Officer; and President.

Ayer serves on the Honeywell Board of Directors and chairs the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Flight. Ayer is a member of the FAA’s Management Advisory Council, is the immediate past chair of FAA’s NextGen Advisory Committee, and serves on the National Business Aviation Association Board, and the AOPA Board of Visitors. A graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, he earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington.

Ayer owns a Piper Malibu and holds airline transport and flight instructor certificates with over 4,500 hours of flight time. He and his wife, Pam, are residents of Bellevue, Washington, and have one daughter, Elizabeth.

  • He served as Chair of the Board of Regents at the University of Washington for 2015-16
  • Appointed by Governor Christine Gregoire from January 17, 2012 to September 30, 2016
  • Confirmed by Senate on March 7, 2012
  • Reappointed by Governor Jay Inslee from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2022
  • Awaiting Senate confirmation

Dale Klapmeier

Cirrus Aircraft
Dale Klapmeier is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cirrus Aircraft. In 1984, along with his brother Alan, Dale founded Cirrus in a barn on their parents’ rural farmland near Baraboo, Wisconsin. Their first design was the homebuilt VK-30 aircraft, which they introduced at the 1987 EAA Convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

AFW Involvement:

Dale first became involved with Angel Flight West and the Endeavor Awards in 2015. Recognizing that the “Cirrus Life” is more than just a hobby, Dale created a milieu that represents a whole new lifestyle filled with freedoms, choices, and responsibilities, including flying for charitable purposes. Thanks to Cirrus’ commitment to giving back, the largest percentage of new volunteer pilots fly a Cirrus. And the Cirrus Aircraft partner companies and customers have donated more than $100,000 in operating support for AFW, enabling over 400 donated flights.

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From the brothers’ experience building and marketing the VK-30, they decided that safety and ease-of-operation would be at the forefront of all their future designs. Dale’s goal was to create a certified aircraft that his wife would feel comfortable flying in. Since then, Cirrus has revolutionized the general aviation industry with the use of composite materials, fully intergraded glass-panel cockpits, and whole-airframe ballistic parachute systems, a standard device on Cirrus aircraft that has saved nearly 150 lives to date.

Under the leadership of Dale and his team, Cirrus has been the largest producer of piston aircraft since 2013, delivering over 6,800 SR-series aircraft in 18 years of production. Today the SR22 remains the world’s best-selling GA airplane for the 15th year running. In 2016, Dale’s team completed the certification process for the first single-engine personal jet: the Vision SF50. With close to 600 orders from around the world, Cirrus is changing personal transportation once again. Dale has helped the company continue to expand beyond their Duluth, MN and Grand Forks, ND facilities, opening a new customer delivery center in Knoxville, TN.

In addition to numerous aviation industry and entrepreneurial awards, Dale and Alan were formally inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2014 and were ranked the 17th most influential figures in aviation history by Flying Magazine. In 2015, Dale became enshrined in the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame.

Passionate about expanding all forms of aviation learning, Dale has served on several boards and programs, including EAA’s Young Eagles Gathering of Eagles program, the Red Tail Project, the founding board of the Scott D. Anderson Leadership Foundation, and NASA’s Aeronautics Research & Technology Roundtable, chairing its GA subcommittee. He is currently the founding Chairman of the STEM organization AirSpace Minnesota. Dale holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and has been flying since the age of 15, accumulating 6,000 hours of flight time in his career.

Endeavor Award Recipient

Wanda Bash Whitsitt

Lifeline Pilots Wanda Whitsitt, 2018 Endeavor Award Winner

Who is Wanda Bash Whitsitt? She is a person who was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 1986, a visionary, a wife, mother of four, grandmother, corporate pilot, ground school instructor, community volunteer, historian, President emeritus of Lifeline, a sage, and volunteer pilot. Foremost, she is an extraordinary person!

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Founded in 1981 as a result of Wanda’s vision, Lifeline Pilots is the oldest regional volunteer pilot organization, and arguably the oldest VPO flying patients in the United States. During her lifetime commitment to charitable aviation, others learned from Wanda’s experiences, which she openly shared, and today more than two dozen VPOs are flying coast-to-coast as a result. Wanda’s mentoring always focused on patients and their families above everything else. At 87, she remains active as president emeritus of LLP, attending board meetings and calls, and counseling others of us on the board, and others who seek it. Her tireless and selfless personality will be the model for others who follow. As of 2017, Lifeline Pilots has conducted over 8,000 missions and flown over 5 million miles with a perfect safety record. LLP is based at the Peoria International Airport, Peoria, Illinois, in the Byerly Aviation Terminal Building.

From Wanda Whitsitt, October 1989

“The formation of Lifeline Pilots was not a planned event. It came into being in the search for justifying the use of an acquired skill. As our fourth and last child headed for college, I told my husband we would learn to fly together since this was something he had always wanted to do. The transition from PTAs to VORs was much greater than I anticipated, but it was a proud achievement. For Christmas that year, my friends were receiving Giorgio perfume and negligees; I got a tow bar and fire extinguisher.”

“Since the first mission was flown in April 1981, the project has grown steadily. We have served medical patients of all ages and have flown medical teams, blood, and organs needed to save lives. Our non-flying supporters have continued to provide the financial support needed for our operations. The growth and success of Lifeline must be attributed to the dedication and sacrifice of many, many people.
As for myself, I’ll take the scent of 100LL to Giorgio any day.”

From Lifeline Pilots’ former President Ray Garritano

“It was 1980 when Wanda began to materialize her dream for private pilots to contribute to society’s greater good. She began by contacting such organizations as the local Red Cross, the Illinois Emergency Service Disaster Agency, the National Kidney Foundation, and Lion’s Club to see how private pilots could assist these organizations with their missions of helping others. Next, she began advertising in Illinois Aviation. Her efforts soon began to take form when 40 pilots said, ‘Sign me up!’ Shortly afterward, in April 1981, the first mission for Lifeline Pilots was flown. For the next ten years, she flew missions, was president of the organization, recruited pilots, performed public relations, raised funds and wrote news articles. She was almost a one-person organization! Wanda took her worthwhile dream and turned it into a reality. She lived as Pamela Starr wrote: ‘Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal!’ She has enriched the lives of thousands of patients and the lives of lifeline pilots.”

Jim Svec, a longtime Lifeline supporter, summed up the reward of helping others by his statement:

“‘Names I cannot remember, but faces I will never forget!’ No pilot will ever forget those faces that expressed gratitude following a mission. I salute Wanda because she is a living example of what is good. The greatness of Wanda-indeed the essence of Wanda-is the lady as a symbol. It is not so much what she has done, but what others have done because of her and the power of her example. This is the measure of the lady. What has come out of her life and thought is the kind of inspiration that can animate a generation. She supplied a working demonstration of reverence for life. Harry Lauder wrote, ‘I could tell where the Lamplighter was by the trail he left behind him.’ Wanda has created such a trail with Lifeline Pilots. She is our Lamplighter, our organization’s very soul!”

Wanda summed it up best when she wrote;

I have four children, so I look at Lifeline as my fifth child, and just feel it was a mission that I was destined to have.

Awardee’s national and international awards and special recognitions:
Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame (1986); National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Honor (1992); National Aeronautic Association/Air Care Alliance Most Distinguished Volunteer Award (2004); AARP “Win and Do Good Award” award recipient (2011); City of Peoria and County Board of Peoria Proclamations, 30th Anniversary of Lifeline Pilots (2011); State of Illinois General Assembly and Senate Recognition, 30th Anniversary of LLP (2012); State of Illinois Lifeline Appreciation Day (April 14, 2012)

Endeavor Award Recipient

Kevin D'Angelo DDS

Wings Flights of Hope Kevin D'Angelo DDS, 2018 Endeavor Award Winner

Kevin exemplifies what it is to be a giving and caring person. With a special inner drive, he demonstrates time and time again that he is willing to go to great lengths to provide volunteer services. He volunteers with both of his gifts: Dentistry and Piloting.
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Kevin D’Angelo has been flying compassion flights since 2000 and has completed nearly 150 flights over that time period with Angel Flight and then Wings Flights of Hope. In 2000, Kevin also started flying charity flights to Bani in the Dominican Republic to aid a charity group called Jesse’s Children and then in 2010 started the Good Sam Project flying to La Romana to treat the Haitian workers in the bateys (sugar worker towns) there. In 2002, he began flying with Remote Area Medical to Appalachia, and in 2003 started transporting students from University at Buffalo to help with the clinics.

In addition to those flights, for the past 20 years, Kevin volunteered to donate free flights for Habitat for Humanity, church groups, and many other charities to help fundraise for those groups. Kevin has completed more than 200 volunteer Young Eagles’ first flights, with kids age 8-18.

Kevin is passionate about giving back. Founding the Good Sam Project and volunteering for Wings Flights of Hope, Angel Flight, and Remote Access Medical Volunteer Corps aren’t the only highlights of his philanthropic career. Since 1981, as a member of the Guild of St. Apollonia, he has donated his skills as a dentist to people who couldn’t otherwise afford them. And for more than 10 years, he has organized and worked in free dental clinics in poor Buffalo neighborhoods.

An Adjunct Volunteer Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Kevin not only provides instruction to dental students, for 18 years he’s provided the transportation, so they can treat indigent populations in Appalachia and third world countries. In addition to founding the Good Sam Project, he is the former president and current Chair of Missions for the Flying Dentists Association.

Awardee’s national and international awards and special recognitions:
Frank Stone Award for Community Service By Erie County Dental Society 2009
American Dental Society Humanitarian Award
Jude Fabiano BOCA Legacy Award 2012
Awarded Man of the Year by Kids Escaping Drugs