MELBOURNE, FLA. — The Air Charter Safety Foundation has established a scholarship in honor of its first safety director, the Florida Tech alumnus Russ Lawton. After a prolonged illness, Lawton passed away Jan. 14 at the age of 70.
Lawton ’74 A.S., ’76 graduated from Florida Tech with a bachelor’s degree in air commerce with flight technology. He was later recognized with the university’s Outstanding Alumni award for his contributions to aviation safety.
The Air Charter Safety Foundation has pledged to honor Lawton’s legacy by creating the Russ S. Lawton Scholarship. Donations are being accepted. The scholarship fund will support an annual scholarship for undergraduate student(s) in the College of Aeronautics, who need financial assistance and who plan to pursue a career in flight safety. Recipients will be selected by the Office of Financial Aid.
Born in New Britain, Connecticut, and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Russell Stuart Lawton’s passion for aviation was clear early on. By age 15 he had soloed at the historic Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and aviation – and particularly aviation safety – would remain among the pillars of his life both personally and professionally.
After graduation from Florida Tech, Lawton pursued his passion by working for more than a decade for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, ultimately becoming vice president of operations. From 1987 to 2000, Lawton was an analyst and consultant for Events Analysis Inc. & Advanced Aviation Concepts, where he assisted the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA on safety initiatives.
In 2006, he became the first full-time employee of the Air Charter Safety Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports the highest safety standards for more than 300 aviation-focused businesses, charter and fractional operators. Starting as director of safety management and later named vice president of operations, Lawton remained at ACSF until his passing.
“Russ Lawton had a huge passion for aviation safety. His love of learning and being a true educator is what he did best. He always wanted to give back to those who worked hard and became leaders within our industry,” said ACSF President Bryan Burns. “A true gentleman and beloved industry colleague, Russ was respected for his vision, leadership, integrity, knowledge and strong advocacy for our aviation safety community.”
In addition to his professional achievements, Lawton was chief pilot for family flights to visit friends and relatives, a connoisseur of good red wine and solely responsible for keeping the family pool in perfect condition for pool parties. He also, his obituary noted, endured wife Sherry’s never-ending home-improvement projects.