We tip our hat to those who have shaped aviationthrough word and deed.
We all have heard about the most famous individuals associated with flying, but there are many whosework has greatly benefited aviation but whose names are not so familiar. One might say, “Somebodyought to do something to recognize these people.” Well, somebody is.
The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) annually honors several individuals who have contributedto the advancement and the history of aviation in the United States. Candidates must be at least 60 to beaccorded the Elder Statesman of Aviation award, which was established in 1954 to honor outstandingAmericans who have contributed significantly to aeronautics over the years. Recipients of the 1999 ElderStatesman of Aviation award are:
Max E. Bleck, a consistent contributor to general aviation. Starting as an aeronautical engineer, Bleckprogressed to influential positions at several U.S. aircraft manufacturers, including Cessna, Piper andRaytheon (formerly Beech). His input led to the introduction of many noteworthy aircraft, includingthe Cessna Citation jet, the Beech 1900D regional service airliner and the Piper Malibu personal/businessaircraft.
W. Barron Hilton, a strong financial and inspirational supporter of aviation progress for the past 50years. A pilot who gained his license in Hawaii during World War II, Hilton founded Air FinanceCorporation in 1955 to lease and sell commercial aircraft and was involved in nonaviation-relatedbusinesses as well. He supported such sport aviation ventures as the Barron Hilton Cup for soaring andround-the-world ballooning attempts.
Corwin W. “Corky” Meyer, better known for his role as president and chief executive officer since 1974of Grumman American–producer of the Gulfstream business jet and other commercial aircraft–thanfor his work as a test pilot. Meyer flew more than 125 different military and civilian aircraft in his55-year career, putting unproven flying machines through their paces. He joined Grumman Aviation in1942 as an engineering test pilot and served as senior project pilot on such aircraft as the Hellcat, Tigercatand Bearcat. His management activities later extended to Enstrom Helicopters and Falcon JetCorporation.
Margaret J. Ringenberg, whose first flight at age 7 got her hooked on aviation. She earned her privatepilot’s license at 21, just in time to be called by the U.S. Army Air Forces to join the Women’s Air ForceService Pilots (WASPs). After the war Ringenberg won many honors in air racing. She also piloted aCessna 340 twin in an around-the-world air race. With more than 40,000 flying hours, she has served asa role model for many women pilots.
Paul Sanderson, an influence on pilot training since he became an instructor at the U.S. Navy’s AircraftInstrument and Link Trainer School in 1942. After heading similar activities at Embry-Riddle,Sanderson started his own aviation ground school in 1956 and developed aviation ground trainingcourses based upon videotapes and preprinted notes. His company, Sanderson Films, later merged withJeppesen to become Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., which became a recognized leader in pilot information andtraining.
Frank Kingston Smith, a Philadelphia lawyer who developed a love for flying and whose enthusiasminspired many others to learn to fly. He wrote three books, Weekend Pilot, Flights of Fancy and I’dRather Be Flying. When I was a flight instructor in 1960, I loaned my copy of Weekend Pilot tobeginning student pilots to help spur their enthusiasm during a sometimes difficult learning process. Isubsequently became well acquainted with Frank, who became a regular columnist with Flyingmagazine, where I once was an editor. Frank Kingston Smith has been one of general aviation’s mostlively and influential ambassadors through his writing and speaking.
The NAA is the national aero club of the United States and the nation’s oldest aviation organization. Itpromotes the advancement of the art, sport and science of aviation and space flight, and is the U.S.representative to the world aviation and space record-setting organization, the Fédération AéronautiqueInternationale.
Arthur H. Sanfelici, Editor, Aviation History