We tip our hat to those who have shaped aviation through word and deed.
We all have heard about the most famous individuals associated with flying, but there are many whose work has greatly benefited aviation but whose names are not so familiar. One might say, “Somebody ought to do something to recognize these people.” Well, somebody is.
The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) annually honors several individuals who have contributed to the advancement and the history of aviation in the United States. Candidates must be at least 60 to be accorded the Elder Statesman of Aviation award, which was established in 1954 to honor outstanding Americans who have contributed significantly to aeronautics over the years. Recipients of the 1999 Elder Statesman of Aviation award are:
Max E. Bleck, a consistent contributor to general aviation. Starting as an aeronautical engineer, Bleck progressed to influential positions at several U.S. aircraft manufacturers, including Cessna, Piper and Raytheon (formerly Beech). His input led to the introduction of many noteworthy aircraft, including the Cessna Citation jet, the Beech 1900D regional service airliner and the Piper Malibu personal/business aircraft.
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 Finance Corporation in 1955 to lease and sell commercial aircraft and was involved in nonaviation-related businesses as well. He supported such sport aviation ventures as the Barron Hilton Cup for soaring and round-the-world ballooning attempts.
Corwin W. “Corky” Meyer, better known for his role as president and chief executive officer since 1974 of Grumman American–producer of the Gulf stream business jet and other commercial aircraft–than for 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, Tigercat and Bearcat. His management activities later extended to Enstrom Helicopters and Falcon Jet Corporation.
Margaret J. Ringenberg, whose first flight at age 7 got her hooked on aviation. She earned her private pilot’s license at 21, just in time to be called by the U.S. Army Air Forces to join the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs). After the war Ringenberg won many honors in air racing. She also piloted a Cessna 340 twin in an around-the-world air race. With more than 40,000 flying hours, she has served as a role model for many women pilots.
Paul Sanderson, an influence on pilot training since he became an instructor at the U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Instrument 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 training courses based upon videotapes and preprinted notes. His company, Sanderson Films, later merged with Jeppesen to become Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., which became a recognized leader in pilot information and training.
Frank Kingston Smith, a Philadelphia lawyer who developed a love for flying and whose enthusiasm inspired many others to learn to fly. He wrote three books, Weekend Pilot, Flights of Fancy and I’d Rather Be Flying. When I was a flight instructor in 1960, I loaned my copy of Weekend Pilot to beginning student pilots to help spur their enthusiasm during a sometimes difficult learning process. I subsequently became well acquainted with Frank, who became a regular columnist with Flying magazine, where I once was an editor. Frank Kingston Smith has been one of general aviation’s most lively 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. It promotes 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 Aéronautique Internationale.
Arthur H. Sanfelici, Editor, Aviation History