We salute those in aviation who have earned well-deserved recognition.
Every year the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) honors a handful of those who have contributed to the advancement and history of aviation in the United States. The historical aspect of their accomplishments is stressed by one of the basic criteria for the award–one must be at least 60 years old to be accorded this, the Elder Statesman of Aviation award. Recipients of the 2000 Elder Statesman award include the following:
Gladys Dawson Buroker is one of the groundbreaking women in aviation who overcame many obstacles to carve out a career decades before aviation was considered appropriate for females. She has nearly 20,000 flying hours and 63 years of experience in barnstorming, wing-walking, parachuting and piloting many types of aircraft. During World War II, Buroker provided flight instruction for military recruits.
Jack J. Eggspuehler has devoted his life to the enhancement of commercial and general aviation through education. A longtime flight instructor and professor of aviation at Ohio State University, he was instrumental in creating the National Association of Flight Instructors. As a presenter of safety programs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Air Safety Foundation, he traveled 200 days a year for 20 years to speak at weekend ground schools, flight instructor revalidation clinics (many of which I attended) and pilot refresher courses.
Lois Feigenbaum is a pilot of 38 years and a pioneering advocate for women’s equal right to a future in aviation. To this end, she has been a tireless crusader in many venues, serving as Federal Aviation Association (FAA) assistant deputy administrator for airports, a member of the Women’s Advisory Committee on Aviation, a 24-year FAA accident-prevention counselor and a race pilot. Her example and her involvement in organizations such as the Ninety-Nines, the international organization of women pilots, has promoted the involvement of women in aviation.
E.E. “Buck” Hilbert enlisted at the age of 17 in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aircraft maintenance instructor. After soloing at 16, he became a flight officer, flight instructor and Boeing B-17 bomber pilot during WWII. Recalled to duty during the Korean War, he flew Stinson L-5 and Cessna L-19 artillery spotter aircraft. He began a career with United Airlines flying the legendary Douglas DC-3, retiring years later as a captain flying DC-8s. He is now secretary of the airline’s historical foundation. A founding member of the Experimental Aviation Association, he has restored antique airplanes for himself and has assisted with others.
John B. Roach began his aviation involvement during WWII as a participant in the “Tuskegee Experiment,” through which African Americans were first allowed into Army Air Corps flight training. He became a North American B-25 bomber pilot and later served as a flight instructor in Fairchild C-119 troop carrier and Douglas C-124 cargo aircraft for the Air Force Reserve after the war. He joined the FAA in 1969 and was subsequently appointed deputy regional director for the New England region. An active member of the Tuskegee Airmen, he makes more than 25 presentations a year to civic, military, educational and professional groups.
Mervin K. Strickler, Jr., has been associated for 50 years with nearly every major aviation industry manpower resource. As director of Aviation Education of the Civil Air Patrol and chief of FAA Aviation Education Programs, Strickler has had a profound influence on administrators, teachers and students, matching sound educational principles with civilian and military aviation career needs.
Kenneth O. Wofford entered the Aviation Cadet training program at Tuskegee, Ala., and became a fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen. Wofford remained in the air service after the war and transitioned to transport aircraft, becoming instrumental in converting the U.S. Air Force fleet in Europe from propeller to four-engine jet aircraft. He retired in 1974 and continues his involvement in aviation as an active participant of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The NAA is the national aero club of the United States and is 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 Aeronautique Internationale.
Arthur H. Sanfelici, Editor, Aviation History