Those who want to be ‘history literate’ study notonly aviation hardware but also the people whomake it run.
The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) recently honored six people who have contributed to the advancement–and to the history–of aviation in the United States. History is stressed because honorees must be at least 60 years old to qualify for the Elder Statesman of Aviation award. The annual award was established in 1954 to honor outstanding Americans who, by their efforts over a period of years, contributed significantly to aeronautics and who have in so doing reflected credit upon their country and themselves.
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 Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
Recipients of the 1997 Elder Statesman of Aviation award are:
John L. Baker, who has long been an enthusiastic advocate for the development of general aviation in the United States. He served the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as assistant administrator for general aviation for several years and instituted programs that enhanced the value of civil aviation. During his tenure as president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) from 1978 through 1990, he promoted the cause of those who flew general aviation aircraft.
William K. Kershner, who has long epitomized the benchmark by which all flight instructors are judged. His Student Pilots Flight Manual is the definitive book on flight instruction, and several subsequent books have delved into specific aspects of flight instruction and aerobatics. He continues to conduct hands-on research and instruction in flight safety concerns, such as spins and aerobatics.
Ralph Nelson, who has been an active participant in the promotion of flying and flight training for more than 40 years. An ardent supporter of operational safety, he developed AOPA’s original weekend flight-training clinics for pilots. That program has graduated more than a quarter of a million students. He also instituted several other safety training programs, dealing with such topics as how to avoid dangerous weather situations and how non-pilots could safely land an airplane in case of pilot incapacitation. Nelson also established the International Aviation Theft Bureau, now the Aviation Crime Prevention Institute.
R. Dixon Speas, who is the founder and spark behind consulting firms whose services have been dedicated to improving the safety and efficiency of airline operations. Improvements in operational procedures, mechanical design and flight techniques have extended to all elements of airline operation, including aircraft, engines and components that have involved both large and small airlines. His influence has extended to domestic and overseas airlines, corporate aviation and general aviation, as well as airports, air traffic control and government agencies.
Edward W. Stimpson, who is the perennial “can do” aviation executive. He served the FAA as the assistant administrator under three agency administrators and continued his contributions to aviation in the civilian sector. A strong supporter and watchdog of the general aviation industry, he was president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for several years. Presently, Stimpson is chairman of General Aviation Team 2000, and he continues his efforts to promote the growth of general aviation through programs that foster public acceptance of, and participation in, general aviation.
Peter Wright, Sr., who has served the rotary-wing segment of aviation for more than 40 years. He has developed operational plans for and worked closely with such diversified operations as heavy-lift helicopters, rooftop heliports, bank check transport via helicopters, airborne geophysical operations and the use of modern twin-engine, all-weather helicopters for corporate transportation. Wright also is the founder of the American Helicopter Museum, which is just west of Philadelphia in West Chester, Pa.
Aviation History salutes the people who make the aviation hardware a meaningful tool for society.
Arthur H. Sanfelici, Editor, Aviation History