The 11th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards, hosted by Ambassador of Aviation John Travolta, was another great success. Presenting sponsors included Bell Helicopter and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Stacey Elsner, the Executive Director of Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, the producer of the Living Legends of Aviation Awards, welcomed the 750 aviation guests to the black tie event. Kiddie Hawk presented a program highlighting the year, introducing the audience to the new “Kiddie Kopter.”
Next, a tribute to Paul Poberezny, founder of EAA, was narrated by Morgan Freeman. Paul Poberezny had been flying since the age of 15 without one hour of instruction. He built many of the planes that he flew, and was an avid aviator. He started the Experimental Aircraft Association out of his basement, but eventually brought the fly-in to Oshkosh, where AirVenture has become the biggest aviation fly-in in the world.
The seven new inductees into the “Living Legends of Aviation,”were then presented with their medallions by John Travolta.
Jack Erickson, Erickson Aviation Company, who is a pioneer in helicopter advancements and modifications using the Sikorsky SkyCrane to help in the business of logging, firefighting, and erection of tall towers heavy-weight items.
David Hurley, currently serving on the Board of Aviation Partners Boeing, has 60 years of aviation experience helping launch new business jets such as Cessna Citation and later the Canadair Challenger. He is also Chairman Emeritus of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
T. Allan McArtor, currently the Chairman of Airbus Americas, Inc. He oversees the activities and strategy of Airbus in the United States, Canada and Latin America, and was instrumental in establishing Airbus’ industrial presence in the U.S. with the A320 family assembly line in Mobile, Alabama. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and was a member of the elite Thunderbird flying squadron.
Roy Morgan, one of the founders of Air Methods Corporation, the largest provider of air medical emergency transport services in the nation. He created the whole industry of air medical evacuation, originally starting with a Bell 206 helicopter and being the only pilot. He has more than 19,000 flight hours logged in airplanes, helicopters and other aircraft. Roy was awarded the Living Legends of Aviation “Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award” in 2013.
David Neeleman is a man created and launched four successful, independent airlines, including JetBlue, Canada’s WestJet, and Brazil’s Azul Airlines. He started his career in 1984 by co-founding a low-fare carrier called Morris Air, implementing the industry’s reservation system, which is still used today.Neeleman was the recipient of the Living Legends of Aviation “Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award” in 2013.John Uczekaj, Aspen Avionics’ President and CEO, has over 30 years of experience in the avionics industry. He is an instrument rated private pilot and flies a Diamond DA40. He is passionate to help children get into aviation careers. Uczekaj was presented with the Living Legends of Aviation “Aviation Industry Leader of the Year” in 2013.
Treat Williams has been a pilot for over forty years. He soloed in a Piper Super-Cub off a grass strip in 1969 and has never looked back. He has over ten thousand hours in the cockpit. He is a commercial pilot for both fixed wing and helicopters, a Certified Flight Instructor, and is type-rated in the Citation Five. He co-owned Cineflight, an aviation company for films and television. He wrote and produced a children’s book, Airshow, which is about a love of airplanes from a child’s perspective, released by Disney/Hyperion Press. He is an actor and has appeared in many movies and television programs.
The Awards this year included the “Harrison Ford Aviation Legacy Award,” and a salute to the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, coordinated by two amazing women, Marilyn Richwine and Rhonda Fullerton. Under the leadership and tutelage of Legend Russ Meyer, these two women have donated many hundreds of hours to this wonderful program. Starting with the Kansas City Special Olympics delegation and two Citation aircraft, they flew their group of 8 Olympians and their coach to the International Games in Salt Lake City and back. It grew over the years, to where the Citation Jet Owners now donate their planes, fuel, pilots and time to transport thousands of Olympians, their families and their coaches to and from the Special Olympics venues every four years. This humanitarian effort needed to be recognized, as Harrison Ford personally participated in this airlift effort several years ago, and saw these women in action.
The “Lifetime Aviation Industry Leader Award” was presented to Bruce Whitman, Chairman, President and CEO of FlightSafety. Whitman was introduced by General Jack Dailey, current Director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and after a video of Mr. Whitman was presented to the audience, Mr. James Albaugh, last year’s “Lifetime Aviation Industry Leader Award” honoree, presented the Award to Mr. Whitman. Whitman was commissioned in the Air Force and earned triple ratings of pilot, navigator and bombardier before being appointed Assistant to the Commander, Homestead Air Force Base, Strategic Air Command. And earned his law degree from George Washington University, and was a senior executive with the NBAA before joining the FlightSafety team in 1961 under the leadership of founder and Legend, Al Ueltschi. He is an avid supporter of veterans and active military, pushes aviation safety around the world and fosters patriotism among young people.
The “Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award” was presented to Frederick W. Smith, founder, Chairman and CEO of FedEx. He was introduced by James Albaugh, retired President and CEO of the Boeing Company and Steven F. Udvar Hazy, Chairman, President and CEO of Air Lease Capital. After viewing a video of Fred Smith’s history, David Neeleman, last year’s “Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award recipient, presented Mr. Smith with the Award. Smith began his Federal Express operations in 1973 with Dassault Falcons, and turned it into the largest cargo airlines in the world today, touting 660 aircraft that deliver shipments to 220 counties and territories. FedEx operates more than 90,000 vehicles and has more than 300,000 team members around the world. FedEx generates annual revenues in excess of $43 billion. His determination and steadfast faith in his business model has made FedEx’s name a common verb, a household name and the familiar purple-and-orange logo a familiar part of the global landscape. Smith is a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame and the Living Legends of Aviation, and has served as co-chairman of both the U.S. World War II Memorial Project and the campaign for the National Museum of the Marine Corps. He served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corp from 1966-1970.
Bell Helicopter then presented the “Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award” to newly inducted Legend, Jack Erickson. Erickson has been heavily involved in the helicopter business and redefined aerial heavy lift in logging, firefighting, tower erection and limited access construction projects worldwide. Now in the fourth generation, the Erickson Group subsidiaries conduct fixed wing medevac operations, sell and maintain corporate aircraft, modify 757 passenger aircraft to freighter/combi configurations, provide engineering support to major airlines and are developing a fleet of MD87 tankers for firefighting operations. Bell Helicopter has supported the selection of vertical flight recipients who have succeeded and earned special recognition for their ingenuity in the vertical flight arena.
Bob Hoover’s Freedom of Flight tribute was presented postumously to his long-time friend, Col. George “Bud” Day. Day’s heroism and patriotic devotion to his country and to his men has been well documented. His son, George Jr, and Day’s widow, Dorie, accepted Bob Hoover’s Award, stating that of all of the Awards Bud had received, this one is the plum, coming from Bob Hoover.
Bob Hoover also presented his “Freedom of Flight Award” to Major General Patrick H. Brady, who served as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War and received the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. Brady trained and served with the 57th Medical Detachment, where his commanding officer was the legendary Major Charles Kelly. Following Kelly’s death, Brady took command and his aggressive flying onto the battlefields of Vietnam continued. On his second tour, his courageous air evacuations awarded Major Brady the Congressional Medal of Honor. He flew over two thousand combat missions and evacuated more than five thousand wounded. “Dust Off” rescued some one million casualties in Viet Nam, including men, women, and children, enemy as well as friendly. He retired after 34 years of service in the U.S. Army.
Following some closing remarks, guests were wisked up to the roof of the Beverly Hilton for the after party, to meet and greet the new inductees and honorees of the evening. Over 55 Legends attended the celebration of aviation, recognizing the accomplishments and joy of flight. Other sponsors included Raisbeck Engineering, Clay Lacy Aviation, Air Lease Corp, Aviation Partners, Bombardier, Breitling, Jeppesen, Jet Aviation, Prime Jet, Factory Direct Models, JetSuite, HondaJet, ProPilot Magazine, Boeing, Sierra Neva Corp, MD Helicopters, Airbus, Gulfstream, EAA, and many others. The Director of Production is Keith Singer, KAScreative, and the Director of Graphic Art is James Stolzenbach. Many volunteers were involved in making this amazing event happen.