On Saturday, October 1, three men and one woman were enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. They are Jean Pearson, Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, Frank Overcashier and Brig. Gen. John Rowland.
Pearson served as a World War II Women Airforce Service Pilot in Wilmington, Del. She retired from the Naval Reserves as a lieutenant commander in 1975. Her career as a journalist for more than 30 years at the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News won her numerous national and local awards, including the Aviation/Space Writers Association’s Strebig Memorial Award for outstanding aviation writing in 1968 for her “Man in Space” series.
Gabreski is one of America’s finest pilots and was considered this country’s World War II “Ace” in Europe. In August 1949, he was reassigned to the 56th Fighter Group at Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan as commanding officer. By the end of his career, he had flown 266 combat missions in two wars, twice earning his “Ace” status by destroying 37.5 enemy aircraft in World War II and 6.5 enemy planes in Korea.
Overcashier established the first commercial flying field in Michigan, near Grand River Avenue in Detroit in 1920. He went on to open the Frank Overcashier Aviation School in Detroit and trained students to become mechanics, pilots, parachute jumpers and airplane welders. In the early 1920s, he also started the Overcashier Aircraft Manufacturing Company in Detroit, which was the first aircraft manufacturing business registered in the state of Michigan.
Rowland was commissioned as an infantry officer in August 1965, after graduating from Eastern Michigan University. After serving in Vietnam—-where he flew 839 hours of combat time-—and as a flight instructor at a base in Texas, he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve. In February 1972, he joined the Michigan Army National Guard as a part-time helicopter pilot. Two years later—-after purchasing and selling a flight school—-Rowland accepted a fulltime position with the Michigan Army National Guard in Grand Ledge, Mich.
Along with the enshrinees, local artist Rick Herter received the Harriet Quimby award for his contributions to the history of flight through his art, and the Yankee Air Museum received the Spirit of Flight award for the organization’s outstanding achievement in preserving Michigan aviation history.
Herter was invited to become a participating artist in the elite Air Force Art Program in 1987, and was selected to paint a series of pictures depicting Air Force operations during Operation Desert Storm. His work has hung in numerous private and public collections including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Pentagon. Herter also painted the Century of Flight mural surrounding the floor of the Air Zoo. The mural holds a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest indoor mural.
The Yankee Air Museum includes flyable examples of historic aircraft as well as static displays and display rooms filled with historic artifacts. During the summer, they tour the country on the air show circuit. After suffering a devastating fire in 2004, the Yankee Air Museum is in the process of rebuilding new hangars and facilities.
The Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame, located inside the new Air Zoo building at 6151 Portage Road, Portage, Mich., is open to all Air Zoo visitors. It’s located in the nationally-recognized Guadalcanal Memorial Museum exhibit.
For more information, call 866-524-7966 or visit [http://www.airzoo.org].