By Robert Louis DalColletto
On June 14, the Museum of Flight held its 11th annual Gala Auction for Education to raise funds in support of its highly acclaimed education programs. Presented by the Boeing Company, this year’s event was held in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first recorded passenger flight—the historic Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, with mechanic Charles Furnas, which launched a century of air travel.
The evening’s emcee was Steve Pool, weathercaster for Seattle television’s KOMO 4 and board of trustees member for the Museum of Flight. He introduced the evening’s video tribute to commercial air travel, featuring four iconic aircraft and the innovation they represented: the Boeing model 40, Douglass DC-2 (with commentary from Clay Lacy), Boeing 747 and Concorde.
William E. Boeing Jr., a passenger in the airplane when he was 5 years old, represented the oldest commercial Boeing airplane still flying, the Boeing Model 40. Joe Sutter, Boeing’s chief engineer on the 747, and Brien Wygle, copilot on the 747’s first flight, Feb. 9, 1969, were also in attendance.
The Concorde was represented by retired British Airways Capt. Peter Duffey and Capt. Mike Bannister, the pilot who delivered the British Airways Concorde Alpha-Golf to the Museum of Flight on Nov. 5, 2003. Bannister expressed his love and admiration for the Concorde, a plane that could fly just over Mach 2 at 60,000 feet. In 1977, at age 28, Bannister became the youngest Concorde pilot ever.
In his introductory remarks, Bob Genise, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, thanked Boeing for its longstanding and generous support, as well as the Ford Company, for its support of the gala and for providing one of the evening’s featured auction items, a 2009 Lincoln MKS.
Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, president and CEO of the museum, opened with a message from Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, then spoke of the success and potential of the Museum of Flight’s educational programs.
“Our vision is to be the foremost educational air and space museum in the world,” she said.
The Museum of Flight educated more than 140,000 students last year, an increase of 20,000 over the previous year, and now provides 28 different instructor-led programs, designed to inspire young people with a “hands on” learning environment. The program fosters critical thinking and encourages students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
With more than 400 attendees, the museum’s gala raised more than $1.6 million, through sponsorships, ticket sales and a “raise your paddle” session, in addition to a wide range of silent and live auctions.
Some of the crowd’s favorite auction items were a ride in the Boeing model 40C, a dinner flight with Clay Lacy’s DC-2, a Reno Air races VIP tour, a sunset cruise for 20 on Bruce and Jolene McCaw’s yacht and a VIP tour of Kennedy Space Center, including special seating to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle.
During the live auction, led by auctioneer couple Dick and Sharon Friel, guests enjoyed a five-star meal catered by McCormick and Schmick’s. The Fred Radke orchestra and Gina Funes provided music.
Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, the gala’s presenting sponsor, best summed up the focus of the evening.
“Educating the next generation of people, who will take this industry to levels we can’t even begin to imagine today—that’s the reason you’re all here tonight,” he said, to a roar of supportive applause.
For more information on Museum of Flight education programs, visit [http://www.museumofflight.org] or call 206-764-5720.