In mid-December, the National Aviation Hall of Fame publicly revealed the names of the four air and space pioneers selected to be enshrined at its 44th Annual Enshrinement Ceremony that will take place in Dayton on Saturday, July 16, 2005.
The formal announcement was made at a dinner hosted by the Dayton-based organization Aviation Trail, Inc., at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, located adjacent to the National Aviation Hall of Fame. The event was held in recognition of the 101st anniversary of the Wright Brothers first powered flight, Dec. 17, 1903.
On July 16, 2005, four aviation legends will join the 182 enshrinees currently honored by the NAHF, including the very first two, Orville and Wilbur Wright. The enshrinee Class of 2005 consists of WWII tactician and fighter ace, John R. Alison; record-setting aviatrix and aerobatic champion, Betty Skelton Frankman; pioneering military aviatrix, Nancy Harkness Love; and innovative engineer and aerospace industry leader, Benjamin “Ben” R. Rich.
John R. Alison was born in Florida in 1912. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1935, joined the Army Air Corps in 1936, and earned his wings in 1937. In 1941-42 he helped British and then Russian pilots transition into their U.S. lend-lease program aircraft. Later, assigned to the China-based 23rd Fighter Group, he scored six aerial victories. In 1943, he and Phil Cochran were selected by General H.H. “Hap” Arnold to head the newly formed 1st Air Commando Force, where Alison was instrumental in the development of numerous innovative weapons and tactics, including rockets, gliders and helicopters. He is considered by many to be “the Father of Air Force Special Operations.” He retired from service in 1971 as a major general.
Betty Skelton Frankman was born in Florida in 1926. She soloed unofficially at age 12 and obtained her pilots license at 16. At age 19 she became a flight instructor and air show pilot, becoming the first woman to perform the ribbon cut, inverted, at 10-feet above the ground. Frankman won many aerobatic contests in her Pitts Special, only the second one built. Called “Little Stinker,” it resides on display in the National Air & Space Museum. She competed in numerous air races and held both altitude and land speed records. Frequently referred to as the “First Woman of Firsts” for her many aviation and automotive records, she was also the first woman to undergo NASA’s physical and psychological tests for space flight with the original seven astronauts.
Nancy Harkness Love was born in 1914 and died in 1976. In 1942, she organized the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron in the Air Transport Command Ferrying Division. Love became the first woman to fly high-performance combat aircraft such as P-51 and P-38 fighters and B-17 bombers, convincing skeptical leadership that women could ferry such aircraft and thus free up male pilots for critical combat theatre duties. Thereafter Love played a pivotal role in the Army Air Force’s successful accomplishment of the ferrying component of its wartime mission, including the merging of the WAFS with the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Even after the WASPs were disbanded, Love continued to serve with the Air Transport Command until 1945, performing operational duties at home and overseas.
Benjamin R. “Ben” Rich was born in Manila, Philippines Islands, in 1925, and died in 1995. Rich graduated from Berkeley with a mechanical engineering degree and received a masters in aeronautical engineering from UCLA in 1950. Finding employment with Lockheed, at the age of 25 he was summoned by Kelly Johnson to join the company’s Advanced Development Projects division, better known as the Skunk Works. There he participated in cutting edge projects such as the XF-104 Starfighter, U-2 spy plane, SR-71 Blackbird and numerous other technologically sophisticated programs. In 1975, he succeeded Johnson as the head of Skunk Works and later became vice president of Lockheed in 1977. During this time he focused on developing the revolutionary F-117 Stealth fighter. Rich retired as “Chief Skunk” in 1990.
Founded in 1962 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1964, the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s mission is dedicated to honoring America’s outstanding air and space pioneers. The annual enshrinement dinner and ceremony is often referred to as “the Oscar Night of Aviation,” drawing an audience of hundreds of NAHF members; aerospace professionals; defense, government and industry leaders; as well as celebrity pilots and previous enshrinees.
The NAHF’s 13,000-square-foot Learning Center opened to the public in January 2003, featuring six galleries that trace the exciting history of flight through the people that made it happen. A variety of interactive displays highlight many of the achievements of the 182 enshrinees honored to date. The site is also home to the Harry B. Combs Research Center, dedicated to preserving tens of thousands of images and documents tracing the enshrinees’ life stories. Admission to the NAHF is free. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the NAHF is supported primarily through memberships and the contributions of individuals and corporations.
Advance reservations to the NAHF 44th Annual Enshrinement Ceremony can be placed by calling 937-256-0944, ext. 10. Seats are $125 per person. The NAHF is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, thus a portion of each seat purchased is deductible as allowed by law.
For more information, visit [http://www.nationalaviation.org/] or call 937-256-0944, ext 16.