The National Aviation Hall of Fame held its 44th annual enshrinement ceremony, in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, July 16. Four more air and space pioneers formally joined the roster of 182 men and women aviation legends previously honored. They were General John R. Alison, Betty Skelton Frankman, the late Nancy Harkness Love and the late Benjamin R. Rich. Air Vice Marshal Ron Dick (RAF, ret.) served as master of ceremonies.
Four well-known aviation personalities formally presented the enshrinee Class of 2005 at the black-tie gala, known as the “Oscar Night of Aviation.” David Lee “Tex” Hill, former Flying Tiger ace, presented Alison. Dorothy Cochrane, curator in the Aeronautics Department of the National Air and Space Museum, presented Skelton Frankman, and Ann Hamilton Tunner, a former Women Airforce Service Pilot, presented the late Nancy Harkness Love. Dr. William Perry, the nineteenth U.S. Secretary of Defense (serving from 1994 to 1997), had the honor of presenting the late Benjamin R. (Ben) Rich.
John R. Alison
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 “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. Alison, considered by many to be “the Father of Air Force Special Operations,” retired from service in 1971 as a major general.
Betty Skelton Frankman
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, “Little Stinker,” only the second one built. 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 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
Nancy Harkness Love was born in 1914. 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 WASP. Even after the WASPs were disbanded, Love continued to serve with the Air Transport Command until 1945, performing operational duties at home and overseas. Love passed away in 1976. Her eldest daughter, Hannah Love Robinson, accepted enshrinement on behalf of her mother.
Benjamin R. Rich
Benjamin R. Rich was born in Manila, Philippines Islands, in 1925. He graduated from Berkeley with a mechanical engineering degree and received a master’s degree 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 spyplane, 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 that time he focused on developing the revolutionary F-117 Stealth fighter.
Rich retired as “Chief Skunk” in 1990. He died in 1995. His son Michael Rich accepted enshrinement on his father’s behalf.
Patte Barham collection
At the annual President’s Reception and Dinner, held on July 15, the NAHF formally announce its acceptance of a gift of a private photographic collection related to aviation pioneer Howard Hughes. Patte Barham, noted author and journalist, personally presented the NAHF with nearly 270 photos from her private collection.
The Barham/Hughes collection covers several decades of Hughes’ pioneering aviation contributions, including his role as producer and director of the 1930 cinematic blockbuster, “Hell’s Angels,” his many record-setting flights, the design and construction and flight of the behemoth Hercules flying boat, and his company’s later involvement with NASA in the lunar space program.
Many images from the collection have never been published. Press and company photographers shot the majority; however, Hughes took several himself during his record-setting round-the-world flight in July 1938.
Barham, who at that time intended to author a history on Hughes focusing on his numerous aviation innovations and accomplishments, purchased the photos in 1968. She had attended Hughes’ 1973 enshrinement into the NAHF accompanied by Edward Lund, one of the four crewmen aboard the record-setting 1938 flight and a close Hughes associate.
Barham’s concern is that “future generations may not fully understand and appreciate the genius of flight that is Howard Hughes.” When she realized that the NAHF Learning & Research Center was ideally suited to oversee a Hughes retrospective utilizing her collection, and would provide an appropriate repository from which they could be shared, she contacted the NAHF with her proposal to make the gift to them.
The acceptance agreement includes publishing a book featuring the collection as a joint effort between the NAHF and Barham, who will pen some of its text. A publisher has been engaged to produce and distribute a hard-cover art book format; both a historian and designer are committed to commence work in 2006. The NAHF will also endeavor to publicly tour a portion of the collection at a later date once each image has been digitized for its archives.
Barham is a Los Angeles native and the only child of the late Princess Jessica Meskhi-Gleboff and Dr. Frank Barham, a member of the founding family of the Los Angeles Herald/Express. A protégé of newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst, she spent much of her youth at the Hearst Castle estate in San Simeon. Hearst recognized her talents as a journalist and hired her as a reporter and columnist, against the wishes of her father, whose Herald/Express was owned by Hearst.
Barham is the author of “Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth” (Prentice/Warner Books), “Peasant to the Palace: Rasputin’s Cookbook” (Romar), and co-author of the best seller “Marilyn: The Last Take” (Dutton/Penquin Books).
For more information visit about the National Aviation Hall of Fame, visit [http://www.nationalaviation.org].