By John Wright
The San Diego Air & Space Museum held its 2007 Legends of Flight gala on Nov. 10, 2007. The event celebrated the induction of five pioneers of aviation into the museum’s International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Gene Cernan, Bob Hoover, Patty Wagstaff, Fran Bera and Walter Zable personally accepted induction before a large audience of San Diego aviation enthusiasts. Local radio personality and museum board member Mark Larson served as the master of ceremonies.
The keynote speaker was Pete Wilson, former San Diego mayor, U.S. senator and California governor. Wilson spoke of San Diego’s rich aviation heritage and of the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s place in the preservation of that heritage.
Capt. Eugene A. Cernan, a former NASA
astronaut, traveled to space three times. He orbited the moon during Apollo 10 and landed on the moon during Apollo 17. As commander of that mission in December 1972, he was the last man to walk on the moon.
Robert A. “Bob” Hoover began his military career in the Tennessee National Guard. Later assigned to the 52nd Fighter Group in Corsica, he flew 58 missions before being shot down over southern France and spending 16 months as a POW. After the war, Hoover tested aircraft at Wright Field in Ohio, becoming Chuck Yeager’s backup pilot for the Bell X-1 program. He left the Air Force in 1948 for a job in civilian aviation. He was a test/demonstration pilot for North American Aviation, and after the company’s merger with Rockwell, demonstrated the capabilities of its Shrike Commander. He performed maneuvers not normally associated with business aircraft, including an engine-off loop and eight-point hesitation slow roll. Hoover also served for many years as the official starter for the Reno Air Races, flying his P-51 Mustang Old Yeller.
Patty Wagstaff was the first woman to win the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship, in 1991. She repeated the feat in 1992 and 1993 and was the top U.S. medal winner in the WAC in 1990, 1992 and 1994. She was also the 1993 International Aerobatic Club Champion.
Setting aviation records for more than six decades, Fran Bera won her fourth consecutive and seventh overall Palms to Pines air race last year, at age 81. She’s won the All Women Transcontinental Air Race, more commonly known as the Powder Puff Derby, a record seven times. She currently holds a commercial license, flight instructor rating and an airline transport pilot license. Her ratings include single and multi-engine land aircraft, single-engine sea craft, helicopters and hot air balloons.
Walter J. Zable, founder, chairman, president and CEO of Cubic Corporation, revolutionized the way fighter pilots train for combat. The Cubic-developed Air Combat Maneuvering Range provides a real-time view of aerial combat training. This system enables fighter pilots to review their performance using objective standards rather than conjecture. Zable still works five days a week at Cubic—36 years after he was eligible for retirement and 56 years after he founded the company. In addition to his involvement in aviation, Zable has always had an active interest in academic affairs and sports, even playing professional football with the New York Giants. In 1987, the National Collegiate Athletic Association named Zable the winner of the Teddy Roosevelt Award, its most prestigious honor.