July 27, 2012
By Thomas B Haines
Photo courtesy of EAA
A dinner and auction honoring America’s greatest generation raised $2.3 million for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program. The annual Gathering of Eagles auction featured dozens of items sold during a silent auction and 14 sold during a live auction at the dinner, which included some 1,000 guests. The gala gathering was hosted by EAA President Rod Hightower, with frequent appearances by aviation legends, including R.A. “Bob” Hoover, Sean D. Tucker, Mike Goulian, and Young Eagles co-chairmen and Miracle on the Hudson pilots Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles.
However, it was World War II veterans such as Hoover who garnered the most attention. The night paid tribute to the Doolittle Raiders and the Tuskegee Airmen, with members of both groups in attendance.
The highlight of the auction was a custom-built Ford Mustang themed about the Tuskegee Airmen, who flew P-51 Mustang fighters. The slate-colored car includes badging from the airmen’s 332nd Fighter Group and Tuskegee Red Tail logos throughout, including embroidered into the seats and etched into the door sills. The 624-horsepower supercharged Mustang includes a racing suspension. The splitter, an aerodynamic fairing underneath the car, was signed by members of the Tuskegee Airmen as well as George Lucas, creator of the Red Tails movie released earlier this year. The entire movie cast also signed the splitter.
The car sold for $370,000.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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