Six 'pioneers' to join aviation hall of fame

December 17, 2013

Six aviation trail-blazers including the first female U.S. jet airline captain, an Apollo astronaut, an air racer, a record-setting test pilot, and a pair of brothers renowned for aircraft design innovation will be enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2014.

The Dayton, Ohio-based nonprofit announced the selections Dec. 17 at its Wright Brothers Anniversary dinner. It will honor its "Class of 2014" choices at an induction ceremony on Oct. 4, 2014.  

NAHF will induct the late Bertrand B. Acosta, who built and flew his first airplane in 1910, going on to become "one of America’s first test pilots and the first aviator commissioned into both the Army Air Service and the U.S. Navy," the organization said in a news release. Acosta contributed to the advance of aviation as a mechanic, flight instructor, and aeronautical engineer who set a number of flight records and consulted for aeronautical companies.

Alan and Dale Klapmeier, who founded Cirrus Design in 1984 in fulfillment of a dream of manufacturing "a certified airplane of their own design," will be honored with induction, said NAHF. Within 20 years of Cirrus’s founding, the aircraft manufacturer "earned its position as the dominant market leader in high performance, single-engine, four-place airplanes" noted for glass cockpits, composite-materials airframes, and aircraft parachute systems. At present, Dale Klapmeier is CEO of Cirrus; Alan Klapmeier is president of Kestrel Aircraft Co.

Another member of the incoming group is astronaut Brig. Gen. James A. McDivitt, U.S. Air Force, retired, who served as command pilot for Gemini 4 and Apollo 9, eventually managing NASA’s Apollo Spacecraft Program. As a fighter pilot McDivitt flew 145 combat missions over Korea. He holds a degree in aeronautical engineering, and was a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base before being selected as an astronaut in 1962.

Inductee Emily Howell Warner was hired in 1973 by Frontier Airlines, becoming "the first female captain of a scheduled, jet-equipped U.S. airline. She amassed more than 21,000 flight hours over her career," said NAHF. Before her airline service, Warner managed a Colorado flight school, and was a flight instructor and FAA designated flight examiner, holding multiple ratings.

Air racer Sylvester "Steve" J. Wittman will be inducted posthumously. He learned to fly and built his first airplane in 1924, and competed in his first air race two years later. Wittman managed the Oshkosh, Wis., airport (now Wittman Regional Airport), and operated a fixed-base operation and flight school there, while designing, building, and flying innovative aircraft, selling thousands of aircraft kits. He flew his last air race at age 85, in 1989.

The inductees’ names were unveiled at the 110th anniversary celebration of the Wright Brothers’ historic first powered flight of Dec. 17, 1903. The dinner was emceed by Marvin Christian, president of Aviation Trail Inc. NAHF Enshrinement Director Ron Kaplan announced the names of the inductees.

Each year, the NAHF Board of Nominations, a voting body made up of more than 120 aviation professionals, selects "a handful of U.S. air and space pioneers" for recognition.  The enshrinement dinner and ceremony will take place on Oct. 4, 2014, at the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s Learning Center, and the adjacent National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton.