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San Antonio salutes its aviation history

Wings over the Alamo’s Sherry Wagner; Hispanic Association of Aerospace and Aviation Professionals’ Jaime Pacheco; Gabby Borrego, youngest member of the Women in Aviation International-Alamo Chapter and recently accepted into the Alamo Area Aerospace Academy; WAI-Alamo Chapter president and Stinson Airport Advisory Commission member Melinda Vasquez; San Antonio Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran; WAI-Alamo Chapter board memberLina Prado; U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Olga Custodio; and AOPA Central/Southwest Regional Manager Yasmina Platt gather in front of N500LN, one of two Howard 500 aircraft on display. Photos courtesy of Yasmina Platt.

The inaugural dinner of the San Antonio Aviation and Aerospace Hall of Fame took place March 31, with a sell-out gathering of some 480 aviation supporters and dignitaries attending.

A ceremony marked the induction of the first eight members into the hall of fame, and National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen gave the evening’s keynote speech. AOPA Central Southwest Regional Manager Yasmina Platt attended the event on behalf of the association.

The San Antonio Aviation and Aerospace Hall of Fame is the product of collaboration between the Dee Howard Foundation, the Partnership for Corporate Aviation Training, and other partners. The Dee Howard Foundation was established in 2013 “to build on the legacy of legendary aviation pioneer and entrepreneur Dee Howard by preserving the rich history of aviation in San Antonio of which [Howard] was a part,” according to the organization’s website.

Also in attendance at the inaugural gathering at the Valero Energy hangar at San Antonio International Airport were San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor; Mario Calzada, mayor of El Marquez, Queretaro, Mexico; former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger and Linda Hardberger; San Antonio City Council members Joe Krier, private pilot Roberto Trevino, and general aviation supporter Rebecca Viagran; San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley; and other dignitaries.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning <em>Glacier Girl</em> was one of 10 aicraft on static display. Photo by Yasmina Platt.

The dinner honored the Tuskegee Airmen and retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, a member of the Doolittle Raiders.

The inductees included the late Maj. Gen. Benjamin Foulois, who as a lieutenant was ordered with a small group of enlisted men to Fort Sam Houston when it was chosen as the site for the Army’s early aviation efforts. They brought along a Wright Flyer and flew it from the north end of Cavalry Post parade ground starting on March 2, 1910. Foulois’s induction award was accepted by Lt. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins, Commander of U.S. Army North.

The Air Education and Training Command, headquartered at Randolph Air Force Base, was inducted in recognition of its role in recruiting, technical training, flight training, and the continuing education of generations of airmen.

Inductees Eddie, Katherine, and Marjorie Stinson were the siblings who worked to create the Stinson School of Flying in 1915 at Stinson Field, now Stinson Municipal Airport.

The Southwest Research Institute, also inducted, has been an important part of the San Antonio aviation and aerospace landscape since the institute was founded in 1947. The efforts of its engineers and scientists include designing fuels for propeller-driven airplanes and jet engines, and developing systems and components for aerospace.

Inductee Durrell U. “Dee” Howard, who was a respected inventor and legend in the aviation industry, had more than 40 U.S. and foreign patents issued in his name for automotive and aviation products. Companies he founded held more than 200 FAA supplemental type certificates and type certificates. Howard’s aviation career “spanned the birth and development of business aircraft in the post-World War II era,” according to the Dee Howard Foundation’s website.

Edward “Ed” James Swearingen was inducted as an “internationally known leader in the identification, design, development, and manufacturing of precedent-setting aircraft programs.” He founded Swearingen Aircraft and helped design aircraft for many other companies before designing and manufacturing his own airplanes. The SJ30, a high-performing and affordable twin-engine jet, was his thirtieth design. He also was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame and honored as a Living Legend of Aviation.

Inductee Joseph A. Wilson retired in 2015 from his work in community and government relations for Lockheed Martin Commercial Engine Solutions. He is former chair of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce’s Aerospace Committee and a past chair of the San Antonio Manufacturers Association.

Panel view of N500HP, one of two Howard 500 aircraft on display.

Richard Fessler is chairman of Hallmark University and was the co-founder of Hallmark Aero-Tech in 1969 at Stinson Field, now part of Hallmark University. Fessler co-founded Hallmark Jet Center, now known as Million Air in San Antonio, and is a past chair and member of national and state college associations and accrediting commissions.

Platt noted that all awards were presented by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Olga E. Custodio—the first ever Latina to complete U.S. Air Force military pilot training, or Undergraduate Pilot Training—and Scott Miller, pilot and senior manager of aviation safety and travel services for Valero and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve’s Dental Corps.

 A static display of aircraft originally manufactured in San Antonio included the only two flyable twin-engine Howard 500s of 17 built, and Glacier Girl, the famous P-38 Lightning rescued from the Greenland ice sheet.

Platt credited Wayne Fagan, chair of the Dee Howard Foundation, for organizing and coordinating the inaugural event. “He worked hard and did a fabulous job,” she said. While in San Antonio, Platt visited Stinson Field and met with some of San Antonio’s aviation leaders, including representatives of the San Antonio Department of Aviation.

To learn more about San Antonio’s aviation history, watch the documentary Wings over the Alamo.

One of two Howard 500 aircraft on display provided a backdrop for the event.
Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Aviation Industry

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