Seventy-seven-year-old AOPA was among an esteemed class of aviation and aerospace pioneers inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum Nov. 17. The black-tie affair brought together a diverse group of entities that share the common thread of making a difference in aviation and aerospace.
Joining AOPA in the class of 2016 were Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden; The Boeing Company—celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016; Coast Guard Aviation, also celebrating 100 years; aviation and space pioneer Dale Myers; non-sked airlines that emerged from World War II aviation; Orbis International Flying Eye Hospital; and the founders and organizers of the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California.
In accepting the nomination for AOPA, President and CEO Mark Baker said he was honored to represent the hundreds of thousands of AOPA members over the association’s 77 years who help the organization succeed in achieving the founders’ vision of protecting the freedom to fly. Formed in 1939 in the dark days leading up to World War II, AOPA for decades has fought to protect the extraordinary threats that could mean an end to personal aviation. Today the organization also is looking forward, its recently announced You Can Fly program designed to help bring pilots back to aviation and create a foundation for future pilots through the introduction of aviation programs in high schools, improving the flight training experience, and establishing and supporting flying clubs to help lower the cost of aviation for many pilots.
Worden was described as the most isolated human in existence when he remained alone in the lunar orbiter for three days while astronauts David Scott and Jim Irwin explored the lunar surface during the Apollo 15 mission. On the return to Earth, he conducted the first spacewalk in deep space. Today, Worden frequently works with youth to encourage interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Jeff Evans, who heads up military research and development for Boeing, accepted the honor on behalf of his company, saying “We at Boeing are most proud of being a part of the aviation community. I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the 153,000 employees at this great company.” Evans declared Boeing a leader in commercial and military aviation and space exploration with its many aircraft and spacecraft programs. Company founder William Boeing was enshrined in the hall of fame in 1984 as was his son William Jr. in 2014. Boeing President William Allen and former President and CEO Alan Mulally were enshrined in 1975 and 2015, respectively.
With its slogan of “semper paratus-Always Ready,” Coast Guard Aviation responds to hundreds of needs 24 hours a day, protecting the nation’s shores, conducting search-and-rescue operations, and providing relief flights to those in need. The gallant mission deserves recognition, according to Kidrick. In accepting the award, Vice Admiral John Currier, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, agreed, noting the remarkable work conducted daily by 3,500 men and women who represent Coast Guard aviation. The historic service flies 200 aircraft from 36 locations around the United States.
Myers contributed greatly to aviation through his work on various aircraft in the mid-1940s, including the Twin Mustang. However, his most enduring contributions came over the following decades when he advanced missile development at Rockwell International. In the 1960s he led work on the Apollo Command/Service Module Program. From 1970 to 1974 he worked for NASA as associate administrator for Manned Space Flight. He oversaw Apollo launches 13 to 17 and Skylab, and led the planning for the Apollo/Soyuz and space shuttle programs.
The museum enshrined Stan Weiss, Hal Cope, and Ralph Cox into the hall of fame for their work in establishing the “Non-Skeds.” The “non-skeds airlines” were formed by a group of World War II pilots looking to continue flying after being discharged from the Air Force. Using DC-3’s, DC-4’s, C-46’s, and other war-surplus aircraft, these upstart airlines challenged the dominance of the scheduled airlines, providing new travel options for the growing nation after World War II.
Orbis roams the globe with a highly customized McDonnell-Douglas MD-10, a modified DC-10 with the cockpit of an MD-11. FedEx donated the massive aircraft, which is equipped with teaching facilities, including ophthalmic surgical suites, to teach surgeons and other medical staff in countries everywhere how to perform eye surgery. The organization estimates some 23.3 million people in 92 countries have benefited from the educational efforts. Jack McHale, board member emeritus, accepted the award for Orbis.
The Planes of Fame Air Museum, headquartered in Chino, is the oldest aviation museum west of the Rockies. It was founded by Edward Maloney, who amassed a collection of more than 150 aircraft, many of them warbirds—dozens of which are flyable. Maloney died in August 2016, but his children John, James, and Karen and son-in-law Steve Hinton and grandson Steven Hinton Jr., continue the mission of preserving and protecting these remarkable and often one-of-a-kind airplanes. Hinton Jr. credited the 200 museum volunteers with helping the organization preserve and protect these rare airplanes, making them available for future generations to see and hear.
The awards dinner was held at the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s headquarters in Balboa Park. Funds from the event help support the museum’s youth education programs.