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Bolden honored with Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy

Honored for significant service to aviation

Naval aviator. Shuttle commander. U.S. Marine Corps general. NASA administrator. Charles Bolden has accumulated many achievements and accolades along his storied career, and now he can add another: the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, considered one of the highest aviation honors in the country.

Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden accepts the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy. The award was presented by the National Aeronautic Association at the Aero Club of Washington’s seventy-third annual Wright Memorial Dinner. Photo by Eric Blinderman.

The trophy was presented to Bolden on December 17 by the National Aeronautic Association at the Aero Club of Washington’s seventy-third annual Wright Memorial Dinner. The award is presented each year on or near the anniversary of the historic first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

The Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy was established in 1948 by the NAA to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, and is presented to a living American for "significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States."

In presenting the award, the NAA stated that Bolden was being honored for “his impassioned commitment to public service in aviation and aerospace as an aviator, astronaut, and leader and his dedication to excellence for the advancement of all humanity.”

Bolden has carved a career that others can only dream of. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, he became a naval aviator and flew more than 100 combat missions in Vietnam. In 1980, Bolden embarked on a 14-year career as a NASA astronaut. He launched into space four times, completing two missions as the pilot and two as mission commander. Bolden left NASA and returned to the operating forces of the Marine Corps in 1994, and in 1998, he was promoted to major general.

Following retirement from the Marine Corps, Bolden was chosen to serve as NASA administrator, remaining in that post from 2009 to 2017.

“As this honor sinks in, I think of the many true heroes of aviation who won this award before me,” said Bolden. “This trophy is an incredible honor and can only hope to live up to its legacy and inspire many future Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy winners.”

Past recipients of the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy include Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, Sen. John Glenn, and R.A. “Bob” Hoover.

Alyssa J. Miller

Eric Blinderman

Senior Director of Communications
Eric Blinderman is AOPA’s Senior Director of Communications. Eric joined AOPA in 2020 after several years at leading marketing/communications agencies in New York and is looking forward to putting his newly minted private pilot certificate to work.
Topics: Awards and Records, People

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