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Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement to return to Dayton in 2020

A coveted National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony of aerospace legends will return to Dayton in 2020, the organization announced Monday.

The enshrinement will be in the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. this year, and at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum Denver, Colo., in 2019 , the organization said.

The site of the Dayton event was not announced, but in 2016 — the last year it occurred in the region — it was at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance in Dayton, was heartened by “the good news.”

“I think it affirms that this is probably the most famous aviation town in the country and while other places have aviation assets … it affirms that Dayton really is the birthplace of aviation and a place where this industry began,” he said.

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Dayton officials recently submitted a package to the NAHF to bring the event back to the region.

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For the first time in its history in 2017, the celebrated “Oscars Night in Aviation” black-tie event left Dayton for one year for Fort Worth, Texas, upsetting many local aviation heritage advocates. The ceremony was in the Dayton region for more than half a century before it broke with the long-standing tradition.

“Dayton is our home, we never had any intention of moving (the Hall of Fame itself) contrary to what has been purported,” NAHF President Michael Quiello said in an email Monday.

Memorializing more than 200 aviation legends such as the Wright brothers, astronauts, test pilots and research pioneers, the NAHF is inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson.

Quiello added the NAHF board of trustees is “fully focused” on expanding the brand recognition of the Aviation Hall of Fame throughout the country while updating the non-profit’s Learning Center inside the museum into a “21st century, state-of-the-art, world-class facility.”

The non-profit is currently in the midst of a $5 million endowment fund-raising drive.

The hope is to “increase substantially” the number of NAHF visitors above the 250,000 a year who typically visit, he added.

NAHF executive director Amy Spowart said the goal was the Learning Center will be renovated by the time the enshrinement returns to Dayton in 2020.

Phil Parker, president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said he was disappointed the enshrinement ceremony will be in other cities the next two years, but glad progress was made to return it to Dayton.

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Parker has been actively involved in keeping the event in the Dayton region in recent years.

“Certainly, we wanted to see it come back to Dayton full time every year,” he said “We think it’s important for it to be at home. We appreciate the image and prestige that it brings to our community of aviation. We’re disappointed that it’s going to go to Denver and Washington before it comes back to Dayton, but glad we’re starting to make sure progress for getting it back to Dayton.”

After the decision was made to move the enshrinement in late 2016, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, announced in early 2017 he would commission a “blue ribbon” panel of community leaders to review the NAHF’s finances and make recommendations on its future. Financial records show the non-profit has lost money for years. He also sponsored legislation that was passed in the National Defense Authorization Act to keep the hall in Ohio. Hall officials have said they had no intention of moving the center.

The blue ribbon panel has not yet released a report.

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