Four to be inducted in National Aviation Hall of Fame

Local sponsors made the difference in keeping the National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement event dubbed “America’s Oscar Night of Aviation” in Dayton this Saturday after fears the ceremony would be wooed to North Carolina, an organizer said.

Area sponsors pledged about $200,000 to keep the 50th anniversary event that celebrates aerospace luminaries in Dayton, said Ron Kaplan, the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s enshrinement director.

“That will continue to be a key factor in the hall of fame’s decision on where to host it in future years,” he said.

The Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C., attempted to bring the ceremony to the state where the Wright brothers tested their first airplane at Kitty Hawk. But the hometown of the aviation pioneers won out for another year when the Aviation Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees made the decision in March to host the event at the Dayton Convention Center. The hall itself is inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Local leaders banded together to raise sponsorships for the induction event, where people such as Orville and Wilbur Wright and astronaut Neil Armstrong have been enshrined with a historic group of 217 aviators and pioneers. Four more will be honored on Saturday at the sold-out event:

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  • Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb, a record-setting pilot, Nobel Prize nominee, and member of the so-called Mercury 13, a group of women aviators who passed the same tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts in privately funded research but never flew in space.
  • Keith Ferris, dubbed the “dean of American aviation art,” who founded the American Society of Aviation Artists.
  • The late Air Force Lt. Gen. Elwood R. “Pete” Quesada, who helped create air-to-air refueling, was the first leader of Tactical Air Command and later helped start and lead the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • The late Richard T. Whitcomb, one of the nation’s most influential aeronautical researchers.

 

The induction ceremony was consolidated into one night from two and moved to Oct. 6 this year, the day after the Wright brothers flew the Wright Flyer III on the longest controlled airplane flight at the time over Huffman Prairie in 1905.

Shuttle astronauts, members of the Tuskegee Airmen, and former Good Morning America host David Hartman are among those expected to attend the ceremony this year.

“This is the birthplace of aviation,” said Jacquelyn Powell, president and chief executive officer of the Dayton/Montgomery Convention and Visitors Bureau, which was involved in keeping the event in Dayton. “The event is a proud tradition in our community. It’s considered the Oscar night of aviation.”

The local effort to keep the ceremony in Dayton will continue, one official said. “It will always be an ongoing effort because the Hall of Fame is a plumb for any community and the Dayton community is always going to have to strongly support it to make sure its home remains in Dayton,” said Michael Gessel, vice president of federal government programs at the Dayton Development Coalition.

Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, said Dayton should have the “first right of refusal” to host the induction, but didn’t rule out future competition. The alliance contributed to this year’s gathering.

“Sometimes competition is good and as long as it’s done fairly, I think the Dayton region will win that competition,” he said.

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