Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2018 issue
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. – The fifteenth annual Living Legends of Aviation awards ceremony was held January 19, 2018 at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Actor and pilot, John Travolta, hosted the black-tie event, a fundraiser for the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy. Honorees included Dr. Ulf Merbold, H. Ross Perot Jr., John Travolta, Felix Baumgartner, Bruno Gantenbrink, Mark Baker, and Danny Clisham,
The President and CEO of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), Mark Baker of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, was recognized for his passion for aviation and willingness to share it with others, and for his leadership in supporting general aviation causes as head of the world’s largest community of pilots.
Famed airshow announcer, world record-holder airline pilot, and test pilot, Danny Clisham of Ann Arbor, Michigan, was also inducted. Clisham was also the emcee for the evening.
Felix Baumgartner was recognized for having jumped from a capsule at the edge of space to become the first human to freefall beyond Mach 1, landing safely under a parachute in the desert.
Bruno Gantenbrink, a world champion glider pilot and safety advocate for glider racing, was also enshrined into the group.
Dr. Ulf Dietrich Merbold was inducted for his role as the first European Space Agency astronaut to go into space. He also was the first non-U.S. citizen to reach orbit in a U.S. spacecraft.
Businessman and passionate pilot, H. Ross Perot Jr., joined the elite club, recognized for his record-setting round-the-world flight in a helicopter, achieving the feat in only 30 days, a trip that some believed would take at least 90 days. Perot is also the developer of Fort Worth Alliance Airport, one of the largest privately-owned airports in the nation.
Tyson Weihs and Jason Miller, co-founders of the flight planning app “ForeFlight,” received the “Eren Ozmen Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year Award.” The award is named after the founder of Sierra Nevada Corp.
Aerobatic helicopter pilot, Chuck Aaron, presented the “Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award” to Mike Silva, a career helicopter pilot who flew helicopters for news organizations and firefighting, and flew multiple tours in Vietnam, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy presented the award named for him to Jack Dailey, a U.S. Marine Corps general who served for 18 years as the head of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.
Financier Kenn Ricci presented his “Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award” to Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing collapsible habitats soon to be launched into space, making it practical and cost-effective to have laboratories and hotels in space.
David Joyce of GE Aviation received the “Lifetime Aviation Industry Leader Award” for his longtime leadership at the company that has pioneered new turbine engine manufacturing techniques.
Actor and pilot, Harrison Ford, presented his “Aviation Legacy Award” to Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma for his advocacy on behalf of GA causes, especially his opposition to privatizing the air traffic control system.
The evening also included a moving tribute to astronaut Eugene Cernan, a Living Legend, who died just days before the award ceremony last year.