Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2020 issue
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) has selected Dorothy Cochrane, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, to receive the 2020 “Katharine Wright Trophy.” The trophy was established in 1981 and is awarded annually to an individual who “… has contributed to the success of others or made a personal contribution to the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight over an extended period of time.” Cochrane is being recognized for devoting over 40 years as a curator at the museum, collecting and preserving historical aviation artifacts that educate and inspire the general public about the importance of flight.
Cochrane joined the Smithsonian Institution in 1977 as one of the first female curators. She oversees the collections of general aviation aircraft, flight material, aerial cameras, and the history of general aviation and women in aviation. Throughout her career, Cochrane has become most notable for her acquisition of priceless aviation artifacts, as well as the creation of entire galleries in the aeronautics department.
As the curator responsible for the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery, as well as the General Aviation, Business Aviation, Aerobatic Aviation, and Aerial Camera exhibit stations and cases, Cochrane has acquired at least a dozen aircraft for the Smithsonian collection, including a Fleet Model 2, Cirrus SR-22, Grumman Ag Cat, Beechcraft King Air, and Cessna 152 Aerobat. Her acquisitions also include aircraft seen by millions of airshow spectators, including Patty Wagstaff’s Extra 260 and Bob Hoover’s Shrike Commander. Cochrane was also responsible for the restoration of Betty Skelton’s Pitts, “Little Stinker,” which is the first aircraft seen by visitors as they enter the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport. This restoration was made possible due to Cochrane’s efforts in finding volunteers and the exact parts necessary to complete the restoration and her vision to locate the aircraft in such a prestigious area.
Not only does Cochrane preserve aviation history through the procurement and display of aviation artifacts, she also communicates it artfully. Her encyclopedic knowledge is sought after the world over through media interviews and speaking engagements. She also serves as the aeronautics liaison for the museum’s General Electric Aviation Lecture Series, as well as the Charles A. Lindbergh Memorial Lecture and is the museum’s leading scholar on Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart’s life and disappearance. Recently, Cochrane was the primary investigator for the Military Women Aviators Oral History Initiative, which conducted and archived oral and video interviews of 15 trailblazing retired and active duty military women pilots.
Cochrane currently oversees the creation of a pair of new galleries as a part of the National Air and Space Museum’s seven-year revitalization and transformation project that will inspire a new generation of aviation and space pioneers.
The Katharine Wright Trophy will be presented to Cochrane on a date and location to be determined. For more information or to view a complete list of previous recipients, visit www.naa.aero.
The National Aeronautic Association is a non-profit membership organization devoted to fostering opportunities to participate fully in aviation activities and to promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. NAA is the caretaker of some of the most important aviation awards in the world, and certifies all national aviation records set in the United States.