EAA Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet Goes Virtual For 2020

Apollo 13 commander, James Lovell, is special guest for December 10th event
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2020 issue

OSHKOSH, WIS. – The Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) annual Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet, which has brought some of the world’s top aviation personalities to Oshkosh for nearly 20 years, is moving to a virtual online format for this year’s event to be held Thursday, December 10.

Apollo 13 commander, Capt. James Lovell, will be the special guest for the evening, which honors the 117th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first successful powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. Capt. Lovell will be interviewed by Charlie Precourt, a former NASA space shuttle commander, in a program that begins at 7:00 p.m. Central Time on December 10.

“As much as we would love having Capt. Lovell and EAA members all together at the EAA Aviation Museum as we’ve had for past Wright brothers banquets, limits on large gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic have just made that impossible this year,” said Jack J. Pelton, EAA’s CEO and chairman of the board. “We are grateful, however, that Capt. Lovell has agreed to join us for an online streaming interview session where he’ll talk about his aviation and spaceflight experiences.”

This December 10 special event is free for all EAA members by using their membership access to EAA’s website EAA.org/WrightBrothers. Nonmembers may attend the event by first purchasing a one-year EAA membership for $40 at EAA.org/Join, and then creating a member web account at EAA.org.

Capt. Lovell, a longtime EAA member and supporter of the organization’s programs, grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy and after graduation flew McDonnell F2H Banshee fighters off of the USS Shangri-La before attending test pilot school at NAS Patuxent River. In 1962, he applied for and was accepted into the second group of U.S. astronauts. The Mercury astronauts were known as the “Original Seven,” while Lovell and his peers became the “New Nine.”

Lovell’s first space mission was Gemini 7 with fellow EAA member Frank Borman, followed by Gemini 12, in which he and Buzz Aldrin worked on extravehicular activities (EVA) and docking. In December 1968, Lovell was command module pilot alongside Borman and Bill Anders on Apollo 8, which was the first manned mission to orbit the moon.

Lovell planned to return to the moon in April 1970, as the commander of Apollo 13 with crewmates Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. Three days into the mission, an explosion severely damaged the spacecraft. Working hand-in-hand with mission control, Apollo 13 improvised a brilliant and safe return to Earth.

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