The “Oscar Night of Aviation” Inducts Midwest Aviators

DAYTON, OHIO – The National Aviation Hall of Fame 52nd Annual Enshrinement Ceremony was held October 4, 2014 in Dayton, Ohio, and featured air racer Sylvester “Steve” J. Wittman of Oshkosh, Wis., and Cirrus founders Dale and Alan Klapmeier of Duluth, Minn. Other aviation greats inducted included aeronautical engineer, the late Bertrand “Bert” B. Acosta; astronaut Brig. Gen. James A. McDivitt, USAF (Ret); and the first female pilot and captain of a scheduled, jet-equipped U.S. airline, Emily Howell Warner.

The black-tie dinner and ceremony took place in the NAHF Learning Center and the adjacent National Museum of the United States Air Force. Widely known as America’s “Oscar Night of Aviation,” the celebration’s 600 guests included former NAHF enshrinees Joe Engle, Keith Ferris, Robert “Hoot” Gibson, Charles E. McGee and S. Harry Robertson. Pilot/actor David Hartman was the emcee.

The late Sylvester “Steve” J. Wittman learned to fly and built his first airplane in 1924, and competed in his first air race in 1926. Wittman managed the Oshkosh, Wisconsin airport (now Wittman Regional Airport), and operated a fixed base operation and flight school there while continuing to design, build and fly innovative aircraft. Known as “The Dean of Air Racing,” he last raced in 1989 at age 85.

Alan and Dale Klapmeier founded Cirrus Design in 1984 to fulfill their youthful dream of manufacturing a certified airplane of their own design. Within 20 years, Cirrus earned its position as the dominant market leader in high-performance, single-engine, four-place airplanes. Today, Alan serves as President and CEO of Kestrel Aircraft in Superior, Wis., and Dale as CEO of Cirrus Design in Duluth, Minn.

The late Bertrand “Bert” B. Acosta built and flew his first airplane in 1910, and soon became one of America’s first test pilots and the first aviator commissioned both into the Army Air Service and the U.S. Navy. Also a mechanic, flight instructor, and aeronautical engineer, Acosta consulted for aircraft companies worldwide and set numerous national and world flight records.

Brig. Gen. James A. McDivitt, USAF (Ret) flew 145 combat missions over Korea as an Air Force fighter pilot, earned a degree in aeronautical engineering, and served as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base. Selected as an astronaut in 1962, McDivitt served as Command Pilot for Gemini 4 and Command Pilot for Apollo 9, eventually managing the Apollo Spacecraft Program.

Emily Howell Warner was an experienced Colorado flight school manager, flight instructor and FAA designated flight examiner holding multiple ratings when she was hired by Frontier Airlines in 1973, earning additional distinctions as the first female pilot and captain of a scheduled, jet-equipped U.S. airline. She amassed more than 21,000 flight hours over her career.

Rachael Manzer, a teacher at the Annie Fisher Magnet School in East Hartford, Connecticut, was named the “2014 A. Scott Crossfield Educator of the Year.” Manzer’s STEM students have developed and placed experiments on NASA Shuttle missions and she is one of seven “Teachers In Space” astronaut candidates (

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