We lost an aviation icon, and perhaps the country’s greatest space hero, with the passing of Neil Armstrong on August 25. Armstrong, 82, was the first man to walk on the moon; his statement, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” both summarized his accomplishment and underscored his modest personality.
Although Armstrong generally shunned the spotlight of publicity, he continued to fly, moving from a Beech Bonanza to the Cessna 310 that he recently sold. He told AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Tom Haines in May that he was planning his next aircraft purchase.
The New York Times reported that Armstrong died afterof complications from cardiovascular procedures, attributing the information to a statement from his family.
The statement is worth reading, and if it wasn’t written by Armstrong, it certainly was inspired by him:
“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
“Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
“Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.
“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.
“As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.
“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.
“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
Do you see similarities with the following quotes attributed to Armstrong, which I nominate as his best:
“This is one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
“I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”
“Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.”
R.I.P., Mr. Armstrong. An Eagle has landed.