Thanks to all who provided your aviation inspirations, both on this blog and on our Facebook page. Many of these names are familiar, but some aren’t (to me, anyway)–and researching them for this blog was a treat. There was so much historical information to relay that I decided to break this blog into two installments by alphabetical order. Here’s the first group.
Aviators of the 1920s and ’30s: As Denny Kotz noted, these pilots are the ones “who figured all of this stuff out. It is one thing to be taught how to fly–it is another thing to have to figure it out on your own. They wrote the how-to-do-it book.”
Richard Ira Bong holds the title of the United States’ highest-scoring air ace. He shot down 40 Japanese aircraft in World War II and conducted all of his aerial victories in a P-38 Lightning. He eventually became a test pilot for Lockheed, and died in 1945 while conducting a test flight of a P-80 Shooting Star. Suggested by Doug (no last name).
Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. I could easily devote an entire blog to Doolittle, but here are a few of his accomplishments: test pilot, record setter, aeronautical engineer, air racer. He was the first to perform an outside loop (previously thought to be a fatal maneuver). He developed instrument flying. Oh, and during World War II, he carried out a successful bombing raid on Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya utilizing 16 B-25 bombers. That raid was considered a major morale-building victory for the United States. Suggested by Kayak Jack.
Amelia Earhart. I could devote another entire blog to Earhart, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license, Earhart was a founding member of The Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots. (She and several other competitors in the first Women’s Air Derby formed the Ninety-Nines because they enjoyed the opportunity to meet and commune with other women pilots.) She was a huge promoter of aviation and the role of women in flying. In 1937, during her second attempt to fly around the world, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared en route to Howland Island in a Lockheed Electra. Suggested by Gena Gonzales and Kayak Jack
Carl Ben Eielson became a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917. The war ended while he was still in flight training, and he wasn’t willing to stop flying, so he and some friends formed the Hatton Aero Club and later flew air mail in Alaska. He is credited with flying the first airplane across the Arctic Ocean, with Australian explorer Hubert Wilkins in 1928. Suggested by Doug (no last name)
Roger Fernandez. Don’t look for Roger in Wikipedia–he’s the CFI who signed off Steven Warren for his private pilot checkride at Tullahoma Airport 20 years ago.
Gen. Roy S. Geiger. Geiger has the distinction of being the first Marine to lead an army during World War II. He became a naval aviator in 1917, and commanded a squadron of the First Marine Aviation Force during World War I. Suggested by Randall Tilley
Heli-rescue pilots. As Darrell O’Sullivan says, “They fly at all hours and in weather that is best observed from an armchair on the front porch.”
Howard Hughes. The wealthy entrepreneur–the subject of numerous books and even a movie or two–dabbled in Hollywood film production, but his aviation legacy soars. He set multiple world speed records and commissioned aircraft like the Hughes H-1 Racer (and set a landplane airspeed record of 352 mph in 1935). Later, he designed and built a heavy transport aircraft constructed from wood. Dubbed “The Spruce Goose”–a name he hated–it only flew once, in 1947. Hughes also owned a majority of Trans World Airlines, which eventually merged with American Airlines. There’s much, much more to the Howard Hughes legacy, and I urge you to look him up yourself. Suggested by Robert L. Rhyne III.
In the second part of this blog I’ll relate the rest of the heroes, including some names you can probably guess and some others who won’t be as familiar to you.—Jill W. Tallman