We shouldn’t have to continually rationalize and promote the value of aviation. But we do. One of the best ways I’ve found: celebrating those who make a positive and lasting difference.

I’ve had a front-row seat to aviation excellence as the Wichita Aero Club Trophy Selection Committee chair for the past five years. This year, we had 15 stellar candidates. I found it both humbling and inspiring to pore over the nominations. These nominees have made so many contributions over the years and had such an impact on our industry. Aviation relies on R&D, innovation and uncovering the next big thing. But it’s good to pause. To reflect. And to congratulate.

Sky of Dreams

Each year the Wichita Aero Club selects a trophy recipient whose contribution can be within the calendar year or represent a cumulative career of significant contributions. It can go to a living person, group, or organization connected to the Air Capital. Past recipients include:AeroClub Winners

And the Winner Is…

The 2015 trophy was announced at our recent October Wichita Aero Club meeting and will be celebrated more extensively at our January gala. This year’s honoree: the Doc’s Friends Restoration Team. This WWII-era, Wichita-built, Boeing B-29 Superfortress has quite a story, which I’ve shared in an earlier issue of BlueSky. Boeing B-29 Superfortress It’s captivated the hearts of those diligently working to restore Doc to flying condition.

For the past 18 years, Restoration Team volunteers have donated thousands of hours of labor, expertise and resources. They’ve carried off something of a miracle. What was once a disassembled, nearly unrecognizable hulk left in the desert as a bombing-range target now gleams with promise. Indeed, it is on track to fly yet this year. It will be one of only two flyable B-29s left on the planet.

What Generation Gap?

It isn’t often that a cause appeals to young and old. Doc’s Friends does. Its volunteers range from boundless-energy millennials to veterans in wheelchairs (who also seem to have an endless reservoir of energy). Doc’s Friends exemplifies the Wichita Aero Club’s mission of networking and education. It’s most deserving of the club’s efforts to elevate those who make aviation great.

Jump on the Doc Bandwagon

In an effort to raise funds needed for fuel, maintenance, insurance and more; Doc’s Friends launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. It has until October 30 to reach its $137,500 goal. If they don’t achieve that, the way Kickstarter works, they get none of it. To learn more about how you can get involved with Doc’s Friends and support its educational mission, visit www.b-29doc.com or the Kickstarter campaign at http://kck.st/1LOUdGO. And if travels bring you to Wichita next January 23, join us at the gala so you can fete Doc’s Friends in person. Gather details and secure tickets here: www.wichitaaeroclub.org.Doc Coming Out Hangar

This column ran in the October 22 issue of Bluesky Business Aviation News.