Question. Does aviation have more than its share of legends and heroes? Or does aviation just dole out more honors and awards? I’m biased, but I believe it’s the former. Aviation draws people who climb higher and go farther than most. I was reminded of this recently when I attended the International Air & Space Hall of Fame induction at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Legends of Flight
NBAA President Ed Bolen accepted the Hall of Fame award on behalf of his organization. NBAA was acknowledged for its 65 years of advocacy.

Celebrating 50 Years

Since its inception in 1963, the International Air & Space Hall of Fame has honored nearly 200 of the world’s most significant members of the aviation community. Their contributions and innovative spirits have left a mark on our world. The class of 2013 includes my father, internationally renowned air-to-air photographer Paul Bowen. Our family was there en masse. Beaming. As were the families of the other honorees. The complete list:

  • WWII Flying Ace and quintessential fighter pilot Dean “Diz” Laird
  • WWII 357th Fighter Group “Yoxford Boys” Triple Ace Bud Anderson
  • Red Bull Stratos Project/High Altitude Jumpers: Felix Baumgartner, retired Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger and Art Thompson
  • NASA’s Mission Control, with Glynn Lunney, Gene Kranz
  • Apollo 16’s lunar-visiting team: John Young, Ken Mattingly and Charlie Duke
  • Air-travel pioneer and former American Airlines Chairman/CEO Bob Crandall
  • National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) with President Ed Bolen accepting
  • US Airways Flight 1549 Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the “Miracle on the Hudson” crew
  • And my stunning-image-capturing dad, Paul Bowen
Legends of Flight
2013 International Air & Space Hall of Fame Honorees gather for a pre-event press conference. Photo courtesy James Maciariello, Masterwork Image.

Pushing Us Forward

This diverse group of moonwalking, skydiving, lifesaving, freedom-protecting, icon-building individuals share common traits. Courage. Passion. Skill. Patriotism. The actions they’ve taken and the example they’ve set inspire the rest of us.

The Future of Aviation

Perhaps what I took away most from this evening with family and friends old and new was how the actions of others affect us. The humble men and women inducted into the Hall of Fame were quick to credit and acknowledge others as equally deserving of recognition – and to rally the crowd to reach out to the next generation. Over and again, I heard them talk about the need to inspire young people. To spark their curiosity. To ratchet up the cool factor for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. The human spirit, once ignited, can accomplish most anything. For proof, just look at the 2013 Hall of Fame inductees.

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is one of the leading providers of K-12 STEM education in Balboa Park. Proceeds from the induction ceremony benefit SDASM youth educational programs, which help educate and prepare more than 11,000 children for careers in STEM fields.

Legends of Flight
The Legends of Flight gala felt extra special as it also celebrated the museum’s 50th anniversary.

Published in the November 28 edition of BlueSky Business Aviation News.