Living Legends of Aviation to honor Tom Cruise, Buzz Aldrin

The 7th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards take flight Jan. 22 in Los Angeles. Tom Cruise, Buzz Aldrin, Kermit Weeks, Kurt Russell and others will receive awards that night.

John Travolta, the official Ambassador of Aviation, will present Tom Cruise with the “Top Aviation Inspiration and Patriotism Award.” Cruise’s passion for aviation started at a young age. Growing up in modest economic conditions, Cruise’s family moved frequently but once Cruise hung a P-51 Mustang photo in his bedroom, he felt at home. He now owns a P-51 Mustang and other aircraft and is an accomplished aerobatic pilot. “Top Gun,” the highest grossing aviation movie of all time, has inspired generations of young pilots and patriotism in many Americans.

Dr. Buzz Aldrin will receive the “First Out of This World Landing and Take-Off Award.” Aldrin took his first airplane ride with his father when he was 2 years old. His father, a military man, served as aide to Billy Mitchell, the father of the U.S. Air Force. As a boy, Aldrin showed an early interest in all things mechanical, designing all types of contraptions. As a young man he flew 66 missions in Korea. Walking on the moon tops a long list of successes and challenges that have defined Aldrin’s life as a pilot, military man, scientist, and astronaut. Now 80, he is one of only 12 astronauts to walk on the moon.

Often referred to as the “Academy Awards of Aviation,” the aviation Legends awards gala is produced by Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, a non-profit organization that introduces kids to aviation.

Additional awards presented by the Legends throughout the evening include:

Preston Henne, “Aviation Industry Leader of the Year:” Henne became VP of General Dynamics in July 1999 when the company acquired Gulfstream. He is responsible for Gulfstream’s product program management, engineering, and flight operations. He joined Gulfstream in 1994 and is credited with the design, development and certification of the Gulfstream V aircraft, which was awarded the 1997 Collier Trophy.

Elon Musk, “Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year:” – South African born, Elon Musk, an American physicist, inventor, entrepreneur, innovator and philanthropist, is best known for founding PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX. His father inspired his love of technology. In 1999 Musk co-founded, an online financial services and email payments company. He later changed the company’s name to PayPal and sold the company in 2002. Musk founded Tesla Motors, and is chairman and CEO of the electric sports car company. Musk also founded and serves as chairman and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which was recently awarded a multi-billion dollar contract with the U.S. government to develop and build space launch vehicles for NASA to replace the retiring space shuttles.

Joe Clark, “Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur:” Clark’s early fascination with aviation developed into a lifelong passion. He founded JetAir, the first Learjet distributorship in the Northwest in 1965. His career moved to Raisbeck Engineering where he became VP of sales. He later partnered with Milt Koult to form Horizon Air, a Seattle-based regional airline that was purchased by Alaska Airlines. In 1988, Clark, Clay Lacy, and Bruce McCaw formed the Friendship Foundation, raising more than $500,000 for children’s charities, as they set a world speed record flying a 747 around the world. In 1991, Clark and Dennis Washington founded Aviation Partners, inventing and developing blended winglets. A recipient of the Horatio Alger award in 2008, Clark is the only person who has been honored as both Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year and Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur, receiving the Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2005.

Kermit Weeks, “Bob Hoover Freedom of Flight Award:” Weeks has the largest private collection of vintage aircraft in the world, with over 140 aircraft. As founder of Fantasy of Flight, Weeks is dedicated to teaching young people about aviation and flight.

Kurt Russell, “Aviation Mentor Award:” Actor Kurt Russell says, “Flying has taught me more about who I really am than anything I’ve ever done.” Nearly 22 years into his love affair with flying, he encourages others to fly and mentors many pilots in and out of the entertainment business.

This year’s celebrity/ Legend attendees include: John Travolta, Bob Hoover, Kurt Russell, Clay Lacy, Morgan Freeman, Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Tom Cruise, Joe Clark, Maj. Gen. William Anders, Cliff Robertson, Tony Bill, Dr. Forrest Bird, Carroll Shelby, James Raisbeck, Linden Blue, Barron Hilton, Sir Richard Branson, Harrison Ford, Gene Cernan, Julie Clark, Dick Rutan, Pat Epps, Greg Herrick, Alan Klapmeier, Bob Lutz, Lee Iacocca, Bruce McCaw, Lorenzo Lamas, Max Moga, Zoe Dell Lantis Nutter, Paul Poberezny, Mike Melvill, Vern Raburn, Si Robin, Frank Robinson, Ed Swearingen, Sean Tucker, Steven Udvar-Hazy, Emily Howell-Warner and Kermit Weeks.

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