Lindbergh Foundation to present awards Thursday

The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation will present the Lindbergh Award and the Lindbergh Spirit Award at a celebration at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Thursday.

Legendary inventor Forrest Bird will receive the 2012 Lindbergh Award and Florida businessman-philanthropist James C. Ray has been named recipient of the Spirit Award.

“This is a significant year as we are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Lindbergh Foundation as well as the 85th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s New York-to-Paris flight,” said Lindbergh Foundation Chairman and CEO Larry Williams. “We are particularly pleased and honored to be recognizing such exceptional aviators as Dr. Forrest Bird and James C. Ray during this historic year.”

James Ray

Ray, pilot, businessman, and philanthropist, will receive the 2012 Lindbergh Spirit Award, which is given every five years for pioneering achievements in an aviation career with the spirit and character that represents the best of this nation.

While working in Hawaii as a steelworker for the Navy, Ray was an eyewitness to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and flew a total of 30 B-17 missions from Rattlesden, England, including raids on German factories, and was a lead pilot on a D-Day attack on enemy headquarters in Normandy, France. Additionally, Ray served with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict.

After the war, Ray flew his Cessna 170B on business and personal trips that took him to 58 countries and every Caribbean island with a landing strip. He has accumulated more than 3,500 hours in single-pilot Citation jets flying across North America as a rancher, oil and gas explorer, and real estate developer. A successful businessman, Ray has provided start-up funding for more than 300 businesses including Compaq Computer, Eclipse Aviation and Cirrus Design

Ray’s philanthropy is predominantly dedicated to aviation-oriented youth education programs. He made a significant contribution for the building of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy on the grounds of SUN ’n FUN. The James C. Ray Scholarship Fund was established to offer financial support for Polk County High School merit students. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of North Dakota.

“We believe that Mr. Ray’s interest in supporting both innovative education and business ventures at an early stage of development, particularly to advance solutions for air and pilot safety, is uniquely aligned with the philosophy behind the Spirit Award,” noted Lindbergh Foundation Vice Chairman David Treinis.

Dr. Forrest Bird

Bird will receive the Lindbergh Award, which is bestowed annually upon an individual whose life’s work demonstrates a balance between technology and our environment to improve the quality of all life on earth.

Meeting Orville Wright, along with encouragement from his father who was a World War I pilot, led Bird to his first solo flight at age 14. He soon began working on multiple pilot certifications, which eventually led to service in the U.S. Army Air Corps beginning in 1941. During World War II, he piloted nearly every aircraft in service, including early jet aircraft and helicopters.

Noting similarities between air flowing over the wings of an airplane and air moving through the lungs, Bird, also a medical doctor, created the earliest versions of the now-prolific “Bird Respirator” for high-altitude flight and hospitals. Bird respirators freed polio victims from the confinement of the iron lung and were the first mass-produced respirators in the world.

“It is a great honor to receive the Lindbergh Award,” said Bird.  “I remember meeting Mr. Lindbergh when I was a child.  He was an amazing individual who has made great contributions to society in aviation and innovation.  When I was young, Mr. Lindbergh was a role model.  I was fascinated by his, as well as his wife’s, accomplishments.  Mr. Lindbergh planted a seed in my mind.  That seed has been cultivated.”

In addition to being inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame, Dr. Bird received the 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal from President George Bush.  In 2009, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his “outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental or social well-being of the United States.”

“Dr. Bird’s pioneering and life-saving medical inventions make him especially deserving of the Lindbergh Award.  Few people realize that Charles Lindbergh also was very interested and successful in medical innovations, having helped developed the Perfusion (artificial heart) Pump with Dr. Alexis Carrell,” observed Treinis, who chairs the Awards Committee that nominated both Bird and Ray.

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