The recipient of the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s Milton Caniff “Spirit of Flight” Award for 2012 is Honor Flight, a non-profit organization that transports America’s veterans, at no cost to them, to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials that honor their service and sacrifices.
Top priority is given to the most senior heroes — those who served in World War II. The group estimates that an average of 900 World War II vets die every day, so their mission is urgent.
The concept of Honor Flight was the brainchild of Earl Morse, a retired Air Force captain and private pilot from Enon, Ohio. In 2005, six small aircraft flew out of Springfield, Ohio, taking 12 World War II veterans to visit their memorial. By the end of 2011, with a growing nationwide network of hubs and the support of commercial carriers, Honor Flight had transported more than 81,000 veterans to their Washington, D.C. memorials.
Now, Honor Flight Network founder Earl Morse, director Diane Gresse, and the participants in the eight-year-old organization are being honored, receiving the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s prestigious Milton Caniff “Spirit of Flight” Award for 2012. NAHF Board of Trustees Awards Committee Chair, Dr. Vince Russo, presented the award to Morse and Gresse who accepted on behalf of the Honor Flight Network’s 117 hubs in 40 states.
Among those in the audience were several original volunteer Honor Flight pilots and aircraft owners, and numerous veterans who had previously taken their Honor Flights. Also in attendance was a representative of Arby’s, which provides veterans with free lunches on their Honor Flight trip. In May 2008, Southwest Airlines became the official commercial carrier of Honor Flight, donating thousands of tickets annually to the cause. Today, Honor Flight missions are flown almost exclusively using commercial or chartered jet aircraft. For more information visit HonorFlight.org.
The NAHF Milton Caniff “Spirit of Flight” Award was created in 1981 to acknowledge significant contributions to aviation made by a group or organization. It is named in honor of noted artist and aviation enthusiast, the late Milton Caniff, a longtime NAHF supporter. Among previous recipients of the “Spirit of Flight” Award have been the Doolittle Raiders, Apollo Crewmen, Tuskegee Airmen, and Women Airforce Service Pilots.
The NAHF is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in Dayton in 1962 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1964. Its mission is to honor America’s outstanding air and space pioneers, which it does through a 17,000 square-foot public Learning Center featuring interactive exhibits, a youth education program, its annual enshrinement ceremony, other public outreach programs, and collaboration with like-minded organizations.
For more information: NationalAviation.org