Six of the world’s finest restored vintage aircraft will travel to Oshkosh in July to vie for top honors in the first National Aviation Hall of Fame’s “Best of the Best” People’s Choice Award competition.
Visitors to AirVenture, slated for July 23-29, will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite from among the six aircraft, each having previously been juried by a team of experts for its authenticity and craftsmanship and deemed exemplary in representing aviation history.
Vying for the trophy are: a 1927 Waco Model 10-T owned by Alan Hoeweler; a 1930 Kreider Reisner Model 21 owned by Pat McNerney; a 1939 Spartan Executive owned by Kent and Sandy Blankenburg; a 1939 Grumman Duck owned by Chuck Greenhill; a 1941 Lockheed P-38F Lightning, “Glacier Girl,” owned by Rod Lewis; and a 1943 Piper L-4 “Grasshopper” owned by June and Colin Powers.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame and the National Aviation Heritage Invitational (NAHI) joined to create this new “Best of the Best” competition. NAHI contests are a joint effort of Rolls-Royce North America, Inc., the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and the Reno Air Racing Foundation.
NAHI was founded in 1998 with the “expressed goal of encouraging the restoration and preservation of our nation’s aviation treasures,” said Ken Perich, executive director. “The first invitational was held during the Reno Air Races in 1999 and immediately became a highly competitive annual showcase. Participating aircraft must be at least 45 years old and restored to airworthy condition, and each one is literally a flying museum piece.”
The inaugural “Best of the Best” event is a friendly competition open to former recipients of one of the following NAHI trophies: the Rolls-Royce Aviation Heritage Trophy, the Hall of Fame’s “People’s Choice” trophy, or from one of the three competition category trophies: antique, classic or warbird.
“Each of the six participating aircraft has previously been deemed by a panel of NAHI judges to be extraordinary examples overall or in their class,” said Ron Kaplan, executive director of the Hall of Fame. “The six are among the finest aircraft flying today, however the ‘Peoples Choice’ by the spectators participating at AirVenture will ultimately decide which one earns distinction as the ‘Best of the Best.'”
The aircraft will be displayed adjacent to AeroShell Square for the entire week of AirVenture. Visitors can place their vote at the Hall of Fame’s tent.
According to Perich, the owners and restorers of all six planes will be available to meet the public at various times throughout AirVenture, and are eager to share their knowledge of the people, history and hard work behind their restorations.