On Saturday, May 21, six individuals with aviation connections in Michigan will be enshrined into the Air Zoo’s Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. The Tuskegee Airmen and author Nancy Lynn Mess will also be honored during the ceremony.
The 2011 Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinees are:
Clayton J. Brukner, WACO founder and inventor: Clayton J. Brukner was born in 1896 and within a few years, his family moved to Battle Creek. Between the fall of 1919 and the spring of 1920, Harold Deuther, Brukner and Elwood Junkin formed the DBJ Aeroplane Co., building three airplanes. In 1920, Deuther returned to his home in New York and George E. “Buck” Weaver joined the group. They established a formal company called the Weaver Aircraft Co. In 1921, the Weaver Aircraft Co., known by the acronym WACO, built its first airplane, the Waco Model 4. In 1923, the Weaver Aircraft Co. closed its doors, moved, and reorganized as the Advance Aircraft Co. In 1929 the company again reorganized and became the Waco Aircraft Co. From 1929-1938, with Brukner at the helm, the Waco Aircraft Co. outsold all other competitors two-to-one. Brukner passed away on Dec. 26, 1977. He was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997.
Beaumont “Pard” Diver, aircraft designer: Beaumont “Pard” Diver was born in Deerfield in 1912. During 50 years at Meyers Aviation in Tecumseh, he designed and built the Meyers OTW, 145, and 200. He also signed the airworthiness certificates for all three aircraft and made them official airplanes. Diver made the creation and restoration of many one-of-a-kind projects possible, such as homebuilt, experimental, antique and production aircraft, both civilian and military. He designed thousands of experimental aircraft parts. After passing away in 1990, the Al Meyers Airport in Tecumseh was officially renamed the Meyers-Diver’s Airport.
Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker, military pilot and business executive: Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker was a resident of Detroit. Rickenbacker, already a distinguished auto racer, was sent to France with the American Expeditionary Forces as a driver during World War I. He learned to fly in France and was assigned to the 94th Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron as a pursuit pilot. He became the leading American ace with 26 victories and was assigned command of the squadron. Rickenbacker became general manager of Eastern Air Lines in 1935, and president and director three years later. To support the World War II effort as a civilian, he conducted an important fact-finding mission to the Soviet Union for the Secretary of War. Rickenbacker died in Zurich, Switzerland in 1973. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, seven Distinguished Service Crosses, Croix de Guerre, Legion of Honor, and numerous other medals and awards. Rickenbacker was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1965.
Lt. Gen. James E. Light Jr., pilot and engineer: Lt. Gen. James E. Light Jr. was raised in Lansing. He started his military aviation career as an enlisted control tower operator in the U.S. Navy in 1945. In 1948, he joined the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program and became a basic flying instructor. Between 1951 and 1961, he was an electronics officer, graduated from Michigan State University (with a Bachelor of Science) and George Washington University (with a Master of Business Administration), and was a training unit commander. He flew two combat tours in Vietnam (in the F-105D and F-4D) and earned three Silver Stars, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star and 19 Air Medals. He became a brigadier general in 1976, major general in 1980 and lieutenant general in 1983. He retired in 1988 as commander of the 15th Air Force at March Air Force Base in California.
Capt. James L. Mynning, air show and airline pilot: Capt. James L. Mynning was born in 1930 in Ann Arbor and has been a lifelong Michigan resident. He first soloed in 1946 and was an airline pilot and captain with Capital Airlines (which merged with United Airlines in 1960) from 1955 until 1990. In 1974, Mynning was named United Airlines Pilot of the Year among 5,000 pilots for safely landing a 737 with a dangling engine without injuries to passengers or crew. He has had ownership with airports in Ann Arbor, Chelsea and Tecumseh. Mynning has also introduced and performed numerous renowned air show acts. During the 1950s, he played an important role in developing the air show circuit. He is currently chairman of air show operations at Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual convention in Oshkosh, Wis.
Col. Robert F. Warren, military fixed-wing and helicopter pilot: Col. Robert F. Warren was born in Benton Harbor in 1923. His Marine Corps career spanned through WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He is the only pilot known to have commanded both a Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron and a Marine Corps Jet Attack Squadron. Although a very competent night fighter pilot during the Battle of Okinawa, he made his greatest contribution as a helicopter pilot during the Korean War and thereafter. He was one of the first three officers assigned to the first all-helicopter squadron in the history of the U.S. military. His firsts include helping design and manufacture external cargo hooks that became the norm for helicopter operations for years to come; flying the first helicopter mass re-supply and medical evacuation; flying the first lights-off night helicopter troop drop off; and laying the first communications wire by helicopter. Warren earned several citations including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Medal with six clusters, the Legion of Merit and the UN Service Ribbon.
The Tuskegee Airmen will be presented with the Spirit of Flight Award, which highlights the outstanding achievements of aviation/space organizations. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black combat aviators to serve in the U.S. military during World War II at a time when many people thought black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. Their outstanding record of accomplishment during the war proved to be an important factor in the initiation to achieve racial equality in America.
Author Nancy Lynn Mess will be presented with the Harriet Quimby Award for her book, Men, Wind and Courage. Her book follows the life and career of aviation pioneer Osbert E. Williams and his associates. Men, Wind and Courage describes Williams’ contributions to the science of aviation, including his aircraft, flight schools, manufacturing facilities, hangars, flight-speedometer and patents. It also focuses on the events and experiences of Elwood J. Junkin and Clayton J. Brukner, who evolved the WACO airplanes, among others.
The Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m., with a cash bar beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $60 per person and are good for an Air Zoo wristband package the entire day of the event. To reserve your tickets to the Air Zoo’s Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, call 269-350-2813. RSVPs must be received by May 16.
For more information: AirZoo.org