The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) reports that David McCullough’s best-selling book, “The Wright Brothers,” has earned its author the 14th Annual Combs Gates Award.
McCullough will be presented the $20,000 cash prize on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) 69th Annual Meeting & Convention in Orlando, Florida.
“The Wright Brothers” presents the extraordinary story-behind-the-story of two brothers from Dayton, Ohio and how they succeeded at mastering powered, controlled flight where many others had failed. Orville and Wilbur Wright are understandably the first two individuals to be enshrined by the National Aviation Hall of Fame, located in Dayton. Since its release, the book has become a best-selling hardback and paperback edition, and was optioned as the source material for an upcoming mini-series about the brothers.
Its author, McCullough, has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. He now adds the prestigious Combs Gates Award for The Wright Brothers. His other acclaimed books include The Greater Journey, 1776, Brave Companions, The Johnstown Flood, and The Great Bridge.
The Combs Award, its’ original title, grew out of a donation to the NAHF by the late Harry Combs, a 1996 enshrinee of the NAHF. As part of a $1.3 million gift to help fund the creation of a NAHF research center, Combs stipulated that the Combs Award be established to encourage and support relevant aviation history research and preservation efforts. A panel of expert judges review each submission based upon criteria such as historical accuracy, creativity, potential for long-term impact, and value to the Hall of Fame mission of honoring America’s outstanding air and space pioneers.
Combs was instrumental to the growth and development of business aviation. Consequently the NAHF partnered with the NBAA to host the award presentation at its annual meeting and convention, the largest purely civil aviation event in the world. The inaugural award was presented at the Opening General Session of the NBAA Meeting & Convention in 2003, the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight.
John Gates and his sister, Diane G. Wallach, are co-trustees of the Gates Frontiers Fund, created by their late parents and philanthropists, Charles C. and June S. Gates. The late Mr. Gates, who passed away in 2005 at age 84, was a partner with Combs in several aviation businesses, including the Combs Gates FBO chain and Gates Learjet. This year marks the 14th year for the award and its 11th year with the name changed to reflect a multi-year commitment by the Gates Frontiers Fund to endow the award.
The award pays homage to Gates’ belief in the benefit of historic preservation and study, and to Combs’ own research efforts behind his acclaimed 1979 book, “Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secrets of the Wright Brothers.”