Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, who also founded aerospace company Blue Origin, will be among eight aerospace legends honored this fall by the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the Balboa Park institution announced Wednesday.
The world’s richest person — worth $111.3 billion as of Aug. 7 but down from $131 billion in the wake of his divorce, according to Forbes — will be inducted into the museum’s International Air & Space Hall of Fame on Nov. 23.
Others set for induction at a $395-a-person gala are:
- The late Hawley Bowlus, American engineer, designer and aircraft builder and icon of the Golden Age of Flight.
- Vance Coffman, 75, retired chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp. and the person responsible for the Hubble Space Telescope and other critical space innovations.
- Joan Sullivan Garrett, a nurse who launched MedAire, a global provider of integrated safety solutions where remote medical care is in high demand.
- The recently deceased Robert J. Gilliland, first man to fly the SR-71 Blackbird and test-pilot for every Blackbird that came off the production line.
- The late Dick Gordon, American naval aviator and moon-circling command module pilot of Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the moon.
- Retired Air Force Lt. Col. David Hamilton, 97, the last surviving Pathfinder who dropped World War II paratroopers into Normandy in advance of the allied invasion on D-Day.
- And Robert H. Liebeck, 81, a world-renowned authority on aerodynamics, hydrodynamics and aircraft design.
Since 1963, the museum’s International Air & Space Hall of Fame has honored the planet’s most significant pilots, crew members, visionaries, inventors, aerospace engineers, business leaders, preservationists, designers and space explorers.
“We’re especially pleased to honor this exemplary Class of 2019 because these men and women are amongst the most talented figures in air and space history,” said Jim Kidrick, president and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
“Aviation and space exploration, as embodied by the honorees in the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, directly represents the human pioneering and exploring spirit.”
Here’s what the museum said about each inductee:
Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Bezos began in 1994 with a mission to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. In 2000, Bezos founded aerospace company Blue Origin. The company is focused on developing infrastructure for the creation of human spaceflight capabilities and building a future where millions of people are living and working in space. He is also the owner of the Washington Post. In 2018, he founded the Bezos Day One Fund to support the homeless and build high-quality preschools in low-income communities. Bezos graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University in 1986. He was named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 1999.
Icon of the Golden Age of Flight, Bowlus’ efforts in glider design dominated from 1911-1929. He was an American engineer, designer and builder of aircraft (especially gliders). Bowlus was the first to break Orville Wright’s 1911 soaring duration record in an American designed and built sailplane. An expert at soaring flight, he trained many glider pilots and actually gave lessons to Charles and Anne Lindbergh in Bowlus sailplanes in San Diego in 1930.
Vance D. Coffman
Retired Chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp., Coffman served in a series of elected corporate leadership positions, including president and chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin’s Space & Strategic Missile Sector. While president of Lockheed’s Space Systems Division in 1988, Coffman was responsible for the Hubble Space Telescope, the MILSTAR satellite communications program and the Follow-on Early Warning System (now called the Spaced Based Infrared System).
Joan Sullivan Garrett
In 1983, Garrett was serving as a critical care flight nurse and chief medical officer aboard an emergency helicopter evacuation flight, responding to a remote, rural traffic accident. Less than two years later, she founded MedAire – now the leading global provider of 24/7 integrated safety solutions for aviation and maritime where remote medical care is in high demand. Garrett’s congressional testimony in 2001 led to the FAA’s final ruling requiring US airlines to carry AEDs on all flights, domestic and international.
Robert J. Gilliland
First man to fly the SR-71 Blackbird and test-flyer for EVERY Blackbird that came off the production line before it was turned over to the United States Air Force. Gilliland played a vital role in developing the world’s most advanced aircraft used in top secret missions, which were crucially important in winning the Cold War. He has more Mach 3 plus time than any other pilot in the world.
An American Naval officer and aviator, chemist, test pilot and NASA astronaut, Gordon is one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. Gordon served as back-up pilot for Gemini 8, and in September 1966, he made his first space flight as pilot of Gemini 11. Gordon was subsequently assigned as backup command module pilot for Apollo 9. In November 1969, he flew as command module pilot of Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the moon.
Lt. Col. David Hamilton
An elite special operations group, the Pathfinders were target-marking squadrons during World War II. Hamilton enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and trained as a C-47 pilot. He was selected to become a Pathfinder pilot. He took part in critical missions including dropping paratroopers into Normandy in advance of the allied invasion on D-Day. Hamilton is the last surviving Pathfinder pilot from D-Day.
Robert H. Liebeck
Liebeck is a world-renowned authority on aerodynamics, hydrodynamics and aircraft design. He earned his Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1968 and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Liebeck is most noted for his development of airfoils to make wings more efficient which have become known as “Liebeck Airfoils.” He’s also known as the father of the Blended Wing Body aircraft and is currently a senior fellow at The Boeing Company where he is program manager for the Blended-Wing-Body Program.
The International Air & Space Hall of Fame has been called the most prestigious induction of its kind in the world and is composed of hundreds of air and space pioneers, engineers, inventors and innovators, along with adventurers, scientists and industry leaders.
NASA Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts and Russian cosmonauts are honored in the Hall, as well as famous legends such as the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart.
Other notable inductees are Buzz Aldrin, Chuck Yeager, Igor Sikorsky, Wernher von Braun, Jack Northrop, Jackie Cochran, William Boeing, Sr., Reuben H. Fleet, Glenn Curtiss, Walter Zable Sr., Fran Bera, Wally Schirra, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, T. Claude Ryan, Jimmy Doolittle, Bob Hoover, Ellen Ochoa, Peggy Whitson, Linden Blue and Patty Wagstaff.
Proceeds from the Hall of Fame celebration in the Edwin D. McKellar Pavilion of Flight benefit the museum’s youth education programs.
“Inspiring kids to undertake tough science and engineering challenges is a critical first step for our future,” Kidrick said. “We must also give them the resources and impetus they need to pursue science education degrees.”
More than 600 national and international business, aviation and space leaders are expected to attend the event, including prominent representatives and Hall of Fame members from earlier years.
The museum, at 2001 Pan American Plaza, is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and was the first aero-themed museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
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