President’s Message

As I write this in the immediate aftermath of the holiday season, I find myself spending some time looking back. Not just on the many wonderful family moments we were fortunate enough to spend before, during and after Christmas, but also at how NAA ended 2017. The major event, of course, is the Wright Memorial Dinner, at which our Wright Brothers Trophy was presented to Gen. John R. Dailey, currently Director of the National Air & Space Museum. As I told the crowd at the dinner, the people who originally conceived the award really focused on recognition of “public service” of exceptional importance and value to aviation. Jack is the very epitome of this ideal. I have been to well over a dozen Wright Dinners over the years, and have rarely experienced the kind of genuine affection that was present in that room a month ago. Each year, I have the ability to stand before the assembled luminaries to talk about the award and the recipient. The respect and admiration with which people view Jack was quite evident from all the faces I could see from the podium.

Just two weeks prior, we held our Fall Awards Dinner. At that dinner the true variety of aviation disciplines covered and promoted by NAA comes into focus. I told the people at the dinner it reminded me of the old ABC Wide World of Sports intro: “bringing you the constant variety of sport,” they used to say. Except we substitute aviation for sport. (You younger readers may have to Google this.)

We honored people who made their contributions in many ways, as an astronaut, an airport director, as aviation association presidents, corporate CEOs, members of the military, people who flew others in need, as government leaders, as educators and as people who excelled in air sports. Many are well described by more than one of those categories. That dinner might be my favorite event of the year precisely because it covers the entire breadth of aviation excellence. A real highlight was when Gen. Stephen Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, presented the Mackay Trophy to an exceptional group of Air Force aviators. What an inspiration those young people are. Another highlight was the Aviation Hall of Fame announcing their 2018 class; a first at an NAA event. I hope we can find more ways to work with them in the future.

But as much as I like to look back, and I do enjoy history, I think it is more important to look forward. We will be selecting our next Collier Trophy recipient soon; the nomination period ends January 31. We of course have other awards, the Stinson and Katharine Wright will be selected soon, followed later in the year by the rest of our awards. We will continue to certify records, and continue to find ways to promote aviation.

One such way is through education. Our plans are not yet fully formed, but I will be looking for ways to get NAA more involved in the promotion of aviation education, and in getting more young people interested in aviation. I am particularly interested in finding ways to work with our affiliate members and Aero Clubs on this. If you are reading this and have some thoughts, please send them my way: [email protected]