NAA’s Official Press Release on the 1998 Elder Statesmen of Aviation Award

1998 Elder Statesmen of Aviation Selected

Washington, DC – The National Aeronautic Association announced today that seven persons have been selected to receive the prestigious Elder Statesman of Aviation award for 1998. They are John Alison, Walter Boyne, Colonel Charles McGee, Don Piccard, George Putnam, Claire Walters and John Zugschwert.

The Elder Statesman of Aviation Award was established in 1954 to honor outstanding Americans who, by their efforts over a period years, have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics and have reflected credit upon America and themselves. All of the selectees must be at least 60 years of age. Nominations were solicited from hundreds of organizations and aviation leaders in the United States and 49 individuals were nominated. The selections were made by a distinguished committee of 25 aviation leaders from all segments of the aerospace community. The awards will be presented in Washington, DC, on October 14, at a luncheon at the Capitol Hilton Hotel.

NAA President Don Koranda stated, “All of the 1998 Elder Statesmen are very deserving of this prestigious honor. Their career efforts have directly contributed to making aerospace in the United States the most reliable, advanced, and safest in the world.”

The 1998 recipients of the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award are:

John R. Alison – Born in 1912, John Alison began flying in 1937 while in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He saw extensive wartime service during World War II and retired from the Air Force with the rank of Major General.
During his military career, Alison became a fighter ace, landed gliders behind enemy lines in Burma, directed air operations against Japan, and received several distinguished awards. Following his military career, he joined the Northrop Corporation where he remained until 1984.

Walter J. Boyne – Walter Boyne served as an Air Force officer for 23 years, flying over 5,000 hours in several different aircraft. He then joined the staff of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, eventually becoming director in 1981. Boyne has authored several aviation articles and books and, most recently, has been instrumental in the development of the Wingspan Air and Space Channel, a 24-hour television network devoted to aviation.

Colonel Charles Edward McGee, USAF (Ret.) – Colonel McGee performed significantly in the field of aviation through 30 years of military service and since as a community leader has been exemplary in promoting interest in aviation. Born in 1919, Colonel McGee’s education was interrupted by the call of service for World War II. He began his aviation career in the segregated training at Tuskegee Army Air Field in one of the famed all-black fighter units. His military career continued through three major military conflicts and he has flown more fighter combat sorties than anyone in the history of the United States Air Force.

Donald L. Piccard – The acknowledged “father” of modern hot air ballooning and co-founder of the Balloon Federation of America, Don Piccard’s interest in ballooning began in 1933 when he flew in a gas balloon with his mother, Jeannette Ridlon Piccard. For over 50 years, he has concentrated his enthusiasm and energy in ballooning and he is being honored for his lifelong achievements in aeronautics, his enthusiastic promotion and advancement of gas & hot air ballooning, and his memorable contributions to aviation and the science of aerostation.

George W. Putnam – For over 42 years George Putnam has made major contributions to both military and sport aviation as a trainer, planner, organizer, and leader in both peace and war. His career started at the beginning of World War II and he rapidly moved up through the ranks from private to major in three and a half years. In Vietnam, he was promoted to the rank of Major General where he commanded the Army’s two largest aviation units. After his retirement from the Army, Putnam became active with the Army Aviation Association, the Helicopter Club of America, and the National Aeronautic Association. His reputation in the international world of helicopters has won him many honors including the FAI Rotorcraft Gold Medal.

Claire Lee McMillen Walters – For over 50 years, Claire Lee McMillen Walters has been actively involved in flying. Claire started flying in 1941 and in 1960 she opened her own flight school. For the next 27 years she taught thousands of men and women to fly, amassing over 38,000 flying hours. She has been an active member of the 99s since 1944 and has been a driving force behind the formation of the 99s Museum in Oklahoma City.

John F. Zugschwert – John Zugschwert has been recognized for many years as a true leader of the vertical flight industry. His aviation career began in 1954 with the U. S. Army Airborne and his military career spans 27 years as a helicopter pilot and instructor. Following his years in military service, he started his civil career with the American Helicopter Society where he provided the vision and energy required to grow the Society into a financially stable and truly international organization. His untiring efforts to promote tiltrotor technology, futuristic infrastructure development, and operational implementation are helping to build the foundation for effective flight operations in the 21st century.

NAA consists of more than 100 member organizations. Collectively through its member affiliates, the association works to serve more than 400,000 individuals of whom 250,000 are active aviators. The National Aeronautic Association is the National Aero Club of the United States and the nation’s oldest aviation organization, founded in 1905. Its primary mission is the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight. NAA is also the United States representative to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the 88-country organization that oversees all aviation and space records established worldwide.

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