• Feb 10, 2015 5:43pm GMT

I was pleased to attend the 12th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards which took place on Friday, January 16, at the Beverly Hilton. Every year, this special evening recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary achievements in aviation. Living Legend John Travolta hosted the evening’s show, inducting three remarkable new aviation Legends: Bruce Whitman, chairman and CEO of FlightSafety; Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines; and Major General Carl McNair, considered the Father of modern Army Aviation. The three honorees join 86 other Legends who have been recognized over the past 12 years for their accomplishments as pilots, innovators, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and astronauts. In addition, a number of other special awards and honors were bestowed upon distinguished recipients. Mr. Kelleher was recognized a second time that evening with the “Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award.” Elling Halvorson, the founder of Papillon Helicopters and a pioneer of the helicopter industry, was presented with the “Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award.” The founding president and CEO of Honda Aircraft Company, Michimasa Fujino, was acknowledged with the “Aviation Industry Leader of the Year Award.” Cynthia Zamperini-Garris, the daughter of the late Olympian and World War II hero, Louis Zamperini, received a special presentation on behalf of her father. Living Legend Harrison Ford honored Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), with the Harrison Ford Aviation Legacy Award. After the awards presentation, the celebration continued at the After Awards Party, held on the rooftop of the Beverly Hilton. This late evening gathering included special festivities to mark Living Legends Bob Hoover’s 93rd Birthday and Buzz Aldrin’s 85th birthday. Living Legends is organized by Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, a non-profit organization which seeks to inspire children ages 4 through 9 to love aviation. Kiddie Hawk combines activities that introduce children to flying with programs that stimulate learning in math and science, encouraging future careers in aviation and related fields.