Heritage Trophy Honors Aviation Pioneers
The National Aviation Heritage Invitational (NAHI) has honored two aviation pioneers with category trophies. The first trophy renames the Large Aircraft winner with a trophy name in honor of Herb Kelleher. This trophy recognizes the top restoration of an aircraft flying in 1970 or before, both civil and military aviation with a wingspan of 45 feet or more. Previous winners have included a 1944 Douglas A-26, 1954 Grumman G-111 Albatross, and a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor.
Herb Kelleher is an airline industry icon, and founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher, an industry pioneer of the low fare airline model, took Southwest Airlines during his tenure from just three airplanes in 1971 to a fleet of more than 527 airplanes in 2008 when Kelleher stepped down. Kelleher stated, “I am incredibly delighted and honored to accept your proposal as to the naming of the large aircraft trophy and suffused with gratitude to you for the idea.” As an enshrinee into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, Mr. Kelleher has been a regular presenter at the event.
The second trophy is also a new category. To differentiate between older and newer eligible planes the Classic Aircraft trophy has been split at 1955-56. Now the Contemporary Aircraft category includes aircraft from 1956 to 1970. The trophy is named in honor of Steven F. Udvar-Hazy who revolutionized commercial aircraft financing, was the founder of ILFC, and the driving force behind the Steven F. Udvar Hazy annex of the Air and Space Museum at Washington Dulles Airport.
The invitational began 16 years ago with barely a dozen planes, and has grown to over 30 entrants each year. These restorations must be air-worthy and with a very few exceptions must be flown to the event for judging. The overall winner each year is honored with the Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy, which can be seen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy center in Virginia.
This year the event will be held again during the Reno Air Races, September 16-20 at Stead Field.