Aviation is unusual or unique as an industry in its close association with its history and even the interest in its past by the general populace. There is no National Museum of Ships or Buses or Automobiles on the National Mall. That special status is something aviation professionals should revere and support.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame has established an award called the Combs Gates Award to encourage and support relevant aviation history research and preservation efforts. The award’s goal was established with the help of Harry Combs, the author of Kill Devil Hills, a well written and well researched history of the Wright Brothers.
This year’s award is the 10th time that NAHF has chosen someone to receive this honor. The 2012 Combs Gates Award goes to first-time author, Regina Wirtanen Buker, of Baltimore, Maryland. Buker for her as yet unpublished book, The Skytrain Pilot: Flying a C-47 into Combat about her late father, Lieutenant George Neale Wirtanen. The book is based on the father’s letters, flight logs and other documents; it chronicles the flights of the C-47 in the 442nd Troop Carrier Group (TCG) in World War II. The first of his 87 missions in the European Theater of Operation was the D-Day invasion.
By preserving its heritage, aviation learns from its past. The glamour of the pioneers and all who have contributed to its growth helps make the business attractive to young people considering careers. Congratulations Ms. Buker for your award and much appreciation to Mr. Coombs and NAHF for encouraging aviation historians!