2012 INDUCTEES AND SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS

 

The Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame inducted six new members, presented a seldom-given President’s Award and recognized the service of  two others at a ceremony and dinner held at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Cranston, RI on Saturday evening, November 17th, 2012. The event also commemorated the 100th anniversary of US Marine Corps Aviation.

Awardees have connections to Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Wakefield, Newport, Warwick, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, Harrisville and Providence, and include graduates of Pawtucket and Samuel Gorton High Schools, LaSalle Academy and Providence College.

The guest of honor was Newport-born Marine Corps Major William D. Chesarek, the first American to receive Great Britain’s Distinguished Flying Cross since World War II. His exploits involved the daring rescue of a wounded British soldier in Iraq. Queen Elizabeth II presented his award at Buckingham Palace.

Both recipients of our Special Recognition awards are still living:

Harrisville resident Joel Rawson, best known locally for his lengthy and distinguished career at the Providence Journal, has had a life-long love affair with flying. His Vietnam combat flying experience was so secret that most people have never heard of his airplane or its mission. He was an original member of the Richmond Flying Club in the 1970s, and was also a founding member of EAA Chapter 1363. Over the years he has flown dozens of youngsters in the EAA Young Eagles program. Perhaps most importantly, the recently retired Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of The Providence Journal tried to bring informed coverage of aviation issues to his readers. In 1982 the Journal won a prestigious Polk Award for a series on commuter airline safety. He and his team also covered the death of John Kennedy, Jr. in the crash off Martha’s Vineyard and the Egypt Air loss off Nantucket. In all these stories the reporting benefited from intelligent sourcing of aviation officials and knowledge of aircraft and their operation.

Over the past 22 years, long-time Warwick resident and Navy Korean War veteran Stanley R. Essex, Jr., has virtually single-handedly restored two wrecked warbirds to magnificent display condition: a WWII-era Navy Hellcat fighter for the Quonset Air Museum, and the F9F Panther jet known as the “Ted Williams Airplane” for the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame/USS John F. Kennedy project. Along the way, he has worked on a number of other aircraft restoration projects, and was instrumental in the construction of an award-winning 30-foot-long model of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp. He was born in Amesbury, MA on March 26, 1931. His father was a single dad and a career sailor, so young Stan lived with his grandmother while his dad was at sea. When his grandmother died in 1940, he moved to Warwick to live with his father’s brother’s family. Stan always loved planes, so just prior to the outbreak of the Korean War, he enlisted in the Navy under its High School Airman Recruit Program, with a guarantee of aviation training and an aviation billet. He soon found himself deployed in combat aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard, where he became a plane captain for an F-9 Panther. After Korea he finished his service with Carrier Air Wing 7 at Quonset. Using the GI Bill, he learned electronics and avionics, and eventually operated his own television servicing and repair business. In 1989 Stan became one of the first members of the Quonset Air Museum, and was heavily involved in the recovery and retrieval of a crashed Hellcat off the coast of Block Island.

Read the Cranston Herald's article on Stan Essex >

The four deceased inductees are:

Born in Providence, R. W.  (Dick) Foote (1919-2009) was a Navy veteran of WWII, a test pilot, a successful local and international businessman and inventor. Dick Foote was instrumental in the development of the first “anti-blackout” or “pressure suit”, the forerunner to today’s NASA spacesuit, credited with saving the lives of many WWII fighter pilots. Commissioned as a Naval Aviator in January 1941, he flew combat missions in the early days of the war before ill health caused his return to civilian life. As a test pilot, he became the fifth pilot to fly the F4U-1 Corsair. One of his proudest moments was personally instructing Charles Lindbergh in the Corsair, and having a private dinner with Mr. Lindbergh that evening. He then became Chief Experimental Test Pilot on the FM-2 “Wildcat” fighter, and was one of the first pilots to ride the original “human centrifuge” at Mayo Clinic to test effects of G forces on the human body. He flew comparative evaluation flight tests on 15 different fighters including the Japanese Zero, British Spitfire, Mosquito, and Firefly, as well as the Bell P-59, the first jet fighter built in the United States. Dick’s passion for flying did not abate after the war. He participated in a number of air races before moving to the Bahamas to become a captain-pilot on a Grumman Goose amphibian seaplane ferrying passengers throughout the islands. In  1978 he formed Warplanes International Airshows, a group of pilot owners of WWII fighters, bombers and trainers that performed one of first choreographed re-enactments of famous air battles of WWII at air shows in the eastern US and Canada. At the age of 85, he was still flying his privately owned FM-2 Wildcat, Bushby Midget Mustang, Cessna 210 and Piper Cheyenne aircraft. Richard was also a proud member of the Quiet Birdmen. At the time of his death in 2009 he was one of one of Volusia County, Florida's most prominent businessmen.

East Greenwich resident LCDR Robert McCollough, USN (Ret) 1924-2008 posted a record of more than 50 years of achievement in military and commercial aviation in the State of Rhode Island. Bob enlisted in the Navy in 1943 after graduating from high school in Pennsylvania. Trained as a fighter pilot, Ensign McCollough flew F4F Wildcats from escort carriers in the Pacific theater during WW II. For his service LCDR McCollough received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Silver Star. Bob and his family came to RI for the first time in 1953; he was stationed at Quonset NAS and served on the USS Wasp, USS Tarawa, and USS Leyte. In 1961 he became the Head Flight Test Officer for the O&R facility at Quonset (later called the Naval Air Rework Facility--NARF), a position he held until his retirement in 1964. He then taught in the North Kingstown public school system for more than 25 years, and was an active member of numerous civic and fraternal organizations in the state. Throughout his teaching career and after his retirement, McCollough continued to fly. He flew charter and scheduled flights for Newport Aero, and at Quonset Aircraft Services, he tested and delivered the airplanes that QAS serviced. Since Bob was qualified in virtually all civilian light and medium aircraft, he picked up and delivered planes throughout the US and parts of Latin America. At the time of his death Bob McCollough had a total of 7,680 hours of flight time, approximately 4000 of which was as a Naval Aviator.

Woonsocket native and lifelong Rhode Island resident CDR Paul G. Farley, USN (Ret) (1917-1993) survived the sinking of the battleship USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor and went on to earn two Distinguished Flying Crosses and five Air Medals while flying 600 combat hours in the Pacific. He was a 1934 graduate of LaSalle Academy and 1938 graduate of Providence College, lettering at both schools in baseball, basketball and tennis. On the morning of December 7th he survived the attack by escaping through a 28-inch porthole after the ship capsized, swimming through the oily burning water to the beach, where he and other survivors were strafed by Japanese aircraft. He was one of the 12 men helped to safety by Chaplain (LTJG) Aloysius Schmitt, who perished trying to rescue others. Farley was later promoted to LCDR and took command of the newly-formed Torpedo Squadron 37, leading his unit on strikes in support of the island-hopping campaign across the Pacific. He returned to the US at the end of 1944 and spent the last year of the war as a Naval Aide to the President at the White House. He left active duty in 1946, and retired from the Naval Reserve as a Commander in 1954. Mr. Farley worked as a manufacturers' representative for Blackstone Mills, Goodall Fabrics and Dicey Mills from 1946 until retiring in 1974

Long-time Wakefield resident LCDR John “Jack” Greenwell, USN (Ret) (1922–2011) earned the Navy Cross, our nation’s second-highest military decoration, for dive-bombing and sinking a Japanese cruiser in April, 1945. Although he was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Greenwell lived in Rhode Island for the better part of his life. He was a standout high school baseball player who spent a few months in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system before joining the Navy in 1941. As an aviation cadet, he played on the same baseball team as Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and a number of other major leaguers who went into the service. He was commissioned as a Naval Aviator April 1, 1944, and served aboard the USS Yorktown, the USS Lexington, and the USS Leyte.  He was awarded numerous medals and citations in addition to the Navy Cross, to include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and five Air Medals. After the war, he was stationed at Charlestown, RI and then at NAS Quonset Point. While there he met Justine Shaw Paasche from Providence.  They married in 1947, and Jack spent the rest of his life in Rhode Island. He worked as a sales representative for Red Devil Tools covering New England and New York, and rejoined the Naval Reserve in 1951. He continued flying as a reservist until 1965, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

The President’s Award goes to:

Pawtucket native Thomas G. Corcoran (1899-1981) played a pivotal role in the establishment of the American Volunteer Group better known as the Flying Tigers. He also championed the construction of Washington’s National Airport. After World War II, he played a leading role in the establishment of Civil Air Transport (CAT), the Nationalist Chinese airline. He was also instrumental in saving 71 transport planes from falling into Communist hands when Mao Tse-Tung took over mainland China. CAT was later owned by the CIA, and supported United States covert operations throughout East and Southeast Asia. In 1959, CAT changed its name to Air America. Nicknamed "Tommy the Cork" by his boss, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Corcoran was one of the architects of the New Deal. He graduated from Pawtucket High School, was valedictorian of his class at Brown University and received his law degree from Harvard. As well as drafting New Deal legislation, Roosevelt used Corcoran as his "special emissary to Capitol Hill". Elliott Roosevelt wrote, "Apart from my father, Tom (Corcoran) was the single most influential individual in the country." Much of his work during the New Deal was in conjunction with Benjamin V. Cohen. Together Corcoran and Cohen were known as the "Gold Dust Twins" and were on the cover of Time Magazine's September 12, 1938 edition

Read the Corcoran article in The Valley Breeze >

 

2011 INDUCTEES AND SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS

 

The Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame inducted six new members, presented a seldom-given President’s Award and recognized the service of two others at a ceremony and dinner held at the Varnum Armory in East Greenwich on Saturday evening, February 4, 2012.

Two inductees were still living:

Riverside resident Roland E. Stumpff flew for more than 68 years. He was a WWII B-24 bomber pilot who participated in the dangerous raids on the Ploesti oil fields. On his 13th Ploesti mission his aircraft was hit by flak over the target and lost two engines. With a wounded copilot he nursed his B-24 to dead-stick landing. He and his crew were captured and held in a Bulgarian POW camp. When Bulgaria dropped out of the war in late 1944, he and more than 200 allied POWs eventually made their way to Istanbul and safety. In a little-known footnote to history, he and a handful of others volunteered to go back into Bulgaria with the OSS to identify and round up those guards who had mistreated prisoners. Through this team’s actions, some 135 were brought to justice. After the war, he continued to fly with several Air National Guard units, including a stint flying F80 fighter jets with the New York Air Guard. He worked for Trans-Ethiopian Airlines, and eventually settled into a career as a mechanical engineer. Roland added glider flying and soaring to his repertoire before finally folding his wings in 2010. He was a Colonel in the Confederate Air Force, where he worked on (and flew) aircraft that participated in their famous Missing Man formation.

Tiverton native LTC James Webber Lent, Jr. USMC (Ret) had the distinction of serving three combat tours in Viet Nam, flying three different aircraft with distinctly different missions. During these three tours, Jim flew a total of 842 combat missions and 949 combat hours, an accomplishment surpassed by only a select few US military aviators. Lent graduated from De La Salle Academy in Newport and Holy Cross College. Lent was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 1960, and designated a Naval Aviator the following year. In his first Vietnam tour (1964-65) he flew the H-34 helicopter in support and medevac missions out of Danang. From April, 1968 - May, 1969 he flew the A-4 Skyhawk attack jet with VMA-311 out of Chu Lai, providing close air support for marines on the ground. In 1972 he flew the F-4J Phantom II fighter/attack jet in combat. During his 21-year career, Jim amassed a total of 3,482 flight hours flying 18 different aircraft. He also completed 123 day and night carrier landings. Lent’s combat awards include three Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars with Combat V, and forty-two Air Medals, with one meritorious single mission gold star. After leaving the service he earned his JD and a Master of Law Degree in International Business and Taxation. He continues to practice in Pensacola, FL where he now resides.

The four deceased inductees were:

Born in Providence, Parker S. Dupouy (1917–1994) was one of the 57 combat pilots serving as the Flying Tigers in China in the early days of World War II. A Central High School grad, he enrolled as an Aviation Cadet after graduating from Brown University in 1939. In May, 1941 he resigned his Army Air Corps commission to volunteer with General Claire Lee Chennault and the Chinese Air Force. He eventually moved to Kunming, China as vice-commander of the Hells Angels Squadron. In July of 1941, his unit (with 18 planes and 25 pilots) destroyed 81 Japanese planes while being outnumbered ten to one. Parker is officially credited with getting 4.5 kills, although records show he probably had an additional seven that could not be independently confirmed. He was awarded the “Chinese Sixth Cloud Banner” after his encounter with a Jap Zero on Christmas day, 1941. Out of ammunition, DuPouy dove on the more maneuverable Zero and sheared off the enemy plane’s left wing. In the process he lost the last four feet of his own right wing. Knowing how scarce P-40’s were, he managed to nurse the plane back to base. This encounter is memorialized in a painting by Dan Zoernig named “One the Hard Way”. Parker also flew Madame Chiang Kai-shek around China while she acted as a keynote speaker throughout the country. After the AVG disbanded, DuPouy went to Republic Aviation on Long Island where he became Chief Test Pilot. He and one other AVG pilot did all of the testing on the P-47 Thunderbolt, directing some fixes which made the plane such an effective weapon. In 1946 he moved to Pratt & Whitney where he tested the experimental B-50 bomber. After the war, he went back to work as an engineer, ending his career with KG Engineering in Woonsocket. He died of cancer at the age of 77.

Captain James R. Henderson USN (Ret) (1924 – 2010) retired from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in 1975 after a 32-year Navy career that started in 1942 and spanned three wars. He flew more than 10 different aircraft and served in torpedo and anti-submarine squadrons on 12 different aircraft carriers. He served as Landing Signal Officer (LSO) with VS-31, Flag Secretary to the Admiral of Carrier Division 20, Commanding Officer of VS-32, Executive Officer of Command Air Group-54 (CAG-54), Joint Chiefs of Staff Action Officer for the Office of Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, and Director of Naval JROTC for the First Naval District. As Air Group Commander he oversaw all training and operational readiness of three air squadrons, 600 personnel and 50 aircraft. He also participated in the 1965 Gemini 5 space capsule recovery carrying Astronauts Alan Shepard and Pete Conrad. He continued to enjoy flying in North Kingstown and Florida after his retirement. He was also a founding member of the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation in Pensacola, Florida. His family still lives in North Kingstown and West Warwick.

Cranston native Pasco “Pat” Melone (1913-2007) was an accomplished flight instructor, aerial photographer, aerial banner tower, and aerial acrobat. Called "Rhode Island's version of Waldo Pepper", he soloed at the old Buttonwoods airport at the age of 17 after less than 7 hours of dual flight time. According to his family, he was told "not to come back" because he did a loop during the 1930 solo flight. Undaunted, Melone sent away for an airplane kit and first assembled it in his bedroom. He then disassembled it, carried the parts outside, reassembled and flew it—getting written up in Horatio Alger's newspaper at the age of 18. Family lore has him buzzing the state house and "crashing" on Spectacle Pond in Cranston, only to fly away again when the police showed up. He allegedly rented an aircraft that he had never flown before, flew it for an hour, then took and passed the test for his commercial license in that aircraft. He enlisted in the 243rd Coast Artillery of the RI National Guard, and by 1940 he was a corporal. He had become a flight instructor prior to WW2, and during the war he served as an Army Air Corps civilian flight instructor at Hawthorne School of Aeronautics in South Carolina. He also taught French cadets at Hawthorne—one of whom eventually became a Concorde pilot. By 1950 he was a commercial pilot examiner for the Civil Aeronautics Administration, and was flying for Allen Airways at Hillsgrove. His work ranged from ferrying Providence Journal-Bulletin photographers to aerial banner towing—a skill at which he became quite adept. After a break in service, Mr. Melone re-entered the RI Air National Guard, serving 16 more years before retiring as a staff sergeant.

Providence native Robert T. Murphy, (1915-1996) was instrumental in the drafting of many federal statutes relating to air safety, air transportation, and related economic issues. He participated in the creation of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), and served on that board for 12 years, acting as Vice Chair for eight years. During his years on the CAB board he had a lot to do with promoting air service to New England in general and Rhode Island in particular. Murphy graduated from LaSalle Academy and Providence College before receiving his LL.B. from Georgetown University Law School in 1940. In 1956 he was chosen as Counsel to the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. During his career as a CAB Governor and Member, Murphy was involved in more than 55 bilateral aviation negotiations, 25 of which were with foreign governments. He served as the U.S. representative to the Conference of International Civil Aviation Organization (CIAO) in Buenos Aires in September 1968.

Our Special Recognition Award recipients, both living, were:

Master Army Aviator Thomas P. Shortall is best known for safely crash landing the helicopter carrying Governor Noel after a mechanical failure in May of 1976. He was raised in the Mount Pleasant section of Providence and graduated from Mount Pleasant High School in 1950. He joined the RI Air National Guard in 1949, and attended the Allen School of Aeronautics where he became an FAA licensed master mechanic. He worked for American Airlines at Idlewild Airport in New York, and as an Air Force civilian contractor and technical rep. At the age of 38 he transferred to the Army Guard as an aviation maintenance officer and, unusual for someone his age, graduated from flight school in 1970. Shortall was an aeronautics inspector for the RI National Guard and the helicopter pilot for the governor of Rhode Island until 1979. From 1979 to 1990 he was assistant chief of airport operations at TF Green Airport. He retired in 1990, and remained in the Army Reserve until 1991. He holds numerous commercial and instrument ratings, and is also an A&P (aircraft and power plant) master mechanic. He resides in Narragansett.

Major General Kevin R. McBride is now The Adjutant General and Commanding General of the Rhode Island National Guard. Also an Army Aviator, he has commanded an Attack Helicopter Battalion, a Light Utility Helicopter Battalion and the 56th Troop Command (Airborne). General McBride served as the Commander of the 43rd Military Police Brigade from February 2003 to January 2009. In 2005, he took over the responsibility for cleaning up the notorious Abu Ghraib, along with two other prisons in Iraq. An East Providence native, he graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1980 with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He also received an ROTC commission. He also earned a masters in National Security and Strategic Studies from the US Naval War College in 2000. He earned his aviator wings in 1982 at Fort Rucker, has a Commercial Instrument Rotary Wing rating and has accumulated more than 1700 flight hours.

2010 INDUCTEES AND SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS

 

Sponsored by:

Textron

  AND

General Dynamics

 

Guest of Honor: Apollo 8 Astronaut Bill Anders

William Anders

Retired Air Force Major General and former Textron executive Bill Anders, one of the first three humans to view the dark side of the moon, will be inducted into the Rhode Island Aviation H-all of Fame on Saturday evening, October 23rd at the Varnum Armory in East Greenwich. Anders will describe his experiences and his famous photograph, "Earthrise," which he took on Christmas Eve, 1968. Along with the first pictures taken of the earth from the moon, Anders is perhaps best remembered for his inspirational quote, "We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."

In December, 2003, Rhode Island’s salute to the Centennial of Flight included the induction of the first seven members into the newly-launched Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame. The permanent site of the Hall of Fame will be aboard the retired aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy, which we hope will open as a family attraction, educational center, museum and memorial on Rhode Island’s beautiful Narragansett Bay sometime within the next few years.

“We have inducted more than 40 individuals, one entire family (the Allen family of balloonists/aeronauts) and given numerous special recognition awards," said Frank Lennon, the Hall's founder and leader of the effort to bring the JFK to Rhode Island.

"Each year’s induction, and the publicity it receives, generates more recommendations,” Lennon explained. “Many people have written or called to let us know about the role a family member, neighbor or friend may have played in our state's rich aviation history. In fact, over the past three years, 13 of our 16 inductees came from public nomination, and in most cases we were previously unaware of the scope of their accomplishments," Lennon said.

Anders lived in RI for much of the 1980s as a senior Textron executive, followed by four years as Chairman and CEO of General Dynamics, to include responsibility for EB at Quonset.

William AndersAnders, a 1955 graduate of the Naval Academy, was portrayed by Robert John Burke in the 1998 miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon”, and the Anders Crater on the Moon was named in honor of the Apollo 8 Lunar Module pilot. Anders, who now lives in the state of Washington, is flying in with his wife Valerie to receive the award.

"We are delighted that Bill Anders will be able to join us," said Lennon. "He is truly one of the living giants of the aviation and space community, and we are delighted that someone of his stature will headline our commemoration of 100 years of manned flight in Rhode Island.”

Honorees are selected by an ad hoc committee representing a number of aviation groups. The committee includes previous inductees such as Robert Crandall, former chairman of American Airlines; World War II bomber pilot and former Governor of Rhode Island, Bruce Sundlun; and Jennifer Murray, the first woman to fly a helicopter around the world.

“Thanks to the enthusiastic support of Rhode Island's aviation community, all seven of our previous inductions were oversubscribed,” said Lennon. “We expect this event will be another sellout."

 

Rick Wilson: Born in 1942, Wakefield native Rick Wilson earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, two Single Mission Air Medals, a Navy Commendation Medal and 46 mission Air Medals in Vietnam. He flew more than 900 missions in his 13 months of flying in-country, consisting primarily of recon insertions/extractions as well as medevac. He was 2nd Marine Airwing Aviator of the Year in 1969. After his combat tour he served as an instructor and Public Affairs Officer for MCAS New River. His Marine Corps career was cut short by the death of his first wife at age 28. He had three children (ages 4, 3 and 1), so it was impossible for him to continue on active duty.

After his wife's death he returned to RI and got involved with the family newspaper business--making good use of the bachelors and masters degrees in English he earned at the University of Wisconsin. He eventually became  publisher of Southern RI Newspapers, and launched the Chariho Times, South County Independent, North East Independent and South County Living Magazine. He subsequently remarried and now has 5 children and 7 grandchildren.

His love of flying came from his mother, Susan Northup Wilson, who was one of the first women in Rhode Island to hold a pilot’s license. His father grew up in Newport and joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor, spending WWII in the South Pacific aboard the aircraft carrier Saratoga. Rick’s aviation career is limited now to flying with friends but he holds a commercial license, instrument license as well as a multi-engine and jet rating. Rick, who attended South Kingstown High School and Portsmouth Priory, still lives in Wakefield.

Captain John J. Coonan, Jr., USN (1944-2009): Captain Coonan was born in Pawtucket to a Navy family. His father, who also retired as a Navy Captain, was deployed in the SW Pacific flying the PB4Y (Navy version of B-24) and did not see his son until he was 13 months old. His father was stationed at NAS Quonset Point for several years in the early 1950s, and he grew up in Wickford and East Greenwich. The Coonan family returned to RI during his father’s deployments. They moved 14 times before his graduation from high school in 1962. CAPT Coonan attended the University of Virginia under the Regular NROTC Program graduating in June 1966. He was designated a naval aviator on 29 September 1967. He flew the A-7 during a Vietnam deployment in VA-87 aboard USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14), and eventually commanded a Light Attack Wing, the supply ship USS Mars, a Carrier Air Wing and eventually the aircraft carrier USS America (CV -66).

In April 1993 he took over the Naval Aviation Schools Command. He accumulated more than 4,500 flight hours (including more than 3,000 in the A-7 aircraft) and logged 1,000+ carrier arrested landings. Following retirement from the Navy in 1996, he joined the staff of National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation in Pensacola, Florida. He served as Director of Development and later Vice President of Education and Chief Operating Officer. 

His most lasting contribution to aviation and to the foundation, however, was his stewardship of the National Flight Academy, the premier and one-of-a-kind scientific, technological, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching facility in this country. He was selected to bring the concept to reality and serve as the Academy's first Director. Unfortunately, he succumbed to cancer in June of 2009. John J Mazach, Vice Admiral, USN (ret) nominated Captain Coonan for recognition by RIAHOF. He wrote:

“John Coonan…was always a leader in the air (as well as on the ground) from his first combat tour all the way through his tour as the Air Wing One Commander on what would eventually be his ship, USS America (CV66). His consummate leadership was recognized when he commanded Attack Squadron Fifteen in 1981. He became the first recipient of the James B Stockdale Leadership Award,  given annually to the Commanding Officer who best exemplifies the enduring inspirational leadership characteristics of Admiral Stockdale.”

 

Otto Hermann (1870?-1930): Otto Hermann was an auto stuntman who held a 1907 patent for a double loop-the-loop automobile-stunt ramp. He moved to Providence from Atlantic City, and started building his own biplane in the summer of 1909, described in a Journal article as “the first one to be tried out on testing grounds in this state”. This may have flown as early as March of 1910, although he described his first attempt at Pawtucket Driving Park as “hopping along like a rabbit”. Deciding the engine was not powerful enough for the weight of the craft, he went back to the drawing boards, removed one wheel and made other weight-saving changes. His engine was a product of the RI Rotary Engine Company plant on Gilmore Street, not far from the Dexter Training Ground. There is no doubt Hermann had flown successfully by early 1911; the June, 1911 issue of Aeronautics  confirmed that Hermann had built and flown his 12hp biplane.

Later in life he was a key player in creating a municipal airport for the village of Canastota, New York. In 1927 he established his Century Rotary Motor Corporation factory there. Mr. Hermann held a 1925 patent on a rotary engine that he called  a "semi-Diesel." Among its numerous innovations were an induction  system that can only be called an early attempt at fuel injection. He envisioned a new method  of atomizing fuel and controlling an internal combustion engine, and he  apparently forged that dream into very real metal, despite the fact that even  advanced scientists at the time knew very little about the dynamics of  combustion and the behavior of gases. He created a corporation to manufacture, test, and market the device,  established a working factory, and he employed a considerable number of skilled  machinists and other workers.  He built, exhibited, and demonstrated several  test models at the Canastota factory and trade shows in Syracuse in 1928 and  1929, and he opened negotiations with the Navy to test the engine for possible government contracts.

Douglas Black, Reference Librarian at the Alvin Sherman Library at Fort Lauderdale’s Nova Southeastern University, has researched Hermann’s life. Black writes, “He was an extremely creative, talented, and determined man, and there's certainly no question that  he did design, build, and fly an airplane while living in Rhode Island--and he  might have been the first person to do so.  To have done so in 1910-1911 is no  small achievement. Although he was neither a Rhode Islander nor even a U.S. citizen by birth, he  contributed greatly to the aviation community in Rhode Island during the years  he lived there.  If nothing else, he certainly served to inspire others to achieve great heights, both literally and figuratively.”

 

Our Special Recognition Award recipients are:

George Sullivan: Born in 1934, he was raised in Newport and graduated from Rogers High School in 1952. In 1954 he was drafted and assigned to the Army's rotary aircraft maintenance school at Fort Rucker, AL.  His ensuing duty tour took him to Korea where he serviced the Sikorsky H-19 and the Bell H-13 “Sioux.” He was chosen for one of the Army’s three traveling depot-level maintenance teams and was one of a hand full of enlisted, non-pilot personnel qualified to taxi aircraft and stress them to the point of takeoff. After his returned to Newport in 1958 George pursued an education in aircraft maintenance at  Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University in Miami.  He went to work for Newport Aero  in Middletown. In 1973 he was named Rhode Island Aviation Mechanic of the Year. In 1978 George began his own aircraft maintenance service. He leased a hanger at the former Quonset Point Naval Air Station, and Quonset Aircraft Services (QAS) was born.  Servicing business class and private recreational aircraft, some of QAS’s customers included former Rhode Island governors Joseph Garrahy and Bruce Sundlun, and singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.  QAS became an FAA certified airframe and power plant service facility.  In 1997 George decided it was time to retire. He did not sell his business to the highest bidder--he simply bequeathed ownership to his most dedicated and loyal employee. Under another name, that business continues today.

CAPT John A. Romano, USN (Ret): Retired Navy Captain and long-time East Greenwich resident John Romano’s role in RI aviation history is broader than his service and accomplishments as a Naval Aviator. With war clouds on the horizon in the late 1930s, the Navy appropriated the Romano family’s 400-acre Davisville farm, vineyards and winery to build the Quonset naval  complex. John worked at the winery as a young man, before graduating from LaSalle Academy in 1941. He joined the Naval Aviation Cadet program in December of 1942 at the age of 19, and received his pilot’s wings in early 1945. Assigned to a torpedo bomber unit, he was preparing for deployment to the Pacific when the war ended. He was discharged in 1946 and managed the family-owned Greenwich Hotel for three years until being recalled to active duty with the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in 1950. He flew high-altitude photo missions over North Korea and Vietnam from the carriers Essex and Oriskany, and decided to make a career as a naval aviator. Among his numerous assignments was a stint as a Navy production test pilot at Douglas Aircraft from 1956 to 1958; while there, he tested the A3D  Skywarrior, the A4D Skyhawk and the F4D Skyray.

By the time he retired in 1970 after 27 years of service, he had accumulated some 3500 hours of flight time, 1500 of  which were in jets. His last assignment was as XO of Quonset Point Naval Air Station. He then launched a successful political career which included one term as a state representative, followed by 8 years (1974-1982) in the RI Senate, where he rose to Deputy Minority Leader. During that period, he became involved with his wife’s family’s business—a small grocery store turned restaurant that became an East Greenwich icon: Pal’s. The Town designated Captain Romano as Grand Marshal of the 2007 Memorial Day parade.

Tickets to the event cost $50 per person ($90 per couple); reservations can be made by calling 401-398-1000, by emailing riahof@aol.com or by clicking on this link: http://www.riahof.org/contact.htm

 

2009 RI Aviation Hall of fame inductees

Guest speakers at the dinner were retired Air Force Lieutenant General Jim Keck, former Vice Commander of the Strategic Air Command, and his son Tom Keck, also a retired Air Force Lieutenant General and former commander of the famous 8th Air Force. Both were born in Providence; the senior Keck graduated from Cranston High School and attended Brown University for a year before graduating from West Point in 1943. He completed two combat tours as a B-24 pilot with the 8th Air Force in Europe, and eventually retired from the Air Force in 1977.

Tom Keck graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1969, and flew numerous  B-52 missions over North Vietnam—some in the same aircraft his father had commanded. He retired from the Air Force in 2002 and now works for Raytheon in Tucson, AZ.

The Kecks are also the only father-and-son Mach 3+ team in the world, having both flown at more than three times the speed of sound in the SR-71 Blackbird.

Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Paul Gurnon may be the only living Rhode Islander to have a geographical feature named after him. In recognition of his overall service in Antarctica, the US Geologic Survey named a section of Marie Byrd Land after him – Gurnon Peninsula. Gurnon enlisted in the Navy before Pearl Harbor in 1941, and spent much of his career at Quonset Point. The Wakefield resident was one of the last enlisted pilots in the Navy when he was commissioned as an officer in 1961. In August of 1967 LT Gurnon was transferred to VX6, the unique Antarctic Support Squadron for Navy Operation “Deep Freeze”. He retired from the Navy in 1971.

Aerospace engineer George Chakoian flew 46 combat missions in the Pacific as a radio operator/gunner on a B-24. After graduating from RI School of Design in 1948, he began a technical career that spanned six decades. His specialty was airdrop systems, and he was Project Engineer for a number of projects relating to the airborne delivery of equipment to a war zone. In  his engineering career he received patents for an air brake for missiles as well as an air drag apparatus. Listed in Who's Who in American Aviation, Chakoian lives in Lincoln.

Posthumous recognition will go to three other individuals:

Antoine Gazda was an Austrian count, a race car driver, and a World War I fighter ace (on the losing side), but he spent World War II in Providence, living in suite 1009 of the Biltmore Hotel. The work he performed here in Rhode Island was considered so crucial to the Allied war effort  that  he was guarded 24 hours per day by the military, and the door to the suite next door was bricked up and plastered over. Prior to the war, Gazda sold 22mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon to the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians, the English, and the Americans. When Hitler conquered France the Germany Army cut off delivery of the Oerlikon guns to Britain.  Desperate for the gun but unable to produce it themselves, the British sent Gazda to the United States to set up shop. Gazda arrived in Providence in 1940 carrying one of the world’s most guarded secrets — the blueprints for the gun. By the end of World War II, nearly every vessel in the Allied fleet -- up to and including the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth - carried Gazda’s antiaircraft guns.

Gazda’s first love was aviation, however. He experimented with fuel tank gliders to be towed behind bombers to extend their range, and he was fascinated by the helicopter concept. He hired three designers from Sikorsky to work on a project he called the Gazda "Helicospeeder". This single motor and torque aircraft, incorporating several radical and unique features now commonplace in helicopter design, was developed and built in Rhode Island between 1943 and 1945.

World War II ace William Halton--one of the most decorated fliers to ever hail from Rhode Island-- was born July 17, 1917, in Providence. By the time he was killed in action in Korea, he had earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 17 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Croix de Guerre with Star and numerous campaign ribbons. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces in August of 1941, and was commissioned and awarded his pilot wings on March 7, 1942. Flying the P-47 Thunderbolt and later the P-51 Mustang in Europe, he was credited with shooting down 10.5 enemy aircraft and destroying two more on the ground. When the Korean War broke out, he returned to combat again flying the  F-51 Mustang. In September 1951 he was given command of the 136th Fighter-Bomber Group, moving the unit from Japan to South Korea. His unit primarily flew interdiction missions against North Korean rail transportation. In March, 1952, he became Deputy Commander of the 18th  Fighter-Bomber Wing, with specific instructions not to fly in combat. However, Colonel Halton made a special request to fly additional missions in order to show that the Mustang could successfully operate in jet combat zones without fighter-interceptor cover. He earned the DSC on one such mission in April, 1952. The next month, his aircraft was shot down on a low-level bombing run by a combination of ground fire and MIG interceptors. He was declared MIA, and his remains have never been recovered.

Navy veteran of WWII, local and international businessman, aviator, and inventor, R. W. (Dick) Foote was born in Providence in 1919. Foote’s successful business career followed his service as a Naval Aviator and test pilot during World War II. He was also instrumental in the development of the first “anti-blackout” or “pressure suit”, the forerunner to today’s NASA spacesuit, credited with saving the lives of many WWII fighter pilots. He soloed in 1936 and received his commercial pilot’s license in 1937. He dropped out of college to enlist, and was commissioned as a Naval Aviator in January 1941. Foote joined Chance-Vought in October, 1942, and became the fifth test pilot to fly the F4U-1 Corsair. One of his proudest moments was personally instructing Charles Lindbergh in the Corsair, and having a private dinner with Mr. Lindbergh that evening. In  1943 he joined General Motors and became Chief Experimental Test Pilot on the FM-2 “Wildcat” fighter. Foote flew comparative evaluation flight tests on 15 different fighters including the Japanese Zero, British Spitfire, Mosquito, and Firefly, as well as the Bell P-59, the first jet fighter built in the United States. Dick’s passion for flying did not abate after the war. He participated in the 1949 Cleveland Air Races, piloted his own P-51 “Mustang” in the 1970 Cape May, NJ Air Races and the Reno, NV Air Races with his North American AT-6. In 1954 he moved his family to Nassau and flew for one year as captain-pilot on a Grumman Goose amphibian seaplane ferrying passengers throughout the islands for Bahamas Airways, then a division of BOAC. In  1978 he formed Warplanes International Airshows, a group of pilot owners of WWII fighters, bombers and trainers that performed one of first choreographed re-enactments of famous air battles of WWII at air shows in the eastern US and Canada. By the time he was 85, he was living in Port Orange, FL where he regularly flew his privately owned FM-2 Wildcat, Bushby Midget Mustang, Cessna 210 and Piper Cheyenne aircraft. Dick passed away at the age of 89 on January 17, 2009.

Return to top of page ^

2008 inductees

Eugene Bielecki: Born in Pawtucket in 1927, Gene now lives in Esmond. He is a founding member and past president of the Rhode Island Pilots Association. In his piloting career he has logged well over 30,000 flight hours, including more than 15,000 hours as a Flight Instructor. He holds a number of single and multi-engine private and commercial ratings (both pilot and instructor), including seaplane and glider ratings. Gene was an early and active proponent of the FAA Wings program, encouraging general aviation pilots to continue flight training and attend safety seminars throughout their flying lives. Gene was twice selected as FAA Flight Instructor of the Year , and at 81 he is still flying as an FAA designated pilot examiner. Aero Club of New England awarded him its Presidential Medal for lifelong aviation achievement in 2003.

Kenneth Brown: Born in 1925, Pawtucket resident  Ken joined the Navy in early 1943.  He saw action in the Mediterranean, European, China-Burma-India and Pacific theaters, and participated in both the Sicilian and Normandy invasions as a Gunner's Mate on LSTs. Brown took flying lessons shortly after his discharge, and  in 1957 he joined the FAA as an Air Traffic Controller. He also became  an Instrument Instructor, obtained his Multi-Engine and ATP ratings, and  taught aerobatics. After more than 20 years as an Air Traffic Controller (with his last assignment at T. F. Green), he was promoted to Accident Investigator.  He later became the Regional Safety Coordinator for all of New England, and at one time was chief pilot the FAA's King Air. He was named the Rhode Island Pilots Association Airman of the Year in 1979.

The three deceased inductees were:

Joseph B. Perkins (1921-1986): Born in Providence, Perkins  attended Mt. St. Charles Academy, played hockey and was the All-State football quarterback his senior year. He enlisterd  in the Army Air Corps three months before Pearl Harbor,  earned his wings and shipped over to Italy. He flew B-17 bombers with the 353rd Bomb Squadron (Heavy), 301st Bomb Group. OnJanuary 30, 1944, on his 43rd mission,  Perkins' plane was mortally damaged. His family was notified of the loss of the aircraft and the presumed deaths of the entire crew.  Perkins bailed out, however, and with the help of General Tito's partisans, the injured and ill flier reached friendly forces after  63 days behind enemy lines. After his discharge he went to work as a pilot for Eastern Airlines,  eventually  flying as  Captain and check pilot  until his mandatory retirement.  For his wartime service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with several clusters and a Purple Heart.

Albert R. Tavani (1913-1985): A long-time Warwick resident, he is credited with bringing the state airport system from its infancy in the 1940s to the full-service network that now exists. When he retired at the end of 1977, Green Airport was greatly expanded, numerous airlines were serving Rhode Island, and there were five state airports in addition to Green. Tavani, a pilot since 1931, earned his commercial rating in 1938 and became legal adviser to the Division of Aeronautics in 1939. He became a Navy flight instructor in 1942, and in 1945 he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron 150 aboard USS Lake Champlain at NAS Quonset Point. He was on the ship's shakedown cruise when the war ended. After his discharge he was appointed assistant administrator of aeronautics, and the following year he was named administrator by then-Governor John Pastore. He was a visionary, making recommendations in the 1960s that prove their worth today. He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1982 for his "untiring efforts to keep Rhode Island in step with the developing air age."

Edward Yatsko (1924-2000): Yatsko was a native of New Jersey who settled in Warwick after WWII. When CWO4 Yatsko was retired (forcibly due to age) from the RI Army National Guard at age 62 in 1986 he was believed to be the last World War II combat aviator on active duty flight status and the oldest combat pilot on flying orders. He left high school to join the military, was offered the chance to go to flight school, and at the age of 20 he flew his B-17 and its 12-man crew across the Atlantic. He flew 12 missions with the 447th Bomb Group before the war ended. He was married and the father of two when he joined the RI National Guard in 1967 at age 43. He had not flown for 22 years, but the Vietnam War was on and he heard an Air National Guard radio appeal for veterans. He joined the Army rather than the Air National Guard, but never regretted that choice. He liked the fact that both hands, both feet and both eyes are required every minute to fly helicopters. When his first extension ran out in 1985, he passed all the requirements for flying duty at age 61: the annual flight physical, including a four-mile run; instrument check ride, flight test and a four-hour written exam. At his retirement, he became the first warrant officer to ever be awarded the Rhode Island Star. He also earned the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal in addition to his various service and campaign medals.

2007 inductees

Retired Air Force Major General Philip Conley is a LaSalle Academy alumnus and a 1950 Naval Academy graduate who grew up in West Warwick and flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam. He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in Korea, flying with the famous forward air controller unit known as the "Mosquitoes". Conley eventually rose to head the Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. There he supervised the development of every major aircraft now in our flying arsenal, to include the B-1 bomber, F-16, F-15, A-10 and F-117 stealth fighter. He was commander for the first space shuttle landing at Edwards, and in 1982 he hosted President Reagan’s visit to view the first shuttle landing on a conventional runway. General Conley has 4200 hours flight time in 86 different aircraft types/models.

Commander Edward "Ted" Cunningham, USN (Ret) is a Rumford native and a 1949 graduate of St. Raphael High School in Pawtucket. Ted enlisted in the Navy to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a carrier pilot. During the early days of the Vietnam War, he flew numerous highly classified ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) missions shadowing and photographing Soviet missiles After leaving the Navy Ted was a test pilot for Douglas Aircraft, a pilot for Garuda (Singapore) Airlines and a Captain for Midway Airlines. His career encompassed some 20,000 flying hours, spanning the age of the propeller driven fighters through jet fighters, jet bombers, and airliners. He also flew more than 300 combat/operational missions and has 400 carrier landings; in the process, he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals and two combat-earned Navy Commendation Medals.

1/LT George Sutcliffe, US Army Air Force was born in North Providence and graduated from Mt. Pleasant High in l940. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor, and graduated from flight school in May l943. Sutcliffe deployed to Europe with the 368th Fighter Group, flying the P47 Thunderbolt. Prior to D-Day, their mission was escorting bombers; after the landings, they flew close support missions for ground troops. He flew four missions on the day Allied troops stormed ashore in Normandy. A week later, Sutcliffe was involved in one of the wildest air battles of the war, which was the subject of an episode of “Dogfights”, a History Channel series that aired this summer. He was awarded the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross for his wartime service. He graduated from Bryant College on the GI Bill after World War II, then set up an insurance business in which he is still active. He now lives in Greenville.

The three deceased inductees are:

Aviation pioneer Victor Pagé, who was born in 1885 and graduated from Classical High School in Providence in 1904. Although best known for his accomplishments in the automotive field, he may well have designed and built the first airplane ever to fly in Rhode Island. By 1909 he had already published his first aviation book, and was already working on his first aircraft, a tractor biplane. Late in 1909 he established New England's first airplane manufacturing facility here in Providence, which was only the third such operation in the United States. He also designed and built the first aluminum propeller used in this country, which is now hanging at the National Air & Space Museum. In 1911 he helped form the Rhode Island Aeronautical Society. During WWI, he received a direct commission and was America's chief aeronautical engineering officer in France. He was a prolific writer on aeronautical and automotive topics. He died in 1947.

Army Air Corps Staff Sergeant Omar Duquette, a Warwick native who was a "Doolittle Raider", one of the 80 volunteers who manned sixteen B-25 aircraft launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo in April of 1942. He joined the Army in February, 1938 at Providence and served at Fort Slocum, New York before being assigned to the Army Air Corps as a mechanic. He served at Albrook Field, Canal Zone before joining the 37th Bomb Squadron at Pendleton, Oregon. Because of weight restrictions the Doolittle mission crew members were trained for two jobs. Staff Sergeant Duquette was a member of the five-man crew on Aircraft Number 12, serving as mechanic and gunner. Duquette bailed out over China and made it back to friendly territory, only to perish on another secret bombing mission just six weeks later. General Doolittle himself attended the ceremony after the war to dedicate a monument erected in Omar’s honor in Phoenix Square where he grew up (now West Warwick). After the dedication, some of his friends started an AMVET Post in the name of Omar Duquette.

Major Melvin Kimball, US Army Air Force, a World War II P-40 ace who was born in Providence and grew up in Greystone. He graduated from Hope High School in 1935, where he was a state champion wrestler. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1939, excelling in football and track. Kimball was one of the original pilots who secretly boarded the aircraft carrier USS Ranger at Quonset Point in early 1942, then flew their P-40s off the flight deck to land in Africa, the first leg of their journey to China. Kimball and his fellow China Air Service pilots flew with Chennault and the American Volunteer Group, better known as the "Flying Tigers" until July 4, 1942, when they officially took over the AVG duties. In early 1943, Kimball was involved in one of the most dramatic rescue efforts of the war, one that was featured in True Comics. During his service, he earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and several Air Medals for gallantry in addition to his designation as an ace. Kimball died in Riverside in 2004.

In addition, the Hall of Fame provided Special Recognition awards to the men and women of the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment of the Rhode Island Army National Guard, which was named the Outstanding Army National Guard Aviation Unit of the Year nationwide for 2005. Flying in the Iraqi theater for virtually the entire year, the 1/126 flew their UH-60 and CH-47 helicopters in more than 1900 missions, accruing more than 17,000 combat flight hours.

Not to be outdone, D 126th-Theater Aviation Company was selected by the Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) as the United States Army Fixed Wing Aviation Unit of the Year for 2006. Flying eleven C-23 Sherpa cargo aircraft, the unit conducted combat fixed wing support operations throughout Iraq and Kuwait. D 126th flew more than 5000 sorties and accumulated more than 6500 combat flight hours. By the end of their tour, D 126th TAC conducted some 1600 missions, transporting more than 30,000 passengers and 12 million pounds of cargo.

2006 inductees

WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
Phyllis Johnson Strauss Paradis
Bea St. Claire Smith Thurston
Ann Kenyon Morse
Eunice Oates

LT Norman Prince (1887-1916): The 55th American to earn a pilot’s license (1911), Prince is best known as one of the founders of the famed Lafayette Escadrille, the group of American volunteer pilots who flew for France before the US entered World War I. (In the movie “Flyboys”, the character of Briggs Lowry [played by Tyler Labine] is a composite of Norman Prince and several other Escadrille pilots who came from privileged backgrounds.) Prince flew a total of 122 missions in French service, engaging in aerial combat with Germany’s best fliers, and he downed several planes before losing his own life. On October 12, 1916, returning from a raid, the landing gear of Prince’s airplane struck a cable stretched just above the tree tops. He died three days later. While in the hospital Prince was promoted to lieutenant and decorated with the Legion of Honor. He already held the Médaille Militaire and Croix de Guerre. Prince’s altimeter and a number of other personal items from his Lafayette Escadrille days are currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum. His mother was Abigail Norman (Mrs. Frederick Prince) of Newport. The 450 acre Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown was created through a bequest from his aunt in 1949.

Gerald T. Hanley, Sr. (1884-1950): Considered the founder of the Rhode Island Air National Guard, then-1st Lt. Hanley of Battery A, Coast Artillery, in the RI state militia used his own Curtiss hydro-aeroplane to provide basic aeronautics instruction to members of his battery well before the US entry into World War I. Early flier Harry Atwood gave Gerald and his wife an airplane ride in 1912, which hooked them on flying. Gerald went to the Curtiss factory at Hammondsport, NY and bought a flying boat in 1913. By 1915, he was an officer in the RI National Guard, using his own flying boat to bring the state's militia into the aviation age. Despite his flying proficiency and experience, Hanley went to France in World War I on horseback, with Battery A, Rhode Island Field Artillery, an element of the 26th "Yankee" Division. After the war he bought a surplus Navy Curtiss seaplane at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and had it shipped to the Gallaudet factory in Warwick where it was made ready for flight. The For several years  the Hanley seaplane was a fixture in Narragansett Bay.

Colonel Patrick D. Fleming, USAF (USN) (1917-1955): This former Jamestown resident and 1941 Annapolis graduate was a World War II Hellcat ace and a Navy test pilot who went to flight school in 1943. He received night fighter training at Quonset, where he met his wife-to-be Neville, daughter of  retired Navy Commander Owen Bartlett of Jamestown. Flying with VF-80 from USS Ticonderoga, he shot down 19 Japanese aircraft in only six missions, and destroyed several others on the ground. He earned the Navy Cross, 3 Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, five DFCs and  four Air Medals. After the war, he served as a test pilot at Pax River. In January, 1947, General Curtis LeMay invited him to transfer to the new USAF Strategic Air Command. He flew with Chuck Yeager, and is on record as one of the pilots who flew the X-B-1 “Glamorous Glennis”, first aircraft to travel faster than the speed of sound. Colonel Fleming died February 16, 1956 in the mid-air explosion of a B-52 bomber near Tracy, California--the first ever operational loss of that aircraft. At the time of his death he was Deputy Commander of the 93rd Bomb Wing.
 
Captain Frederick Dick, US Army Air Corps (1920-2005): This WWII fighter ace was a long-time Barrington resident. He enlisted on December 8, 1941, and in December, 1943 he went to war with the 5th Air Force's 49th Fighter Group, 7th Fighter Squadron, flying a P-38 Lightning.  In about 18 months of action in the South Pacific, he completed 210 combat missions, including skip-bombing, dive bombing, intercept, patrol, escort and strafing missions across the South Pacific. At one time he had flown more  missions than any other fighter pilot in the theater. On March 6, 1945, Captain Dick led a formation of P-38s during a B-25 escort mission to Hainan Island in the South China Sea. As the Lightnings reached the target area, they encountered 15 to 20 Japanese Zeros, one of which Dick shot down  for his 5th aerial victory, earning him the title of ace. One of his victories was also the celebrated 2,500th shootdown in the Pacific Theater. For his skill and bravery was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Metal with 6 Clusters, and the Purple Heart. Captain Dick gave up flying after the war; in a 1995 interview, he said that once you have flown a high-performance aircraft in combat, recreational flying was as tedious as watching tennis.

2005 inductees

Jennifer Murray, the first woman to fly a helicopter around the world. The Providence-born Murray was also the first person of either gender to pilot a piston engine helicopter around the world and the first to do it without an autopilot. Perhaps the most astounding aspect of her aerial exploits, however, is the fact that she did not take up flying until 1994 when she was 54 years old. Her husband bought a half share in a helicopter; according to Jennifer, he said "I haven't got time to learn to fly it, so you'd better." Murray, who now flies a Bell 407 helicopter, counts Bell Helicopter-Textron as one of her major industry sponsors. Bell, a wholly owned subsidiary of Providence-based Textron, Incorporated is also the Presenting Sponsor of this year's induction ceremony. "As a fellow native New Englander and on behalf of all the men and women at Bell Helicopter, I offer my sincere congratulations to Ms. Murray for her tremendous accomplishments in aviation," said Mr. Mike Blake, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Bell Helicopter's Commercial Business Unit. "Her induction into the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame is an honor that has been hard earned and well deserved. Additionally, Ms. Murray has gone a long way in illustrating the capability and versatility of vertical lift technology. We are proud to have her flying a Bell Helicopter."

The additional honorees (all deceased) were:

VADM James B. Stockdale USN (1923-2005): A graduate of the Naval Academy Class of 1947, he is best remembered for his extraordinary leadership as the senior naval officer held in captivity during the Vietnam War, and his 1992 stint as running mate to independent presidential candidate Ross Perot. Admiral Stockdale was one of the most decorated officers in U.S. naval history, having received two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts and four Silver Stars among his 26 combat decorations. He also was the only three-star admiral to wear both aviator's wings and the Medal of Honor. He is remembered in Rhode Island as the Naval War College president who brought moral philosophy to the Newport campus during his tenure from 1977 to 1979.

George Armitage (1887-1948): Born in England, he came to Rhode Island as a youngster and attended Providence public schools. He may have been the first person to fly in Rhode Island; it is known that he began experimenting with "power driven gliders" as early as 1905. A 1934 article in Rhode Island Review stated: "To George Armitage we give full credit for the design and building of the first power-driven monoplane in Rhode Island." He organized and operated a machine tool company for some 35 years, and was quite successful as an inventor.

Commander Harold J. Brow USN (1894-1982): Born in Fall River, he graduated from Providence Technical High School in 1912. He served in the Rhode Island National Guard from 1913-1914, then enlisted in the Navy in April, 1917 and earned his wings a year later. By 1923 he was the fastest flyer in the world; Brow established a world outright airspeed record at Mitchel Field, Long Island. Commander Brow beame the first commanding officer of the still-under-construction Quonset Point Naval Air Station, and on Dec. 31, 1940 he made the first landing on a crude runway that was part of a base-in-the-making.

Commander Richard L. Cevoli, USN (1919-1955): Born in East Greenwich in 1919, Commander Cevoli earned numerous decorations during WWII and Korea. The LaSalle Academy and URI grad was awarded the Navy Cross during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. By the end of his tour Cevoli earned a total of five Air Medals in addition to the DFC and the Navy Cross. When the Korean conflict erupted he found himself back in combat. On December 4, 1950 he flew cover when then-LT(jg) Thomas Hudner earned the Medal of Honor by crash-landing his own Corsair in a futile attempt to save the life of his wingman, Ensign Jesse Brown--the Navy's first commissioned African-American pilot.

Captain Archibald H. Douglas, USN (1895-1978): Captain Douglas graduated from the Naval Academy in 1908. He was designated as a Naval Aviator in June of 1918, and saw combat duty in France with the Northern Bombing Group. His aviation career included actions in two World Wars and command of three different aircraft carriers. He first came to Rhode Island in 1929 as a student at the Naval War College, and over the next 17 years served four more tours in Newport. In June of 1940 he became CO of USS Saratoga, commanding the carrier through Pearl Harbor, the aborted relief of Midway, and Sara's first torpedoing by a Japanese submarine on January 11, 1942. He brought the ship safely back to Washington for repairs, and then received orders back to the Naval War College, where he served as advisor for air operations and Acting Chief of Staff. He retired from the Navy in March of 1946 and lived the rest of his life in Newport.

Bell Helicopter-Textron, a wholly owned subsidiary of Providence-based Textron, Incorporated was also the Presenting Sponsor of this year's induction ceremony.

2004 INDUCTEES

Major General Andrew S. Low, Jr. US Air Force (Ret) (1917-2000):
A Westerly native, Low enlisted in the Rhode Island National Guard in 1936 and graduated from West Point in 1942. He became a multi-engine instructor pilot and flew 16 B-24 missions before being shot down over Germany in 1944. He was liberated in April, 1945 after 273 days of captivity.  Low stayed in the service after the war, serving in many top positions including Strategic Air Command representative at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe. He later commanded the 40th Bombardment Wing, and capped off his military career as director of aerospace programs for the Air Force. In that capacity he drove the first 747 off Boeing's assembly line. After retiring from the military in 1971, General Low continued his service to his country by teaching at military bases through America and Europe until he retired again in 1987.

The Allen Family of Aeronauts:  According to New York-based aeronautical researcher Chris Lynch, “If there was a founding family of RI aviation, they are it.” Last year the Hall of Fame inducted James Allen (1824-1897)  and Ezra Allen (1828 - 1900). This year, the induction includes the remaining Allen aeronauts, who flew balloons well into the 20th century. (Family members to be honored include James K. Allen, eldest son of James; his sister Lizzie;and their brother E. T. Allen. The youngest sibling, Malvern Hill Allen, named for the Civil War battle during which his father had earned a commendation as a Union Army balloonist), began to fly after 1881. Eventually, James K’s wife and their four daughters also flew, as did Ezra's wife Mary Frances Penno.) In his fine book “Eagles Aloft”, Tom Crouch reports that by July 1891 James Allen and his sons James K. and Malvern Hill had made 481 ascensions. The Allens taught and extended aeronautics well beyond themselves, most notably to more than a half dozen of their offspring, a few of whom became noted aeronauts in their own right.  Crouch writes, “The Allens continued to fly well into the 20th century, earning national fame as ‘America’s First Family of Aeronautics’.”

Sabatino ‘‘Sabbie’’ Ludovici (1910-2001: Born in Oguila, Italy, this pioneer aviator was also founder and chief flight instructor of Skylanes at North Central Airport. He started flying in 1927, and launched his first flight school at the What Cheer Airport in Pawtucket (later the site of Narragansett Race Track). In 1932 he moved to Smithfield and built his own airport. In 1935 he moved to Mendon, MA and launched Skylanes, which relocated a few years later to its permanent home in Lincoln. Ludovici was a flight instructor in the Navy during World War II, and later joined the Army, serving as a mechanic. In 1969 he also developed the first aerobatics instruction program ever approved by the FAA. For many years Skylanes was the only approved aerobatics school in the country. Ludovici gave flight tests for the FAA for 32 years. By the time he was 78 he had exceeded 45,000 flying hours. He also received the Airman of the Year Award from the Rhode Island Pilots Association.

Harry M. Jones (1890-1973): Described in a 1912 Providence Journal article as Rhode Island’s “1st home grown aviator”, Jones managed the very first air show ever held in Rhode Island that same year. He was also the first (and last) person ever to land a plane on the Boston Common. Jones was best known, however, for his role as the pilot of the first-ever air parcel post flight (January, 1913). He carried a cargo of baked beans (consigned to state governors and other officials) from Boston to Providence to New York. After that historic flight Jones became a well-known figure on the barnstorming circuit. During WWI he was a test pilot and then a civilian instructor for Army pilots, earning a commission as a lieutenant (later captain) in the US Army Reserve. In 1919 he moved to Maine, where he became arguably the most visible New England aviator in the 1920s. He served as Maine's State Aviation Commissioner in the 1930s, and eventually became an Inspector for the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Hugh Willoughby (1856-1939): Newport resident Hugh Willoughby was was an avid inventor, traveler, aviator, and sportsman. He built his first serious aircraft model in 1894, the same year he organized the Naval Reserve in Rhode Island (he graduated from the Naval War College in 1896). By 1900 he was a noted aerial photographer, taking pictures of cities such as Paris from balloons. By 1908 he held 14 patents for air ships and aviation devices. In 1908 he was part of Orville Wright’s support team during their very first public flights at Fort Myer, Virginia. By 1909 Willoughby had a “biplane under construction” at Newport. To illustrate how respected he was among early aviators, Willoughby was director of flying at the prestigious Belmont Park, NY air meet (October, 1910). The biplane Glenn Curtiss flew at this event was equipped with Willoughby’s patented double rudders; they soon became standard equipment on biplanes of the day. The names of other pilots who used Willoughby’s equipment (and counted him as a colleague and friend) read like a Who's Who of aviation pioneers: the Wright Brothers, Henri Farman, Louis Paulhan, Charles Hamilton,  Ruth Law, Thomas Scott Baldwin, and Roger Jannus. In 1911 he became the first person to fly a seaplane in Rhode Island—one that he designed and built himself. He later launched the Willoughby Aeroplane Company, with facilities in Newport and Sewall’s Point, Florida to build and sell aircraft of his own design. He built and flew the “Swan Triplane” as he approached his 70th birthday. He was a senior official at national air meets until close to his 80th birthday.From the time he began flying at the age of 53 until the time of his death he was  America’s oldest licensed pilot.

2003 - Celebration of 100 years of flight!

James Allen (1824-1897)
Ezra Allen (1840 - 1917) Aeronauts

Barrington natives James Allen and his younger brother Ezra distinguished themselves through a lifelong commitment to aeronautics in the 19th century. In the words of Christopher Lynch, the New York aviation historian who recommended the Allens to us, “If there is a first family of aviation in Rhode Island, it has to be the Allens”.

James Allen’s first ascension in Rhode Island took place in 1856, and for the next 50 years Allen balloon ascensions became a part of the state’s culture. James Allen was America’s first military aeronaut, and he and Ezra served with distinction during the Civil War. Count Ferdinand Zeppelin first went aloft in an Allen balloon, and George Armstrong Custer was another of the Allens’ military passengers. The Allens taught and extended aeronautics well beyond themselves, most notably to more than a half dozen of their offspring, a few of whom became noted aeronauts in their own right.

Induction was accepted by Ezra Allen’s grandson, Bill Nangle, assisted by Christopher Lynch.

Edson Fessenden Gallaudet  (1871-1945)
Aviation Pioneer/Aircraft Manufacturer

In 1898, four years before the Wright Brothers, he constructed and flew a glider, now in the Smithsonian, which embodied the principle of the warping wing.  In 1911 he learned to fly at the Wright school, earning US pilot’s license #32 and a similarly low number in France.  In addition to designing seaplanes for the Navy,  Gallaudet Aircraft produced D-2s for the Army Air Service, assembled Curtiss flying boats and refurbished a number of DH-4s after the war. Before its demise in 1924, Gallaudet had developed designs of almost every conceivable type; seaplanes, landplanes, biplanes, monoplanes, triplanes, fighters, bombers, reconnaissance, airliners and mail planes. Gallaudet Aircraft’s factory in East Greenwich was the first purpose-built aircraft factory in America; the company was merged into Consolidated Aircraft in 1923, and is considered the earliest aviation predecessor to General Dynamics.

Gallaudet's grandson lives in Colorado, and said that before his death in 1945 Edson was working on plans for a jet that would go 1500mph.

John F. “Jack” McGee (1885 -1918)
Aviation Pioneer

McGee was born in 1885 in Central Falls, but spent most of his life in Pawtucket.  He made his first solo flight in August 1912, and by the end of the year had made a name for himself as an exhibition stunt pilot. Crowds as large as 50,000 people gathered to watch him perform his “dip of death” and other stunts. During the winters he went to Florida and entertained crowds from Palm Beach to St. Petersburg. In 1913, he made front-page headlines by racing an express train from Boston to New York. He was Rhode Island’s most famous early aviator.

At the height of his flying career  McGee was big news in Rhode Island. Hardly a week went by without his name appearing in front page headlines.  As a sad postscript in the “What might have been” category, McGee was the first American to request the entry papers for the British Aero Club’s $50,000 prize to be awarded to the first person to fly across the Atlantic.  World War I intervened, and in 1917, McGee went to work as a test pilot for the Gallaudet Aircraft Corp. He also trained Army aviators to fly at the Gallaudet Training School in Potowomut. On June 11, 1918, lost his life in a crash of one of the seaplanes he was testing.

Induction was accepted by Barbara McGee Turgeon, Jack McGee’s nephew

LCDR Godfrey DeCourcelles Chevalier USN
Aviation Pioneer (1889 - 1922)

Providence-born Chevalier graduated from the Naval Academy in 1910.  On July 12, 1916, he was launched from the first catapult designed for shipboard use, aboard USS North Carolina. In 1917 Chevalier was assigned to duty in Europe. He commanded the US Naval Aeronautic Station in Dunkirk and the Northern Bombing Squadron, US Naval Aviation Forces in Paris. In 1920 he participated in the conversion of the collier Jupiter into the United States’ first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV 1). As Officer in Charge of the Aviation Detachment, he had been instrumental in the development of the arresting gear used aboard.  On October 26, 1922, LCDR Chevalier made the very first landing on Langley’s deck.   Ironically, Chevalier never saw the full glory of the aircraft carrier. Less than three weeks later,  he incurred fatal injuries in a plane crash near Norfolk.

Induction was accepted by the senior naval aviator present, Jack Everling, former CAG on USS Saratoga.

Major John Trevor Godfrey, USAAF  (1922 - 1958)
World War II Fighter Pilot

Born in Canada, Major Godfrey moved to Woonsocket as a young boy. He was Woonsocket High School's 1940 class president and a football star. He joined the RCAF in 1941 to avenge the death of his brother, and trained in Spitfires with the RAF. After being commissioned in the USAAC, he joined 4th Fighter Group and became one of the war’s top aces, claiming 18 victories in the air and 18 planes destroyed on the ground.

Godfrey was the wingman of the famous Capt. Don S Gentile.  The Gentile-Godfrey combination was so effective the Göring is said to have sworn he'd give up two squadrons for their capture. Major Godfrey was shot down 8 miles northeast of Nordhausen, Germany, when he was hit by his wingman's gunfire and bellied in.  He spent several months in a prison camp, but managed to escape just before the end of the war. After the war Major Godfrey took up residence in Coventry, went into the lace business and served as a  R.I. State Senator.  Godfrey was stricken with Lou Gehrig's Disease and passed away in 1958 at the age of 36.

Induction was accepted by his son, Robert Godfrey

Governor Bruce Sundlun
Governor Bruce Sundlun has led a long and successful life in business, politics, and the practice of law. Back in 1941, he was a senior at Williams College when the Japanese bombed Pearl harbor. He and most of his classmates volunteered for the service, and since Bruce already had a private pilot’s license he went into the Air Corps. He trained on multi-engine aircraft and eventually became a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. His plane, Damn Yankee, was shot down December 1, 1943 over Belgium returning from their 13th mission. He evaded capture for more than six months, working with the French Resistance until he escaped to Switzerland in late May, 1944. He stayed in the Reserves after the war, commanding a Troop Carrier Squadron, then a Wing before his retirement as a Colonel.

One aspect of his civilian life of which many of you may be unaware is that he served as President of Executive Jet Aviation for six years.

Unpaid while on the run, Sundlun received back pay amounting to about $8,000. He bought French francs at what he later learned was a remarkably favorable rate. When he later exchanged them for Army script, he wound up with $25,000. Sundlun used the money to buy stock in Boeing, the aircraft company that made Damn Yankee.

Robert L. Crandall
Bob is a native of Westerly, a University of Rhode Island graduate who until recently served as Chairman of American Airlines and its parent, AMR Corporation.

American Airlines was under Robert Crandall's leadership from 1980, when he was named president and later chairman, until he retired in 1998. American Airlines was transformed from a small, domestic carrier to one of the world's leading airlines with the largest jet fleet worldwide. American led the airline industry in the 1990's in revenues and operating income, and its parent company, AMR Corporation, was one of the top Fortune 500 companies.

The Wall Street Journal described him as “…the man who chnaged the way the world flies.”

 

Return to top of page ^