Planes of Fame Air Museum
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Home » Giving Back » The Achievement in Aviation Award

The Achievement in Aviation Award is presented each year by the Planes of Fame Air Museum. It recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of aviation. 

These are men and women who exemplify the best in aviation – whether through historical achievement, or by reaching the pinnacle of the profession.

The Award Ceremony is held at the annual Taste of Flight Gala. More Information.

Past recipients of this prestigious award include:

  • 2008: The Doolittle Raiders. These brave men helped rally a nation in April 1942 by conducting America’s first offensive action against Japan.
  • 2009: Major General William Anders. The Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 8 space mission, Anders went on to serve in high-level positions with NASA, the Atomic Energy Commission, and in private business.
  • 2010: The Pacific War Veterans of World War II. From Pearl Harbor to the shores of Japan, the armed services of the United States and her allies fought a series of tenacious island battles for four hard years. Aircraft became their most potent offensive tool.
  • 2011: Louis Zamperini. From Olympic and collegiate track achievements to his role as a B-24 bombardier and his subsequent capture, Zamperini demonstrated remarkable inner strength. His grace and dignity following the war is an example for all.
  • 2012: Robert “Bob” Hoover. From his service during World War II to his work in test flight, Hoover excelled. Today, he is perhaps best remembered as the man who delighted millions at air shows with his flying prowess.
  • 2013: The Mighty 8th Air Force. With the directive, “win the air war and isolate the battlefield,” the bombers and fighters of the World War II 8th Air Force unleashed a torrent against enemy defenses and in short order attained air superiority, paving the way for allied victory in Europe.
  • 2014: Colonel Bud Anderson. With 161 missions in his P-51 Mustang “Old Crow,” Clarence “Bud” Anderson attained just over 16 aerial victories during World War II, demonstrating incredible skill and grit.
  • 2015: Clay Lacy. Exemplifying the man who does it all – pilot, air racer, successful innovator and business trailblazer. The Planes of Fame Atrium is named in his honor.
  • 2016: Colonel Bud Anderson. Returning to the podium, this time in recognition of his role as an air force test pilot. Through his example, we saluted all flight test pilots for advancing aviation technology.
  • 2017: Sean D. Tucker. Defying gravity in the cockpit is a day-to-day routine for Sean D. Tucker. But his work in promoting aviation, particularly among young people in underserved communities, speaks volumes of his generous nature.
  • 2018: Lt. Colonel Robert Friend. Recognized for his service to our nation as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, as well as his help in breaking down the barriers of race in aviation, and his lifelong commitment to the betterment of the industry.
  • 2018: Bruce Boland and Peter Law. Two men who worked hand-in-hand to literally transform the aviation industry. For thirty-five years, Boland (as aerodynamicist) and Law (as thermodynamicist) contributed to most of the top secret advanced aircraft produced by the Lockheed Skunk Works.® That alone would have been enough, but for thirty of those years, both men also helped improve and expand the sport of air racing through the application of advanced technologies to racing aircraft.
  • 2019: Captain E. Royce Williams. Recognized for his courageous actions on November 18, 1952 when engaging seven enemy MiG-15 aircraft. In that 35-minute dogfight, he become the only American aviator in a single sortie to down 4 MiG-15s.  He is honored for his service to our country during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
  • 2022: Captain Dan A. Pedersen. Acknowledged as the "Godfather of TOPGUN" in being the principal force for the inception of the U.S. Navy's Fighter Weapons School. In 1969, Pedersen was appointed as the first officer in charge of the school, selecting eight of the finest pilots to train to dogfight all over again in order to improve the Navy's combat kill ratio. "Topgun" emerged as a vital institution that would shape the nation’s military strategy for generations to come.
  • 2023: Captain James "Jim" Kunkle is honored for his contribution as a decorated WWII fighter pilot and P-59 test pilot. During his military career, Jim Kunkle flew the Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and the North American P-51 Mustang. He stayed on after WWII to fly the nation’s first military jets: Lockheed's P-80 Shooting Star, Bell P-59 Airacomet, and Republic F-84 Thunderjet. Our second honoree, Commander Victor J. Glover, a naval aviator, test pilot in the F/A‐18 Hornet, Super Hornet and EA‐18G Growler, and astronaut serving on the SpaceX Crew-1 and Expedition 64 and mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
  • 2023: Commander Victor J. Glover is honored as a naval aviator, test pilot in the F/A‐18 Hornet and Super Hornet and EA‐18G Growler, and astronaut serving on the SpaceX Crew-1 and Expedition 64 and mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Through the continuing work of Victor Glover and other contemporary astronauts, space exploration continues to achieve new milestones and open new vistas.


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