Long neglected in a city of retired pilots and aircraft workers, America’s aviation history will come to life for one night in Fort Worth.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame induction ceremony, described as pilots’ “Oscar night,” will move in 2017 from an Air Force museum in Ohio to Fort Worth Alliance Airport as part of the Oct. 28-29 air show, hall trustees announced Thursday in Ohio.
From the Ohio news pages, you’d think Fort Worth had stolen the entire museum, and maybe a couple of Ohio State Buckeyes linemen along with it.
Dayton leaders offered to promote the event more widely, underwrite travel costs and raise money to keep the 54-year-old ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Promoters of the Bell Helicopter Fort Worth Alliance Air Show were careful not to overplay the news, even as hall trustees were announcing that the 2017 show will move.
“We’re thrilled,” spokesman Randy Pruett said: “Alliance has one of the largest and most prestigious air shows in the country.”
He gave one hint, crediting Alliance founder H. Ross Perot Jr. and his father, Ross Perot: “The discussion started at the top.”
The dinner will honor four inductees, two of them astronauts Charles Bolden and the late Scott Carpenter, plus Air Force spy plane test pilot Robert J. Gilliland and the late British jet engine pioneer Sir Frank Whittle.
The 229 current hall members include moonwalking Fort Worth astronaut Alan Bean, early Waxahachie pilot Bessie Coleman, Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher and American Airlines visionary C.R. Smith.
At Texas’ Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, President Larry Gregory described the Ohio ceremony as “a who’s who of aviation — it’s a very impressive event filled with people who have accomplished amazing feats.”
The Hall of Fame ceremony will be here in 2017 as part of the Oct. 28-29 Bell Helicopter Fort Worth Alliance Air Show.
For 27 years, the Alliance Air Show has drawn crowds of 100,000 and more to see modern warplanes such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 and aerobatics by the Navy Blue Angels or Air Force Thunderbirds.
The Dayton Daily News has been reporting for weeks about that city’s pending loss of the event, saying Alliance offered the venue and event planners.
Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger “dropped everything on his calendar” to lobby for keeping the event, state Rep. Rick Perales told the Daily News.
This is huge.
Fort Worth Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman
The News quoted Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce President Phillip L. Parker saying, “We believe this is the Holy Grail.”
In Fort Worth, it’s another recognition not only for Alliance, a booming corporate headquarters and cargo airport, but also for the region’s history as an aviation center since World War I. Defense workers here have built more than 67,000 aircraft.
“This is huge,” said Fort Worth Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, a defender of the city’s aviation legacy and always a champion for old planes and the Texans who built them.
“Coming to North Texas also recognizes the significant role North Texas plays in aviation and aviation history,” he said.
It’s a good place to land.