David Franson
November 10, 2011

Recognizing Our Industry’s Key Contributors

D. Franson

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook significant actions, events and even people because we’re too close to the situation to recognize their importance. I think that may often be the case in Wichita…and in Kansas, for that matter, when it comes to aviation. Those of us who live here and get a steady diet of aviation news tend to discount the importance our community and state play in the broader world of flight. But, there are tons of reasons to celebrate “The Air Capital of the World” and the people who consistently contribute to the retention of that title.

That’s why the Wichita Aero Club created the Wichita Aero Club Trophy award. It’s awarded annually to a living person or organization with a strong relationship to the greater Wichita area. The nominee(s) are considered on the basis of exemplary achievements in the field of aviation or aerospace accomplished during the past year or, as appropriate, over an extended period or career. Last year, we honored Mrs. Velma Wallace for a lifetime of significant involvement in the general aviation industry and generosity in the encouragement and support of aeronautical engineering education through the Wallace Scholars program at Wichita State.

This year there is a plethora of other potentially worthy recipients—both historical and contemporary—and we’re looking forward to presenting the second award on January 28, 2012 at our annual Trophy Gala. One big consideration, of course, is assuring the WAC Trophy Selection Committee that we have enough nominees. While the list of potential candidates is large, the number of those who have actually been nominated remains alarmingly small. That’s not to say that the current list of nominees (we have five at present) doesn’t include strong choices—it does—but we’d also like to add to that list. Especially noteworthy are individuals and organizations whose performance in 2011 was extraordinary and noteworthy. We’re not opposed to making another award on the basis of a long history of contribution to aviation, but the Kansas Aviation Museum and the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame also do a great job of recognizing those individuals, too, so there’s definitely room to focus attention on contemporary accomplishment, as well.

Even though we’ve experienced several tough years in our local aviation community, there have been some significant milestones reached, too. We’ve opened the world’s finest aviation training facility at the National Center for Aviation Training in the past 18 months. We’ve seen Boeing and Spirit reach significant milestones with the delivery and entry into service of the Model 787 Dreamliner and the selection of Boeing’s entrant for the KC-46A tanker contract. Spirit and Airbus North America Engineering have continued to grow and add employees despite the difficult economy, and Cessna has recently introduced two new Citations. Bombardier Learjet has added the Learjet 85 to its product line in the past couple of years and committed to build significant portions of it in Wichita. Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6 Trainer program also continues to set the world standard for training military pilots around the world and its derivatives are providing exceptional choices for a variety of missions beyond flight instruction, too.

There are also individuals at each of the aforementioned companies and others within our community and state that warrant solid consideration. Some of them work on the programs I’ve mentioned, others write about them, photograph them, or provide creative design and development input that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. They also deserve to be recognized.

There’s still time to ensure that these deserving people or organizations receive consideration from the WAC Trophy Selection Committee. The nominating process is quick, efficient, and well worth the few minutes it takes to complete. All that’s necessary is a quick visit to the Wichita Aero Club website at for a review of the AWARD link, where the criteria for nomination are included. An e-mailed or regular mail submission will start the process and, at the annual ON-AIR Summit on December 7, we’ll announce the recipient. Then, we’ll do our best to honor the winner at the Trophy Gala on the 28th of January at an event that will be both memorable and exciting.

I hope we’ll get a number of additional nominees over the next three weeks so that the Selection Committee’s job is a difficult one. I’m not trying to make their service a chore, I just hope there are lots of obvious candidates from which to choose. Then, even after the 2011 recipient is named, we’ll have a solid base of potential winners for 2012, as well. All they really need is a little help from their friends!

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