In honor of those who have made outstanding contributions to Kansas aviation, the Kansas Department of Aviation through the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) had realized years ago, that a function be created to recognize individuals who played a major role in the contribution and development of Kansas Aviation.
The Kansas Aviation Museum (KAM) was the site chosen by KDOT to honor recipients of the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame Award and the Governor’s Honor Award. Through the years, the state has honored Kansan’s representing all facets of the aerospace industry and community such as manufacturing giants, pioneers, engineers, aerobatic pilots, flight instructors, pilots and other aviation professionals.
The KDOT/KAM 2011 annual Aviation Gala event honored four Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame Awardees and two Kansas Governor’s Aviation Honor Award recipients. Their bio’s and photo’s appear as follows from the Kansas Aviation Museum: Carl Chance, Wings Over Kansas Executive Editor and Kansas Aviation Museum Trustee.
Jim & Iva Ballard
The successful partnership of Jim and Iva Ballard began in the early 1970’s while both were employed at Cessna Aircraft Company. Jim was an award winning flight instructor who joined Cessna in 1973 as a production test pilot while continuing to do flight instruction in his spare time. Iva was advancing her business career as an executive secretary at Cessna where she had been employed since 1968.
Flight training turned out to be their common bond as Iva earned her pilot’s license in 1977 with Jim as her flight instructor. Jim left Cessna that same year to start his own business in pilot services and flight instruction but their love of aviation and each other resulted in their being married in 1979. Iva continued advancing in her career at Cessna, eventually becoming a Buyer for instruments used across all product lines.
The motivation to add medical flight services to their charter business came in 1981 when Jim read a Wichita Eagle article concerning a veteran who had died while being transported by car to the VA hospital in Columbia, MO for heart surgery. Jim, an ex-marine, was appalled by that circumstance and met with VA officials to offer air transportation for such cases in his Piper Seneca at his cost. Veterans Administration officials agreed and provided medical personnel to fly with him as needed for those flights. Thus began Jim and Iva’s focus on providing air medical transports for a number of hospitals and medical facilities throughout Kansas under the company name of Kansas Air Life.
Growth continued throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s with the addition of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, with pilots and medical crews stationed at several locations in Kansas. In 1996, Iva left Cessna and joined the business as Executive Vice President to oversee the marketing, public relations, contracts and administration for their company. In 1997 the name of their company was changed from Kansas Air Life to EagleMed in order to facilitate its growth as a medical transport service provider for other states in the region.
By 1998 EagleMed had grown to eighty employees, including an education department with EagleMed personnel traveling to cities in Kansas to conduct medical training for EMS personnel and nurses. This training was conducted at no charge to the communities except for books and training supplies. In 2000, EagleMed earned AAMS/CAMTS accreditation (Association of Air Medical Services) and still maintains that credential. In 2001, CAMTS presented EagleMed with a safety award for the best-fixed wing safety record in the United States.
From 2001 to 2009, EagleMed placed aircraft and medical crews at several locations in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. The aircraft fleet consisted of six King Airs, sixteen helicopters plus two ground ambulances. A total of 320 people were employed across three states and each year EagleMed invested thousands of dollars back into the communities they served through donations and scholarships for medical training. In 1994 EagleMed flew just 168 medical flights, but by 2009 the number of medical transport flights had increased to 6000. During these growth years, EagleMed was recognized by the Wichita Business Journal with “Best in Business” awards for eight straight years based on business contribution to areas served, financial rating, growth and innovative marketing strategies.
In late 2009, EagleMed was sold to Air Medical Group Holdings, which continues to operate and grow EagleMed as the premier air medical transport company for all three states.
Jim and Iva continue to operate Ballard Aviation, Inc. from their new hangar/office facility located in Newton, Kansas where they provide consulting services on aircraft acquisition plus maintenance, refurbishing and sales of all types of aircraft.
Mildred Darlene Tuttle Axton
Mildred Darlene Tuttle Axton, known as Micky, was born in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1919. She caught the “flying bug” when she was eleven years old. Her first flight was in a World War I vintage Curtiss Jenny biplane that belonged to her neighbor, one of the famous Inman Brothers of the Inman Flying Circus Fame. When asked if she wanted to do a loop on her first flight, Micky showed enthusiasm with her reply, “Of course.” Every time the Inman Flying Circus was in Coffeyville thereafter, Micky went for a flight.
After that first flight, Micky took it upon herself to take subjects like math and physics so she could study aviation in college. Micky graduated from Coffeyville Senior High School in 1936 and then took courses at Coffeyville Community College. She received her degree in chemistry and math from Kansas State University in 1940 and graduated with a teaching certificate. While the United States was preparing for World War II, colleges instituted pilot training courses and only a few women were allowed into these classes. Micky earned her pilot license from Coffeyville Community College through the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) Program. She also taught chemistry as a teacher at Coffeyville Community College. She was the only woman accepted in her class in the CPT program at Coffeyville. She received her pilot license when she was twenty-one years old and continued to fly planes into her 70’s. Her first passenger after attaining her pilot license was her great-grandmother.
Micky was motivated to join the Air Force by her brother Ralph, who was serving as a US fighter pilot in Guadalcanal. She also received a letter from Jacqueline Cochran, who invited her to join the WASPs. Micky began flight training with the WASPs at Sweetwater, Texas in 1943. While she was in the US Army Air Force, she also had a one-year-old daughter with her husband. Her husband worked for Beech Aircraft and became a pilot in the war. While they were both away in service, MIcky’s parents looked after their daughter. Micky was assigned to the Pecos Army Base in Texas as an engineering test pilot. She was a test pilot during World War II, serving in the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). As a test pilot, she conducted flight tests on damaged aircraft that had been prepared in order to ensure that they were flight worthy. She flew aircraft such as the BT-13, AT-6 and UC-78. After two years in the service, Micky returned to Wichita to take care of her daughter and sick mother. She became a flight test engineer and flight test crewmember for Boeing Aircraft. She was the first woman pilot to fly a B-29 Superfortress. When first asked to fly the Boeing B-29, Micky responded, “I was in hog heaven. I felt like the luckiest gal in the whole world.” It was the largest aircraft of its time and one of the most advanced bombers in World War II.
Micky spent most of her life in Wichita, Kansas. She taught science, aeronautics, and debate at Wichita East High from 1958 until 1969. She maintained an interest in aviation and was active in the aviation community throughout her life. She frequently spoke at Kansas air shows and fly-ins showing off her helmet and goggles to kids. As a member of the Commemorative Air Force, Micky frequently flew aircraft, well into her 70s. In 1968, she joined the Confederate Air Force and began her mission to inspire others with her WASP story. In 1988, she was featured in CAF Dispatch magazine. In 1991, she was featured in the Corpus Christi Caller Times and invited to be a guest speaker for the graduation of Navy pilots. In 1991 she was a speaker with USAF Captain Cathy Sadler for the “grand opening” of the Kansas Aviation Museum. In 1992 she was invited to return to Corpus Christi for graduation of Navy and Marine pilots and was presented with gold Navy pilot wings.
Micky received numerous honors and recognition for her contributions to aviation and Kansas. Micky was inducted into the International Forest of Friendship and received numerous awards, including “Distinguished Service Medal” by the International Confederate Air Force, “Aviation Historian of the Year” and “Distinguished Alumni” by the American Association of Community Colleges. The Jayhawk Wing of the Commemorative Air Force named their restored PT-23 after her, with “Miss Micky” painted on the nose of the plane. She has been a featured speaker and honored guest for many organizations, including Boeing, Air Force Association, Commemorative Air Force (CAF), Daedalians, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Minnesota Women’s Veterans, NintyNines and so many more. She was to be awarded the congressional gold medal on March 10, 2010 but died in February before she could receive the medal. It is the highest award that Congress can give a civilian. Her family accepted the award in her honor. Finally, the city of Wichita proclaimed July 23, 2010 Micky Axton Memorial Day. These recognitions are a testament to Micky’s lifetime dedication and achievement in aviation.
Micky died at the age of 91. She was buried with full military honors next to her husband in northeast Wichita in 2010, while vintage World War II planes flew overhead. Micky deserves to be in the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame because she not only served her country in the field of aviation, but also spent the rest of her life practicing aviation and promoting aviation in Kansas and the United States.
Ken Collins was born February 5, 1929 and raised in Leavenworth, Kansas – a true “Native Son.” He graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1948 and in 1950 graduated from Chapman University, Orange, California with a BA Degree. Collins applied for Air Force Pilot training in 1950 as a Naval Air Reservist. He was commissioned and earned his wings at Vance AFB in 1952.
Following the destruction of the Gary Powers U-2 plane over Russia, the US clearly needed an alternative intelligence collection program. Such a system had been in the development stages for some time, and in the early 1960’s the highly sensitive and secretive “OXCART” Project came into being. The Air Force needed test pilots to test the experimental planes involved, so they reviewed the files of virtually every pilot in the Air Force. The planes were the A-12 single seat and later the SR-71. One of 10 pilots chosen to be an Experimental Test Pilot was Ken Collins. These pioneer pilots flew at Mach 3+ and in excess of 80,000 feet, a first in aviation history.
Lt. Ken Collins had flown 113 missions in an unarmed photo-reconnaissance jet during the Korean War for which he received the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. In November 1952, then 1st Lt. Collins of the 67th Tactical Recon Group, Kimpo Air Base, Korea, was assigned a highly sensitive and highly classified mission directly from Headquarters, US Air Force, the Pentagon, requested by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Lt Collins was to fly an unarmed F-80 photo-reconnaissance aircraft across the Yalu River into China and photograph the Mukden Air Base. Mukden, which had never been photographed, was known to be an active MIC base. Lt. Collins flew a successful mission despite intense activity from the MIG’s. The intelligence gained from this mission was instrumental in contribution to the successful conduct of air operations throughout the war. Collins was awarded the Silver Star for this mission.
Based on this and other accomplishments Collins became a part of the OXCART Project. He was flying the only A-12 lost during the aircraft engine test phase due to mechanical malfunctions. Forced to bail out at 32,000 feet over the Mojave Desert in California, he made it safely to the ground. The cover story at the time was the crash of an Air Force F-105, a CIA cover story that remains today.
Based at the secret Groom Lake facility, he later flew six A-12 missions over North Vietnam, receiving the CIA Intelligence’s Star for Valor (usually awarded posthumously) and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. In 1968, Collins was transferred into the SR-71 program and quickly rose to Instructor Pilot and then became Squadron Commander. For the next five years, he led teams of SR-71 pilots, technicians and other support personnel around the world to accomplish intelligence-gathering missions as directed by the top echelons of our government. He accrued more than 700 A-12 and Sr-71 flight hours. In 1974, Col. Collins was transferred to March AFDB, California as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, 15th Air Force. He retired in 1980.
The TV History Channel made a 15 minute clip of his A-12 and SR-71 experiences and the National Geographic Magazine’s 100 Year anniversary issue contained a photo and article. In September 2010, Col. Collins was selected to represent the CIA A-12 OXCART legacy tour with two former SR-71 pilots, an official in the Defect Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Dr. David Robarge, Chief Historian at the CIA. The tour was captured on videos by the CIA, DIA, Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and the International Spy Museum. In May there will be three releases about Col. Collins—a National Geographic documentary entitled: Area 51 Declassified, a book written by Annie Jacobsen, and the legacy tour videos.
Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston
Alvin M. "Tex" Johnston (August 18, 1914 – October 29, 1998) was an American jet-age test pilot for Bell Aircraft and the Boeing Company.
Johnston was born August 18, 1914 in Admire, Kansas to farmers Alva and Ella Johnston. He made his first flight in 1925 at eleven years old, when a barnstormer landed near his home. That day he decided to become a pilot. He received mechanics and pilot instruction, soloing at age fifteen. After graduating from high school, Johnston began barnstorming himself. Later he returned to school for engineering, but dropped out in 1939 before he finished the required courses to get his degree.
He married his wife DeLores in 1935. He was a civilian instructor for the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Once the United States entered World War II, Johnston transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps Ferry Command.
In December 1942, Johnston moved to Bell Aircraft as a flight test engineer. He flew the P-39 Airacobra and the XP-63 during the prototype phases. He also flew the first US jet, the XP-59 Airacomet. Johnston earned his nickname "Tex" because of his penchant for wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson hat on the flightline.
After World War II ended, he bought two surplus Airacobras and modified them to enter and win the Thompson Trophy at the 1946 National Air Races. He set a world speed record of 379 miles per hour (610 km/h). Johnston helped design and flew the rocket propelled Bell X-1 on May 22, 1947. He became a test pilot for Boeing in July 1948. He flew the B-47 Stratojet and piloted the first flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress prototype.
Johnston is best known for performing a barnstormer-style barrel-roll maneuver with Boeing’s pioneering 367-80 jet in a demonstration flight over Lake Washington outside of Seattle, on August 7, 1955. The maneuver was caught on film and is frequently shown on the Discovery Wings cable channel in a three-minute short as part of the Touched by History series. Called before then Boeing president Bill Allen for rolling the airplane, Johnston was asked what he thought he was doing, and responded with "I was selling airplanes.” He kept his position as a test pilot and got in no legal troubles for his actions. Along with his cowboy style of dress, such maverick behavior is said to have inspired the creation of Dr. Strangelove’s Maj. T.J. "King" Kong character, who, in rodeo style, rode a balky nuclear weapon to its target.
From 1960 to 1963, he was assistant program manager for Boeing’s X-20 Dyna-Soar program in Seattle, Washington.
From 1964 to 1968, he was manager of the Boeing Atlantic Test Center in Cocoa Beach, Florida, working two Boeings programs, Minute Man missile and Lunar Orbiter designed for Apollo missions. He also worked managing Saturn and Apollo programs with NASA.
In 1968 Johnston left Boeing to manage Tex Johnston, Inc., Total-In-Flight-Simulator Inc. and Aero Spacelines (manufacture and certification of an outsized cargo airplane known as the Guppy).
In 1975, he became director and chief pilot of Stanley Aviation Corporation, focusing on personnel escape systems (ejection seats). Johnston was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1991, Johnston wrote his memoirs, Tex Johnston: Jet Age Test Pilot with writer Charles Barton.
Johnston developed Alzheimer’s disease in the 1990’s and died in 1998. He is survived by his wife DeLores and three children.
During his career, he has been characterized as a show biz glamour pilot, military jock, experimental test pilot, unlimited air race champion, aviation record setter, United Airlines’ #1 pilot, a teacher, entrepreneur, and the unchallenged holder of the highest number of flight hours of any active pilot. All this and the owner and president of the nation’s most respected jet charter company and FBO. Clay Lacy is a true aviation legend, be honored at the 2011 Gala. The 50,000+-hour pilot is well-known in Hollywood as an aerial cinematographer, as well as for starting and owning the first jet charter service west of the Mississippi. Based at Van Nuys Airport (as well as Seattle and Denver), Clay Lacy Aviation has been flying the rich and famous in style and comfort since 1968. Lacy has flown more than 300 different aircraft types. He has 32 different type ratings and holds 29 current world speed records. As for flight hours, he’s accumulated over 50,000—reportedly more than any other human. He’s done cinematography for movies such as The Right Stuff, Armageddon, Cliffhanger, Top Gun, Air Force One, Flight of the Intruder, Firefox, and many others. He was deeply involved in the development of the Learjet. In short, Clay Lacy’s bio reads like an aviation adventure novel.
Lacy was born in 1932 and grew up in Wichita, Kansas, the birthplace of aviation manufacturing. Interested in model airplanes at age 5, Clay built his first flying model in 1940 when he was only 8 years old, and had his first flight at age 12. He managed to secure a student pilot permit at the age of 14. With that piece of paper—which added an additional two years to his age—it was easy for Lacy to gain his private pilot license and instructor’s rating two years ahead of time. And that is how, at the age of 19, with 1,500 hours already logged, he was able to persuade United Airlines to hire him in January 1952. As a new hire, Lacy was given the option of being based in Los Angeles or San Francisco. He chose LA. Lacy was enjoying his position with United, when, due to the Korean War, the draft board began sending him messages."I was afraid I would get drafted in the infantry or something," he said. "I went through all my options and I found out about the Air National Guard right here at Van Nuys. They had a program where they could send you to Air Force pilot training. I got in that program and took military leave from United, starting January 1 of 1954." At that time, the California wing was flying the North American P-51 Mustang, but they were soon to transition to the North America F-86 Sabre, a swept-wing jet fighter. Because of that, Lacy headed to Nellis Air Force Base for training in that aircraft. He returned to the California ANG in August 1955, where he would fly the F-86 and later the T-33 and C-97. Upon his return, Lacy would be very active with the Guard, as well as flying a full schedule for United.
Lacy flew for United Airlines for 40 years and seven months, climbing to number one on the seniority list. During those years, he also flew as an air racer, a test pilot, a sales demo pilot, a ferry pilot, and as a cinematographer for Hollywood movies and advertisements. In 1965 Clay Lacy became involved in aerial photography and the development of the camera system known today as Astrovision. Astrovision equipped aircraft have filmed over 2,800 projects, including military, general aviation, airlines, television and feature films worldwide. Clay Lacy is recognized by both the Screen Actors & Directors Guild for his achievements in aerial cinematography. His Astrovision systems operate in the nose and upper & lower fuselage via periscope mounts. The Astrovision system includes 35 & 65mm, IWERKS & 70mm IMAX format. Lacy’s Learjets are the only U.S. jets modified for the Astrovision camera system—a concept he helped develop. His jets have the capability of four camera positions plus MAX capability. But Lacy’s reputation as the best has not come from his specially equipped jets. All cameras are hard-mounted to the aircraft. Therefore, the smoothness of the shot is in the hands of the pilot—Clay Lacy himself. And since the camera lenses don’t zoom, Lacy acts as the operator by maneuvering the Lear, not the camera, to frame the shot. The job calls for detailed choreography, extraordinary skill and finesse. In 1968, Clay Lacy established the first executive jet charter service west of the Mississippi, using a leased Learjet. He bought his first Lear in 1970 and the second Lear aircraft just three years later. In 1975 he bought Bill Lear’s own model 25 and since then added another Lear 24 and a Lear 35. His fleet consists of nineteen aircraft including Learjets, Gulfstreams, Boeing 727s and business jets (BBJ).
He has since expanded his operations to include FBOs in Seattle and Denver. Upon the rebirth of national air racing in 1964, Clay’s purple P-51 and his back seat companion, "Snoopy," caught the interest of America’s air race fans. His presence on the air race scene found him not only a competitor but also a spokesman for the pilots whereby he pioneered the formation of the first Professional Race Pilots Association. For several years, he was a constant competitor and promoter of air racing. He once flew a DC-7 with Allen Paulson in a 1,000-mile pylon race, finishing ahead of most of the single engine war birds in the event. His colorful air-racing career was highlighted when he and Snoopy captured the Unlimited Air Race Championship in 1970. The name Clay Lacy appears on many pages of official aviation record books. His most memorable achievement was the 36 hour 54 minute around-the-world trip in the Boeing 747SP "Friendship One" in January 1988. The trip was made with a passenger manifest of 100 aviation notables and celebrities, which raised over $500,000 for Children’s Charities of the World. In 1995 Clay took his winglet modified Gulfstream GIISP on a record setting flight from Los Angeles to Paris. The flight culminated in placing the record-holding GIISP on display at the 1995 Paris Air Show. Lacy is also somewhat less known for piloting the DC-8 that carried “The Human Fly”—a stuntman strapped to a support on the upper cabin. The stuntman, named Rick Rojatt of Montreal, performed the feat three times, achieving the honor of the world’s fastest “wing walker,” at speeds of over 250 knots.
Photo’s and facts courtesy of The Kansas Aviation Museum.
Lon Smith, M.A., M.P.A., Executive Director
Kansas Aviation Museum
Past Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame Inductees
Hall of Fame Award (KDOT)
1986 – Olive Ann Beech
1987 – Walter H. Beech
1988 – Frank E. Hedrick
1989 – Clyde V. Cessna
1990 – Dwane Wallace
Charles H. Blosser
William P. Lear
Ronald E. Evans
1991 – Julius Earl Schaefer
Theodore A. Wells
Lloyd C. Stearman
1992 – Max Bleck
Major General Joe Engle
1995 – Harold G. “Hal” Dick
1996 – Russell W. Meyer, Jr.
1997 – Albin Kasper Longren
Steven A. Hawley, Ph.D.
1998 – Lionel D. Alford
1999 – Emil Matt Laird
2002 – James D. Eastman
2003 – William Robert (Bill) Snook
2004 – Martin & Osa Johnson
2005 – Herbert “Herb” M. Rawdon
2006 – James Jabara
Robert L. Sieker
2008 – Mort Brown
2009 – J. Norman Colvin
2010 – Donald C. Flower
2011 – Clay Lacy
Mildred Darlene Tuttle Axton
Kenneth Stanley Collins, Sr.
Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston
Past Governor’s Award Recipients
1985 – Dwane L. Wallace
1986 – 184th Tactical Fighter Group
William H. Wells
1987 – Marilyn Copeland
1988 – Charles H. Blosser
Mary L. Aikens
1989 – Eldon W. Cessna
1990 – Moya Olsen Lear
William Marvin Helton
1991 – 190th Air Refueling Wing
Elton H. Rowley
1992 – Charles E. Carpenter
1993 – David D. Blanton Sr.
Jan Roskam, Ph.D.
1994 – Linda Hall Daschle
George M. Boyd
Max L. Ary
1995 – Kenneth W. Barnard
Charles William Seitz
Frank Joseph Rowe
1996 – Daniel L. Meisinger
Ronald G. H. Smith
1997 – Ronald D. Ryan
Harold E. Neuman
1998 – Joe Conrad Funk
Howard Clark Funk
1999 – Dr. A. Porter Davis
Robert S. Hagan
William H. Wentz
2000 – Steve French
2001 – Donald O’Toole
Milton D. Sills
2002 – George Johnson
Charles M. Seibel
2003 – Paul E. “Pete” Illman
Gary M. Adamson
2004 – James Greenwood
Robert L. Kanaga
Robert J. “Bob” Warner
2006 – Charles E. L. Straub
Dr. Maurice H. Witten
2007 – Robert “Bob” Armstrong
Dr. Charles Reagan
2008 – Michael Armour
Arch E. Merriam
2009 – Dr. Paul E. Fortin
Kansas Chapter – 99’s
2010 – Ronald G. Puckett
2011 – Jim and Iva Ballard