The Wright Brothers’ celebration honored those who have made significant contributions to aviation in Kansas. All honorees are permanently recognized at the Kansas Aviation Museum, Wichita, Kansas. The Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame and the Governor’s Aviation Honor Awards were presented November 12, 1999.
Following are those selected to receive special recognition at this year’s Wright Brothers’ Celebration:
Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame Inductee…
Emil Matthew “Matty” Laird
Commonly recognized as the father of the Wichita aviation industry, this self-taught pilot and designer was on the local scene for only four years (1919-1923), designing and producing only 43 Laird Swallow aircraft. Although he spent the rest of his aviation career in the Chicago area (before and after Wichita), his time here was the spark that changed the course of this city forever. The people, the design and manufacturing technology, and the sales techniques he left behind sustained the flames. Laird would also continue to develop his skills, scoring impressive wins in air racing in the late 1930’s.
Kansas Governor’s Aviation Honors Awards…
Cletus J. Pottebaum
Pottebaum served with the Strategic Air Command in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He retired a colonel, after being based at McConnell AFB in Wichita. He then began a crusade to celebrate Air Force and Kansas aviation history. In November, 1976, Pottebaum founded the Wichita Aeronautical Historical Association, forerunner of the Kansas Aviation Museum. In addition to launching WAHA, he has continued to organize historical-themed events in Wichita, as well as monuments to aviation notables.
Robert S. Hagan
Hagan began flying in World War II, flying 91 missions in fighter planes over Europe. Highly decorated, he later flew during the Korean War. Hagan began his test pilot career upon leaving the military in 1953. He made the first flight of the Cessna T-37, later moving to Learjet, where he co-piloted the flight of the first Learjet, the Model 23, in 1963. Hagan began a distinguished 24-year career at Beech Aircraft (now Raytheon Aircraft Co.), in 1965. where he also made “first flights” before transitioning to engineering project management. Hagan became Senior Project Engineer for the Beechcraft King Air series in 1981. He retired in 1989, and pursues his aviation interests as an active member of the Air Capital Chapter of the Order of Daedalines.
Dr. A. Porter Davis
Dr. Davis, originally from Palestine, Texas, conducted his medical career and flying activities in the Kansas City area. His first aircraft was an American Eagle, built in Fairfax, Kansas. The fourth licensed black aviator (1928), Davis devoted great effort to promoting aviation opportunities for others of his race. He also publicized aviation by setting several unusual flight records. His success in these endeavors led to him becoming president of the National Airman’s Association, a black pilot’s organization, in 1941.
Dr. William H. Wentz, Jr., PhD.
Dr. Wentz is currently Professor of Aerospace Engineering Emeritus, and Executive Director Emeritus, National Institute for Aviation Research, Wichita State University. In addition to his teaching and research careers, he was insrumental in the start-up of the National Institute for Aviation Research. He has been acknowledged as a gifted teacher of advanced aerodynamics, a world-class aerodynamics researcher, an engineering leader, and a superb organizer. His dedicated efforts have benefited hundreds of students, as well as the entire Wichita community. His advice has also been consulted in national aviation and space policy making. Wentz has received numerous engineering awards during his career, which continues today.
1999 Educator of the Year…
Richard E. Kirkland
Although not an educator by profession, Kirkland has enlightened countless people in the Wichita area on the activities of sport aviation. With 32 years of electrical engineering experience at Beechcraft/Raytheon, and extensive knowledge of many aspects of aviation, including soaring, radio control, construction, restoration and experimental construction, Kirkland is well qualified to introduce newcomers to the world of flight. One of the most active EAA Young Eagles’ pilots in the area, Kirkland also flies parents, grandparents and teachers on flights of discovery.