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EAA Honors Six

Community leader Vette recognized

Mac McClellan
Mac McClellan delivered the keynote speech at the 2010 EAA Halls of Fame Banquet.

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October 30, 2010 —  Nearly 300 people gathered in the Eagle Hangar of the EAA AirVenture Museum on Friday, October 29, to honor six individuals for their contributions to the world of aviation. Five individuals were inducted into EAA’s Halls of Fame, while the sixth was honored with the Henry Kimberly Spirit of Leadership Award.

The 2010 inductees into the EAA Halls of Fame include: Dean Wilson, Clarkston, Washington (Homebuilders); Morton Lester, Martinsville, Virginia (Vintage Aircraft Association); John Ballantyne, Millsboro, Delaware (Ultralight); the late Jimmy Franklin of Spruce Pine, North Carolina (International Aerobatic Club); and the late Hal Weekley of Mableton, Georgia (Warbirds of America).

 EAA Chairman Tom Poberezny opened the evening by welcoming everyone to the annual gathering that recognizes the people who embody the spirit of aviation and have made significant contribution to the aviation community and to EAA.

John Vette of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, received the Henry Kimberly award for his local volunteer efforts on behalf of EAA and the community. Vette, along with his wife Susy, has continued his family’s longtime commitment to EAA by helping develop and grow dynamic programs that facilitate interest in aviation among youth, ranging from the launch of WomenSoar to such events as the Gathering of Eagles fundraiser. Vette’s advice, knowledge of the community and region, and his passion for flight contribute to his effectiveness in the variety of roles through which he has served EAA. The Vette family also own the land adjoining the Seaplane Base, a popular site during AirVenture each summer.

Renowned aviation writer and recently appointed EAA Editor at Large Mac McClellan delivered the keynote speech for the evening, recalling his first trip to EAA’s annual convention in 1976. “I was working for Collins Avionics (in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and was asked to bring a resupply of brochures in my Cessna 140. I was stunned at what I saw.”

From there, McClellan went on to work with Flying and Business/Commercial Aviation magazines. He, along with then Flying editor George Larsen, managed the air show daily for a number of years. “My experiences here in those early years cemented my relationship with EAA and the passion everyone has here. Now, as a part of the editorial team, my job is to begin to expand the reach of EAA to those who fly conventional airplanes and who have the same passion as other EAAers.”

Calling EAA AirVenture the national air show, if not the world’s air show, McClellan said “We need to bring the same level of passion all 52 weeks a year.”

 EAA Ultralight Council member John Hovan accepted the award for John Ballantyne, founder of the United States Ultralight Association (USUA). Ballantyne holds ultralight instructor registration No. 1, and he is a commercial-rated pilot and certificated flight instructor for gliders. He is the only recipient of FAA commercial and flight instructor certificates in trike aircraft, and is a United States Hang Gliding Association-rated master hang glider pilot. Ballantyne served as president and chief operating officer of USUA from 1985 to 2000.

In 2000, he was recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale CIMA Commission for 27 years as a pre-eminent leader in America for the ultralight and microlight sport. In 1996, he received the Moody Award, the United States Ultralight Association’s highest honor, for outstanding contributions to American ultralight aviation.

Kyle Franklin accepted the IAC honors for his father, the late Jimmy Franklin, who flew in air shows for more than 30 years. Jimmy learned to fly as a toddler sitting on his father’s lap. He secretly soloed when he was 12 on a day when his parent were away from home. Had he not buzzed the neighbor’s farm, his adventure might have remained a secret. At age 19, Jimmy bought a 1940 Waco UPF-7 and started performing in air shows. He made a name for himself with aggressive aerobatic maneuvers such as the world’s lowest inverted ribbon pick-up. That Waco became the jet Waco that Jimmy was flying on his final flight.

Over the years, Jimmy introduced many unique acts to the air show industry and appeared in countless movies and television shows. In 1989, he received the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship, and in 1999, he received his second Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award.

In 2005, Jimmy and his performing partner, Bobby Younkin, perished in a mid-air collision while performing at the Saskatchewan Centennial Air Show at Moose Jaw, Canada. In accepting the award for this father, Kyle said, “Jimmy was born to fly.” In congratulating Kyle, EAA Chairman of the Board Tom Poberezny commented to Kyle, saying “I see a lot of your Dad in you, both as a person and as a pilot.”

Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame inductee Morton Lester learned to fly from his father, the owner of Martinsville, Virginia’s first airport. Over the years, he owned many aircraft, ranging from modern Bonanzas to vintage Wacos. Morton also restored many prototypes and racing aircraft, which he later donated to museums, including the Crosby CR-4 and the Keith Rider Jackrabbit.

Instrumental in the creation of the Virginia Aviation Museum, Morton was an early member of EAA/VAA Chapter 3 and has served as its president several times. He also served on the board of directors for what is now the Vintage Aircraft Association, as well as the board of directors of the EAA Aviation Foundation.

Bill Weekley, son of Harold D. “Hal” Weekley, accepted the award for his late father as the Warbirds Hall of Fame inductee, telling the audience he wears his father’s dog tags, ID bracelet and watch daily.  Hal Weekley passed away on September 22, 2010.

Hal Weekley began flight training in 1936. In the fall of 1942, he was assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces. A year later, Hal graduated from flight school as an Army Air Forces pilot and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. In 1944, he went to England and flew 20 combat missions. On his last mission he was shot down by flak. After bailing out at 20,000 feet, he successfully evaded capture for several weeks, hidden by the local French people.

Hal also trained jet instructor pilots during both the Korean and Vietnam wars. After retirement from the Air Force he worked with the FAA for 14 years. He amassed more than 20,000 hours in 97 different types and his ratings include airline transport pilot and airplane multiengine land with type ratings in the DC-9, B-727, and CV-240/340/440.

Hal holds the distinction of being the only B-17 pilot to fly in two centuries as well as the last combat B-17 pilot to fly a B-17. He last flew EAA’s Aluminum Overcast in 2001.

EAA Homebuilt Hall of Fame Inductee Dean Wilson first flew in a J-2 Cub when he was 3 years old and he was hooked. He went on to earn his A&E (airframe and engine, now called airframe and powerplant) certificate before he bought his first car. The first aircraft he owned was a 1937 40-hp Model A Taylorcraft. The next year, he built and flew a hang glider from plans in a 1913 Popular Mechanics article called “How to Build a Glider for $10.” Dean’s homebuilt airplane experiences started when he converted 1934 UMF Waco into a spray plane. He went on to design and put into production a type-certificated biplane sprayer, the Eagle ag plane.

In the 1970s, Dean bought and restored 43 different aircraft. In 1983, he designed and put into production the Avid Flyer kit airplane, and later built the twin-engine Explorer and the single-engine Private Explorer, which went into production in Canada. Throughout his career thus far he has owned, flew, or designed 80 different aircraft and an Indy racecar. He said he was born at the right time and place – in the U.S., 32 years after the Wright brothers.  “I learned from pioneers and now I’ll help anyone who asks.”

This year, with the help of local EAA Chapter 328 members in Lewiston, Idaho, he recently completed building and flying a replica of a 1909 Herring Curtiss Pusher.

In closing the evening, Tom Poberezny asked EAA Founder Paul Poberezny and newly appointed EAA President Rod Hightower to the podium, noting that Rod was 50 days into his role as the first non-Poberezny to hold that position in the 57 years EAA has been in existence. Paul closed the evening stating, “This facility was built on love for higher standards. EAA is not just an organization about airplanes; it is a church of people who not only love flight but also love each other. I am blessed to have known so many wonderful people throughout the world and at the age of 89, I thank you for being a part of the Poberezny family. We are lucky to have all of you and those who have gone to heaven.”

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