For the first time ever, the Florida Aviation Historical Society held an induction for the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame during SUN ’n FUN.The induction, held first thing opening day, included the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015.
“We’re looking to do this as an annual thing,” said Robb Williams, executive director of Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum, which the Hall of Fame resides.
The inductees, chosen by a selection committee from the historical society, join 31 aviators who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since its founding in 2003.
The Class of 2014 includes: Betty Skelton Frankman Erde, an aerobatic champion and speed record holder; Capt. Henry Tyndal “Dick” Merrill, a pioneer aviator and a commercial record holder with Eastern Airlines; and Curtis Pitts, designer of the Pitts Special aerobatic biplane.
The Class of 2015 includes Billy Henderson, founder of SUN ’n FUN; Merian C. Cooper, founding member of the Pan America Airways board of directors; and Howard “Scrappy” Johnson, a fighter pilot who flew more than 7,000 hours in 15 fighter planes and set an altitude record of 91,243 feet in the F-104.
“It’s very special to us that Billy Henderson will be in the Hall of Fame,” Williams noted.
According to Warren Brown, a retired flight surgeon and chairman of the selection committee, the historical society decided that nominees did not have to be citizens of Florida, but their achievements and activities contributing to the advancement of aviation would be primary. “Their association with the state of Florida would be secondary since aviation has no barriers,” he noted.
Nicole Stott, a 2012 inductee of the Hall of Fame, served as master of ceremonies for the Tuesday morning ceremony. An astronaut, she served as a flight engineer on ISS Expedition 20 and Expedition 21 and was a Mission Specialist on STS-128.
According to Brown, those interested in submitting a candidate for inclusion in the Hall of Fame should send a bio and photo, as well as permission from the candidate (if living) to the Florida Aviation Historical Society, P.O. Box 127, Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., 33785.
The Hall of Fame resides in a corner in the Florida Air Museum.