Achievement in Aviation Award

The Achievement in Aviation Award is presented each year by the Planes of Fame Air Museum. It recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of aviation. 

2020 Honoree

Dan A. Pedersen

When American fighter jets were being downed at an unprecedented rate during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy turned to a young lieutenant commander, Dan Pedersen, to figure out a way to reverse their dark fortune. On a shoestring budget and with little support, Pedersen picked eight of the finest pilots to help train a new generation to bend jets like the F-4 Phantom to their will and learn how to dogfight all over again.

What resulted was nothing short of a revolution — one that took young American pilots from the crucible of combat training in the California desert to the blistering skies of Vietnam, in the process raising America’s Navy combat kill ratio from two enemy planes downed for every American plane lost to more than 22 to 1. Topgun emerged not only as an icon of America’s military dominance immortalized by Hollywood but as a vital institution that would shape the nation’s military strategy for generations to come.

Award Recipients 

The Doolittle Raiders
2008: The Doolittle Raiders. These brave men helped rally a nation in April 1942 by conducting America’s first offensive action against Japan.
Major General William Anders
2009: Major General William Anders. The Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 8 space mission, Anders went on to serve in high-level positions with NASA, the Atomic Energy Commission, and in private business.
Colonel Bud Anderson
2014: Colonel Bud Anderson. With 161 missions in his P-51 Mustang “Old Crow,” Clarence “Bud” Anderson attained just over 16 aerial victories, demonstrating incredible skill and grit.

2016: Colonel Bud Anderson. Returning to the podium, this time in recognition of his role as an air force test pilot. Through his example, we saluted all flight test pilots for advancing aviation technology.
Pacific War Veterans of WWII
2010: The Pacific War Veterans of WWII. From Pearl Harbor to the shores of Japan, the armed services of the United States and her allies fought a series of tenacious island battles for four hard years. Aircraft became their most potent offensive tool.
Robert “Bob” Hoover
2012: Robert “Bob” Hoover. From his service during WWII to his work in test flight, Hoover excelled. Today, he is perhaps best remembered as the man who delighted millions at air shows with his flying prowess.
Lt. Colonel Robert Friend
2018: Lt. Colonel Robert Friend. Recognized for his service to our nation as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, as well as his help in breaking down the barriers of race in aviation, and his lifelong commitment to the betterment of the industry.
Clay Lacy
2015: Clay Lacy. Exemplifying the man who does it all – pilot, air racer, successful innovator and business trailblazer. The Planes of Fame Atrium is named in his honor.
Louis Zamperini
2011: Louis Zamperini. From Olympic and collegiate track achievements to his role as a B-24 bombardier and his subsequent capture, Zamperini demonstrated remarkable inner strength. His grace and dignity following the war is an example for all.
Sean D. Tucker
2017: Sean D. Tucker. Defying gravity in the cockpit is a day-to-day routine for Sean D. Tucker. But his work in promoting aviation, particularly among young people in underserved communities, speaks volumes of his generous nature.
The Mighty 8th Air Force
2013: The Mighty 8th Air Force. With the directive, “win the air war and isolate the battlefield,” the bombers and fighters of the WWII 8th Air Force unleashed a torrent against enemy defenses and in short order attained air superiority, paving the way for allied victory in Europe.
Peter Law & Bruce Boland
2018: Bruce Boland and Peter Law. Two men who worked hand-in-hand to literally transform the aviation industry. For thirty-five years, Boland (as aerodynamicist) and Law (as thermodynamicist) contributed to most of the top secret advanced aircraft produced by the Lockheed Skunk Works.® That alone would have been enough, but for thirty of those years, both men also helped improve and expand the sport of air racing through the application of advanced technologies to racing aircraft.
Capt E. Royce Williams
2019: Capt E. Royce Williams. For his courageous actions on November 18, 1952, engaging seven enemy MiG-15 aircraft and for his service to our country during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
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