Beaufort astronaut and Wright Brothers to be inducted into North Carolina Aviation Museum’s first Hall of Fame

ASHEBORO, N.C. (WNCT) – Famous Beaufort native-turned-astronaut Michael J. Smith will join the Wright Brothers in the North Carolina Aviation Museum Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 30 in Asheboro .

The organization will honor 14 aviation pioneers at the induction ceremony and dinner at 5 p.m. on April 30 at Hangar 2 at the Museum of Flight in Asheboro. Among the twelve North Carolina aviation pioneers to be inducted are two astronauts, two pioneering aviators, two men who established major airlines in the state, and three airmen who played important and historic roles during the Second World War.

This first annual induction into the North Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame will feature some of the relatives and descendants of the recipients as well as special guest speaker and aviation historian Lt. Col. Jason Williams, USAF and will be hosted by Bill Walsh. Representatives of two historic women’s aviation organizations, the 99s Club and Women in Aviation, will participate in the ceremony.

Smith was born and raised in Beaufort. He became famous for his work before he was killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff on January 28, 1986. Smith’s wife will accept the plaque on his behalf.

Tickets for the induction ceremony and dinner are $50 and are available at website or by calling the Museum of Flight at 336-625-0170.

Thomas Henry Davis (1918-1999)
Born in Forsyth County, North Carolina, Davis earned his pilot’s certificate in 1934, started working for Camel City Flying Services in 1939, bought the company in 1940, and changed the name to Piedmont Aviation. He established Piedmont Airlines as a subsidiary of Piedmont Aviation in 1948, which ran the aviation industry at a number of hubs.

Charles “Charlie” M. Duke (1935- )
Born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, he became a member of the Apollo 10 support crew and was CAPCOM for Apollo 11 and it was Duke who uttered the famous words: “Quiet, we’re copying you in the field. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We breathe again. After serving as a backup crew for Apollo 13, he became the 10th and youngest man to set foot on the moon as a lunar module pilot for Apollo 16. (Mr Duke will not be able to attend at the April 30 induction, having a prior engagement in London.)

Major Thomas Wilson Ferebee (1918-2000)
Born in Davie County, North Carolina, Ferebee joined the Army Air Corps and after two years in flight school was assigned as a bomber in England. He took part in the first American bombing mission over Europe, successfully attacking German oil fields in Romania, and led the first bombing raids over North Africa. Because of his skill and accuracy, Pilot Colonel Paul Tibbetts chose him as a bomber on the Enola Gay, which dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. After the war, Ferebee was promoted to colonel and served on B-52s in Vietnam, retiring in 1970.

Viola Estelle Gentry (1894-1988)
Born in Rockingham County, North Carolina, Gentry was known as “The Flying Cashier”. She learned to fly in 1924. In 1928, she set the first officially recorded female solo endurance flight record and became NC’s first federally licensed pilot. in the promotion and development of aviation have encouraged women around the world to participate in the field of aviation.

Colonel Robert K. Morgan (1918-2004)
Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Morgan was a command pilot in the United States Air Force. During World War II, he was a bomber pilot with the 8th Air Corps in the European theater and commander of the famous B-17 Flying Fortress Memphis Belle, flying 25 missions. After completing the European theater missions, he flew 26 more missions in a B-29 Superfortress against Japan in the Pacific theater.

Mary Webb Nicholson (1905-1943)
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Nicholson was the first licensed female pilot in the state of North Carolina in 1929. She became a founding member of the International Organization of Female Pilots 99s when it was established in 1929 and in 1932, Amelia Earhart nominated her to serve. as Governor of the South East Section 99s. In 1943 she died transporting a military aircraft for the RAF. She was the first woman to die in a military aircraft during World War II. (A family member will be present to accept the award for Nicholson.)

Airlines of Piedmont (1948-1989)
Founded by Thomas H. Davis in 1948 in Winston Salem, North Carolina, Piedmont Airlines has grown into a major US airline with sales exceeding $1 billion to international destinations. Piedmont Airlines was named Airline of the Year in 1984 and was considered the pride of the South at that time.

Major George Earl Preddy (1919-1944)
Born in Guilford County, North Carolina, Preddy was the highest-scoring P-51 Mustang ace and the third-ranked American ace in World War II. Preddy set a World War II record that still stands, shooting down 6 enemy aircraft in 5 minutes.

Zachary Smith Reynolds (1911-1932)
Born in Forsyth County, North Carolina, Reynolds began flying at age 14. By the age of 17, he had obtained his pilot’s certificate in addition to an airframe and engine mechanic’s license as well as a transport license, making him the youngest transport pilot. in the United States In December 1931, at the controls of a Savoia Marchetti, he made a remarkable four-month solo flight between England and Hong Kong, where he arrived in 1932.

Harold Kimball “Zeke” Saunders (1921-2014)
Born in Catawba County, North Carolina, Saunders learned to fly when he was 16 years old. During World War II, he worked as a flight instructor for the Civilian and Wartime Pilot Training Programs at Smith Reynolds Airport. He later joined the Air Transport Command and received various awards. A founding member of Piedmont Airlines, he held many positions during his 41 years with the company.

Captain Michael J. Smith (1945-1986)
Born in Beaufort, North Carolina, Smith was an American engineer and astronaut. During his naval career, Smith flew 28 different civil and military aircraft types and logged 4,867 flight hours. Smith lost his life in the explosion that destroyed the space shuttle Challenger. He carried with him a North Carolina flag. (Captain Smith’s widow will be present to accept the award for her husband.)

William Hervey “Warren” Wheeler (1943- )
Born in County Durham, North Carolina, Warren earned his private pilot’s certificate in the 1960s. Due to segregation, he had to travel to Oklahoma to obtain his commercial license. After that he returned to North Carolina where in 1962 he opened a flight school and charter service. In the 1960s, he was hired by Piedmont Airlines (on the recommendation of former Governor Terry Sanford) and became their first African American pilot. Wheeler later became the first African American to own a commercial airline when he founded Wheeler Flying Service in 1969. (Mr. Wheeler will attend the induction ceremony.)

Orville Wright (1871-1948)
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Orville Wright, at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 1903, made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air airplane with the Wright Flyer, 4 miles south of Kitty Hawk , North Carolina. During this first flight, Orville Wright covered a distance of 120 feet (37 m) in 12 seconds, at a speed of only 6.8 miles per hour (10.9 km/h) above the ground. This historic moment was recorded in the famous photograph.

Wilbur Wright (1867-1912)
Born in Millville Indiana, Wilbur Wright, after two more flights alternating with his brother Orville, made the fourth and final flight on December 17, 1903, covering a distance of 852 feet in 59 seconds. The future development of powered and controlled flight had now begun.

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