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Centennial of Flight Commission Launches Yearlong Celebration

EAA President Tom Poberezny greets EAA member John Travolta, who emceed the Centennial of Flight launch program Tuesday, December 17, at the National Air and Space Museum.
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December 17, 2002 - With actor and pilot John Travolta (EAA 413485) positioned at the podium beneath the actual aircraft that started it all, the U.S. Centennial of Flight (COF) Commission officially launched its yearlong celebration of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight, “Centennial of Flight: Born of Dreams—Inspired by Freedom,” Tuesday at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The ceremony, which was attended by more than 500 people, also served to honor 12 aviation pioneers:

  • Orville and Wilbur Wright, represented by their great grandniece Amanda Wright Lane

  • Neil Armstrong, astronaut and first man to set foot on the moon

  • Dr. Vance Coffman, chairman and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin

  • Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company founder, represented by great-grandson Edsel B. Ford II

  • General David Lee "Tex" Hill, World War II fighter pilot and ace

  • Amelia Earhart, represented by niece Amy Kleppner

  • Charles Lindbergh, represented by grandson Erik Lindbergh

  • Dr. Shannon Lucid, NASA's chief scientist

  • Pamela Melroy, astronaut

  •  Jody McCarrell, president of the Ninety Nines

  • Col. Charles McGee, representing the Tuskegee Airmen

EAA President Tom Poberezny, a member of the Commission, was on hand to outline EAA’s Countdown to Kitty Hawk initiative, presented by the Ford Motor Company, including the 2003 national touring pavilion featuring with EAA’s 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction. The tour’s final stop is December 17, 2003 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, when the reproduction aircraft flies on the anniversary at 10:35 a.m., the very anniversary of the Wrights’ first flight.

John Travolta beneath the 1903 Wright Flyer at NASM Tuesday, December 17.
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Travolta, a 5,000-hour jet pilot who first got his wings in 1974, challenged his audience to draw inspiration from the event and from those aviators being honored at the ceremony. “Look to this year, the Centennial of Flight celebration, to inspire us,” he said. “Look to these stories of greatness to drive us to accomplish our own feats, be they of global consequence or personal fulfillment.”

COF Chairman and NASM Director Jack Dailey spoke of the significance of the event. “The stories of the Wright brothers, and the pioneers of flight who followed them, are filled with examples of determination, innovation, and a passion to make our dreams a reality,” he said. “Today it's fitting that we begin this celebration in a place filled with icons of that spirit—a spirit we hope to rekindle across the nation.”

Wright-Lane added, “Although my great uncles were humble men, they would be proud of what this celebration is inspiring.”

Others speaking included Deputy Secretary of Transportation Michael Jackson and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.

Pictured (l to r) standing Dr. Vance Coffman, Pamela Melroy, Erik Lindbergh, John Travolta, Jack Dailey, Dr. Shannon Lucid, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Seated FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, Jody McCarrell, General David Lee “Tex” Hill, Amanda Wright Lane, Edsel B. Ford II and Col. Charles McGee.
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Along with EAA’s “Countdown” initiative, COF partner organizations include:

  • Inventing Flight: Dayton 2003

  • U.S. Air Force

  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

  • Aviation Week

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

  • Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

  • Fayetteville Festival of Flight

  • Space Day Foundation

  • Rockefeller Center

  • North Carolina First Flight Centennial Foundation

  • North Carolina First Flight Centennial Commission

During the program, several local school children presented flags representing the various partners of the commission, including EAA’s Countdown to Kitty Hawk. Honorees also signed banners that will be included in the Space Shuttle flight scheduled for fall 2003 (November 13 tentative launch date).



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