Fla, April 2-During
the week of the 2nd largest airshow in the United States, Sun N Fun,
a dinner was held to honor ten of aviation’s most significant living
contributors to aviation. The event ‘Dinner with Legends’ would be a fundraiser
for the new Aerospace Center of Excellence in the area and allowed the
opportunity for two hundred aviation enthusiasts to share an evening with the dignitaries.
As this was a fundraiser, dinner
tickets were a premium, starting at $525 each. Thanks to Greg Gibson, Sun N’
Fun’s Director of Business Development, and local business sponsors, five
Florida Wing Cadet Officers got the opportunity to attend this
once-in-a-lifetime event to represent CAP: C/Lt Col Jeremy King, C/Lt Col Miriam
Elena Lee, C/Col Alec Lampasona, C/2d Lt Hannah Harbridge, and C/Lt Col Jordan
Harris, as well as Senior Member, Capt Patricia King.
A few of the Cadets and Capt King
share their experience below, meeting aviation greats Dick Cole, co-pilot of
Col Jimmy Doolittle on the B-25 at the time of the WW2 raid over Tokyo; Col
Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Apollo 11 lunar module pilot and the second man to walk on
the Moon; Dick Rutan, aircraft designer and pilot of the 1986 non-stop circumnavigation
of the globe in the Voyager aircraft; Col
Bud Anderson, P-51 Triple fighter Ace in World War 2; Col Charles McGee, WW2 P-51 pilot and one of
the Tuskegee Airman; and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) Barry Smith,
Penny Halberg, Shirley Kruse, “Bee” Haydu, Kay Hilbrandt, Florence Mascot, and
C/Lt Col Jeremy King: It was an
honor just to be in the same room with these great aviation and aerospace
legends, and to hear them share their stories. At the same time, I was amazed
at how interested many of them were in us.
Buzz Aldrin asked us about our interest in aviation and asked us if we
were in flight training yet. We were
privileged to spend time talking with Col Dick Cole about his experience as a
Doolittle Raider. Everyone seemed to
appreciate that we were in Civil Air Patrol and many shared their CAP
experiences with us. One of the Legends,
Florence Mascot, said the only reason she was able to become a WASP was because
of flying with CAP.
C/Lt Col Miriam
Elena Lee: What
a great experience and an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity attending Dinner with
Legends. I was beyond excited when I was invited to attend the event knowing I
would meet some, not only famous, but the best and greatest aviators. While all the conversations with the legends
were very interesting and informative, the most memorable was the conversation
I had with Dick Rutan. Mr Rutan piloted
the Voyager aircraft around the world in 1986.
One of my fellow Cadets asked what it was like being in an aircraft for
so long, Mr Rutan smiled and mentioned it was uncomfortable but bearable
(barely). After some time talking, he
let all of us Cadets know that we are the future of aviation and to stick with
flying and aerospace education. I will remember his words of encouragement forever.
C/2d Lt Hannah
of the people I enjoyed speaking with was Mr. James C Ray who has been
responsible for major scholarships and contributions for youth aviation
education and college student s in the Central Florida area. He is 91 years old, funny and was interested
in hearing about our aviation plans.
Capt Patricia King: I realized that this was a once
in a lifetime opportunity, and it was exciting for me just to watch the Cadets
interact with these remarkable aviation legends. I saw generations of aviation history past
connect with the future generation of aviation history. The cadets represented CAP with
professionalism and confident respect, and, as a result, many people were
interested in learning more about CAP.
We are very grateful to Greg, and to Mr. John Leenhouts, Sun N’ Fun
President and CEO, for the incredible
opportunity to spend an evening with living legends of aviation history. It was an experience we will long remember.