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Texas Aviation Hall of Fame to induct 4 at May 8 ceremony

January 9th, 2020

The Lone Star Flight Museum has announced the selection of four new inductees into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. A distinguished panel of aviation historians, authors, publishers, archivists and aviation experts selected George W.S. Abbey, Col. (Ret.) Eileen M. Collins, Usto Schulz and Tyson Weihs from a field of more than 100 candidates.

This prestigious group will be officially inducted on Friday, May 8, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, at the 2020 Texas Aviation Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Luncheon at the Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Airport.

The Texas Aviation Hall of Fame was established in 1995 to honor and recognize Texans and Texas companies or organizations that have made significant and lasting contributions to the advancement of aviation. There are currently 76 individuals and groups in the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, in four categories which include: trailblazers and explorers, wartime aviators, leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.

The 2020 Texas Aviation Hall of Fame inductees join an impressive list of past inductees representing trailblazers and explorers such as Bessie Coleman and Wiley Post; leaders such as Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush; World War II aviators Tex Hill, the Doolittle Raiders, Tuskegee Airmen and Women Airforce Service Pilots; astronauts Alan Bean, John Young and Gene Cernan; and entrepreneurs Howard Hughes, Gordon Bethune and Herb Kelleher.

To be selected as a member of the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, the individual or group must have a significant connection to Texas and have left an indelible mark on the history of aviation or be an aviator who made an extraordinary contribution to the world in another field.

2020 INDUCTEES

George W.S. Abbey

With a Bachelor’s degree in General Science from the U.S. Naval Academy and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology, George W.S. Abbey flew both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, logging more than 5,000 hours in the air.  Serving as the USAF technical liaison at Boeing on the Dyna-Soar, SST and Lunar Orbiter projects, he was later detailed to NASA in 1964.  In 1967, Abbey left the Air Force and was named technical assistant to the JSC Center Director during the Apollo, Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz programs.

In 1976, Abbey was named NASA’s director of flight operations, and was responsible for overall direction and management of flight crew and flight control activities for all human space missions. In 1988, he was appointed deputy associate administrator for space flight at NASA Headquarters, and later appointed senior director for civil space policy for the National Space Council in the Executive Office of the President.  In 1992 Abbey was named special assistant to the NASA administrator before being named deputy director of Johnson Space Center in 1994 and then JSC center director from 1996 to 2001.  After retirement from NASA in 2003, he became Senior Fellow in Space Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Eileen M. Collins

Raised in Elmira, N.Y., Col. (Ret.) Eileen Collins earned her B.S. from Syracuse University. She was commissioned in the US Air Force and graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance AFB in 1979. After T-38 instructor duties at Vance, she transitioned to the C-141 Starlifter. During her service, Collins pursued a Master’s degree in Operations Research from Stanford and a Master’s in Space Systems Management from Webster. She was assistant professor of mathematics and a T-41 instructor at the US Air Force Academy from 1986-1989, and in 1990 graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School and was selected as an astronaut in 1991. She flew as the pilot on Mission STS-63 in 1995, becoming the first female Space Shuttle pilot.

She also served as pilot for STS-84 before becoming the first female commander of a U.S. spacecraft on STS-93 in 1999. In 2005, she was the commander of STS-114, the first “return to flight” mission after the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia.  She also was the first astronaut to fly the Space Shuttle through a complete 360-degree pitch maneuver. Collins retired from NASA in 2006 and works as an aerospace consultant and professional speaker.

Usto Schulz

A Texas-native, Schulz enlisted in the Army in 1943 and after earning his wings in 1944 was stationed at Hondo Air Base, Texas as a pilot and engineering officer. Later stationed at Ladd Field, Alaska, he became a cold weather pilot flying C-45s, C-46s, C-47s, C-54s, B-17s and B-25s and R-4 helicopters.  From 1947 to 1957 he was a commercial pilot with Arctic Pacific Air and Wien Alaska Airlines, before joining the CAA (forerunner to the FAA) in 1957.  Beginning as an air carrier inspector and an instructor for pilot certification he later transferred to FAA Headquarters. Schulz earned his DC-9 type rating and became the Executive Officer of In-Flight Standards Service.

As an independent consultant from 1975 to 2005, Schultz assisted airlines with management practices and ensuring FAR compliance.  After industry deregulation, he assisted airlines with FAA air carrier certification. Beginning in 1992, he worked with Morris Airlines to bring operations into compliance with FAA certification and assisted with certification as the first airline to use the Heads-Up displays and transition to fully digital electronic operations. In 1998, Schulz was asked to join a team creating a new airline and to run the certification process. Becoming involved with the selection and purchase of aircraft, Schulz guided JetBlue Airways through its certification process before retiring in 2005.

Tyson Weihs

Born in South Carolina, Tyson Weihs received a B.S. in Computer Science from Trinity University and his MBA from Rice University. Weihs is the CEO of ForeFlight, a Texas-based software company that employs over 200 people in Houston and Austin.  Weihs’ software has revolutionized flight planning, in-flight weather and was the first to bring the concept of an electronic flight bag to the iPad. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of private and corporate pilots who rely on ForeFlight for planning and in-flight decision making, the Department of Defense depends on the ForeFlight Military Flight Bag version of the application.

ForeFlight is also the provider of Jeppesen’s FlightDeck Pro EFB used by airline pilots around the world. Beyond the convenience of flight planning and in-flight weather on a mobile device, the biggest impact that Weihs and ForeFlight have had on aviation is safety. With Weihs’ ingenuity, passion and leadership, ForeFlight’s software and hardware solutions provide pilots with in-flight weather, traffic awareness, safety alerts, synthetic vision and other decision-making tools. These features have saved countless lives and represent one of the biggest technological innovations since GPS was certified for airplanes. He currently lives in Houston.

To become a 2020 Texas Aviation Hall of Fame event sponsor, visit LoneStarFlight.org/TAHOF2020 or call 346-352-7678. Tickets for the induction ceremony and luncheon will be available for purchase March 13.

May 8 also commemorates the 75th anniversary of the World War II Victory in Europe. Along with celebrating the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees, the Lone Star Flight Museum will also kick-off the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The summer long program, aptly named Fight To The Finish, is an invitation for Houstonians to take part in recognizing this significant anniversary and honor those that served and supported the U.S. to victory during WWII.  This four-month celebration will include special events, presentations, screenings, exhibits and more.

About the Lone Star Flight Museum

The Lone Star Flight Museum (LSFM) is a 501c3 aviation museum and STEM learning center with a mission to celebrate flight and achievements in Texas aviation as well as educate and engage our youth through science, technology, engineering and math. In addition to the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, the 130,000 square foot museum is home to a flying collection of rare and historic commercial, general aviation and military aircraft. Guests can experience the wonder of flight in a warbird ride and get hands-on in the high-tech Aviation Learning Center and Flight Academy. Multiple public and STEM-focused education programs create an unforgettable museum experience for visitors of all ages. Located at Ellington Airport, just 20 minutes from downtown Houston, LSFM is open Tuesday-Sunday. Tickets start at $9.95 with senior and military discounts. Memberships are also available. For details, visit lonestarflight.org or call 346-708-2517. Follow on Facebook, Instagram.

Clear Lake Area Chamber gets Spaceport Update

September 3rd, 2019

Megan Johnston found herself surrounded by Clear Lake Chamber Directors Jonathan Cottrell, Doug Meisinger and Jacob Bigger, from left, as the chamber luncheon gets underway at the Clear Lake Hilton.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Machuca is a busy man these days. Not only is there an airport to run, but there’s a Spaceport in the making.

And, there before him was a ballroom full of Clear Lake Area Chamber members waiting for an update from him during the chamber’s monthly luncheon at the Clear Lake Hilton.
Most remembered how Houston had received its license from the FAA to become the nation’s ninth spaceport back in June of 2015, but what was next?

Machuca explained that Ellington had already started on Phase 1 after the Houston City Council had approved spending $18.8 million to provide the ground level infrastructure – the streets, fiber optic and communication facilities, water, wastewater and electric power – to attract aviation and commercial space travel companies to the Houston Spaceport.
Meanwhile, several companies have expressed an interest in being a part of the spaceport. One or two look so promising Machuca could hardly keep from sharing the details. He said he is expecting to have some news very soon. Bay Are Houston Economic Partnership said recently that they are working with six companies interested in setting up operations at the Spaceport.

“Already there is Intuitive Machines developing lunar landing space systems and also testing propulsion machines,” he said. Intuitive Machines became the first Spaceport tenant and is already hard at work preparing to create its Nova-C lunar lander after receiving a $77.1 million NASA contract to send the spacecraft to the moon with a payload of experiments from the space agency and several private firms.

“These things take time,” he said, but as of now, “Everything is looking really good.”

Clear Lake Chatter: FLIGHT MUSEUM BLUE SKIES GALA RAISES $700,000

August 1st, 2019

Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Manchuca and his wife, Myrna, look for their table at the Blue Skies Gala.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS from both air and space contributed more than $700,000 at this year’s “Moonstruck: 2019 Blue Skies Gala,” to support STEM-related programs and the Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Field.

Held at The Revaire on Old Katy Road in Houston, the black-tie event drew a crowd of more than 500 supporters of the Lone Star Flight Museum’s educational mission.
KPRC-TV Ch. 2 meteorologist

Khambrel Marshall emceed the event with board member Ralph Thomas and his wife,Bette,as co-chairmen and Houston philanthropist Margaret Alkek Williams as honorary gala chairman.

Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, a former astronaut, and museum board member, joined Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Doug Owens, museum president and CEO, and Scott Rozzell, chairman of the board of directors, in recognizing special guest Gene Kranz and others who played a key role in the Apollo space program.

An inductee in the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, Krantz was a flight director during the Apollo 13 mission when the spacecraft experienced a malfunction but was safely guided back to earth. Krantz attended the gala, in part, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program and the first manned mission to land on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Flight Museum youth ambassador Marshall Calderon, from left, visits with former NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz and Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, former astronaut and museum board member.

Gala patrons included the greater Houston area’s prominent philanthropists, business leaders, elected and appointed government officials, pilots, astronauts, students and others who share the belief that aviation inspires endless possibilities.

“This amazing event,” General Owens told the crowd, was made possible by the generous support of our gala co-chairs, our gala planning committee, and the gala host committee along with underwriters, table sponsors and ticket holders. I also want to thank our amazing volunteers and staff members who dedicate their time and talent day in and day out to the mission of our museum. We are committed to celebrating flight and achievements in Texas aviation as well as educating and engaging our youth through STEM, and the support we received through this amazing gala will allow us to continue with those efforts.”

Guests were treated to assorted wines, champagne, cocktails, and a gourmet three-course dinner and dancing to the music of the Richard Brown Orchestra.

Located at Ellington Airport, just 20 minutes from downtown Houston, LSFM is open Tuesday-Sunday and seven days a week all summer long. Tickets start at $9.95 with senior and military discounts. For details, visit lonestarflight.org or call 346-708-2517.

 

Guendaliwa Rotito, Maria Sumner and Missy Rorrer, from left, make a pretty picture as they mingle with the crowd at the Bay Area Museum Guild Silver Tea.

Museum Guild members a busy crowd

IF YOU RUN INTO members of the Bay Area Museum Guild this summer, and they look a bit tired, they probably are.

For them, it has been a busy spring that included four events — the annual Silver Tea, picnic, wine tasting and installation luncheon.

Many prepared food and punch for the events, while others made preparations in the museum, lining up helpers, etc. — all in an effort to brighten up our community, as they have been doing for the past 35 years.

 

Silver Tea honors Webster church

USUALLY, the Museum Guild honors some well known person at its annual Silver Tea. But this year, the Guild recognized Webster Presbyterian Church, which has been a part of the Bay Area for 126 years, showing off items from the original church – a part of which became Bay Area Museum when the new church was built back in the 80s.

Tea Co-Chairmen Jill Smitherman and Belinda Scheurich were at the door to welcome the dozens and dozens, including many Lunar Rendezvous princesses and lieutenants, who dropped by to sample the array of savories and sweets and the punch served up by Louise Russell, Diana Dornak, Cindy Kuenneke, Badiha Nassau, Gail Devens and Sally Jordan.
Among the many dropping by, we spotted Judy Raiford, Mary Williams, Michelle Holland, Kim Woods, Mary Ann Baxter, Missy Rorrer, Maria Summer, Karen McCorkle, Shirley Brasseaux, Angie Weinman, Anita Fogtman, Jill Reason and Ava Galt, to name a few.

Houston Spaceport slowly turning dream into reality

August 1st, 2019

Taking part in the Spaceport groundbreaking were, from left, Houston City Councilman Mike Knox, Intuitive Machines President Steve Altemus, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Houston Airport System Executive Director Mario Diaz, Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Machuca and FAA Deputy Regional Administrator Rob Lowe.

By Mary Alys Cherry

The Houston Spaceport has been a dream for the past four years. Now it is moving toward reality after a groundbreaking ceremony June 28 for the first phase of the project at Ellington Field.

“When complete, Phase 1 will provide the ground work to support the companies that produce the cutting-edge innovations needed to take commercial space travel and aviation into the sub-sonic, super-sonic and hyper-sonic realm,” Diaz said, no doubt remembering a day four years ago on June 30, 2015, when Houston received its license from the FAA and became the nation’s ninth spaceport.

Phase 1 of the project required an $18.8 million investment to provide the ground level infrastructure – streets, electrical power, water, wastewater, fiber optic and communication facilities — to attract commercial space travel and aviation companies to Houston. That came in May when Houston City Council approved the funds.

Joining Diaz in turning the first shovels of dirt were Ellington Airport Director Arturo Machuca, Houston City Councilman Mike Knox, San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus and FAA Deputy Regional Administrator Rob Lowe.

Altemus’ Intuitive Machines, is the first company to sign on as a Spaceport tenant. Back in May, the company received a $77.2 million contract from NASA to create, launch and land its Nova-C lunar lander spacecraft to the surface of the moon with a payload of experiments from both NASA and private companies.

And then there is the need for training, for which the Spaceport has partnered with San Jacinto College. To help train that workforce, San Jacinto Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, says the Spaceport’s Edge Center for Advanced Manufacturing Training will serve as a workforce training center, providing a talent pipeline for new businesses.

“When you’re bringing in and trying to recruit new companies to the area, they need to know you have partners like that at the table to meet their needs,” Hellyer said.

Meanwhile, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell could hardly conceal his excitement as he spoke to the group.

“We are currently working with six companies which are looking to expand operations at the Houston Spaceport,” he said. “The Houston Spaceport’s certification is already acting as a catalyst to spur new interest and development at Ellington Airport.

“Over the last several years, more than $200 million worth of new projects have been  completed, or announced, at Ellington Airport, including the Lone Star Flight Museum,  the new Army Innovation Command … and its battle command center. New public hangars are under construction … and the new 117,000 square foot U.S. Coast Guard regional campus, a $57 million investment, has been completed and further expanded. Today marks a great day for Houston, for Ellington Airport and for the Houston Spaceport!

Apollo legends see Historic Mission Control unveiled

December 1st, 2018

It was an historic sight – living legends who worked on the Apollo program reunited for a major milestone — the unveiling of restored Historic Mission Control consoles used to send humans to the Moon. The newly restored units arrived in a return flight to Ellington Airport by way of NASA’s Super Guppy.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center are leading the restoration of Historic Mission Control and this marked a major milestone in the ongoing campaign to restore a National Historic Landmark before Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary.

Designed to carry oversized cargo, the Super Guppy airlifted the consoles from the Cosmosphere, a space museum in Hutchinson, Kan. Luminaries of the Apollo program — Will Davidson, Ed Fendell, Robert Grilli, Milt Heflin, Denny Holt, James Kelly, Thomas Loe, Glynn Lunney, Merlin Merritt, Bill Moon, Bill Reeves, and Milt Windler – saw the restored consoles for the first time under a hangar at Ellington Airport.

Joining them were JSC Director Mark Geyer, Space Center Houston CEO William T. Harris, plus JSC Apollo Mission Control Restoration Project Manager Jim Thornton and Director of Flight Operations Brian Kelly.

“We want to keep the legacy of the Apollo-era alive and preserve Historic Mission Control,” said Harris. “Thanks to the combined efforts of so many people, future generations can experience this iconic room exactly as it was when Neil Armstrong made his historic first steps on the Moon.”

Time had taken a toll on the Mission Operations Control Room, used during the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle eras, and it was in acute need of restoration. Furnishings such as carpeting, tile, paperwork, coffee cups and ashtrays in the room are being collected and restored to recreate the appearance of an active Apollo era Mission Control room — how the area looked the moment the first Moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985, the control room celebrates human space exploration and inspires people from around the world who visit. Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston and the City of Webster are working together to restore the room that made what seemed an inconceivable dream become a reality. Webster, a longtime supporter of Space Center Houston, gave a $3.5 million lead gift toward the $5 million restoration byThe Cosmosphere, which is restoring nearly two dozen consoles.

The restored Mission Control Room will be unveiled to the world in time for the Apollo 11 mission’s 50th anniversary and the City of Houston will host a month-long celebration, including a ribbon-cutting for the restored Mission Control room.

“On a Mission” campaign. Space Center Houston then led a 30-day funding campaign drawing more than 4,000 pledges from 15 countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. The city of Webster matched the crowdfunding campaign gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $400,000 as a component of the lead gift. Current proceeds stand at approximately $4.5 million leaving $500,000 remaining to meet the $5 million On a Mission campaign goal.

New air traffic control tower OK’d for Ellington Airport

April 1st, 2017

Ellington Airport plans to build a new $12.4 million air traffic control tower to replace its existing tower, starting later this month. Approval for the project came on a unanimous Houston City Council vote March 8.

When it is completed next year, it will replace the current tower, which was built in 1955 and damaged in Hurricane Ike in 2008. Afterwards, the 60-year-old tower will be torn down.

At 143-feet, the new structure will be nearly twice as tall as the current tower, and, besides new weather observation and communications equipment, it will have a mission control area for spaceflights at the future spaceport and also include a utility building, utility yard and parking area, and the purchase and installation of navigational and communication equipment necessary.

“Construction of this tower shows the commitment the Houston Airport System has to Ellington and its future,” said Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Machuca, “and furthers our support for our military partners at Ellington.”

Some $9.3 million will come from Houston Airport System revenue with $3.1 million from a state grant. “This is an important step forward for Ellington Airport, and a critical project to ensure the vital aviation operations based there can be carried out safely and efficiently,” said Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz.

The new tower is vital to the continuation of all Ellington Joint Reserve Base military and aviation missions, and all other general aviation activities, Machuca said. The Ellington JRB is utilized by the Texas Air National Guard, Texas Army National Guard and the Coast Guard as aviation operational centers and hubs of distribution supporting federal and state civil authorities.

The new structure will be built adjacent to the current tower, which will remain in use until the new structure is completed. Work on the project is expected to begin in four to six weeks, and the new tower is expected to be operational by the end of next year.