The Members and Board of the National Aviation Hall of Fame were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Neil A. Armstrong, an Enshrinee of the Hall of Fame since 1979. Neil Armstrong was a true American hero and a dedicated member of the aviation and space community. His contributions to aviation and space exploration will never be forgotten.
In 1998, the National Aviation Hall of Fame partnered with Rolls-Royce North America, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Reno Air Racing Foundation and many aviation related organizations to establish and support the National Aviation Heritage Invitational (NAHI), which was created to foster the preservation of our rich aviation history by encouraging the restoration of vintage aircraft to airworthy condition. NAHI has held annual vintage aircraft competitions in both Dayton, Ohio and Reno, Nevada since 1999. The Invitational competition in Reno is held concurrently with the National Championship Air Races each September.
At each NAHI competition, the Grand Champion, the aircraft judged to be the most authentic example of a vintage aircraft restored to airworthy condition, has been awarded The Rolls-Royce Aviation Heritage Trophy, which resides throughout the year in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center outside of Washington, DC. The owner of the winning aircraft is presented with a "keeper" trophy by members of the NAHI staff and Enshrinees of the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Neil Armstrong has been among those representing the National Aviation Hall of Fame at these presentations for nearly a decade, participating in many ceremonies. The owners of these outstanding vintage aircraft are thrilled when they are presented their well-deserved trophy by a Hall of Fame Enshrinee and especially the first man to walk on the moon.
Ken Perich, Executive Director, National Aviation Heritage Invitational, stated: "on behalf of the NAHI Sponsors, Supporters, Judging staff and Volunteers, we are extremely proud to announce that The Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy will be unveiled and presented to the Grand Champion of our 14th Annual National Aviation Heritage Invitational competition during the 2012 presentation ceremony which will be held at the National Championship Air Races".
Ron Kaplan, Deputy Director of NAHI and Enshrinement Director for the National Aviation Hall of Fame, noted that Neil Armstrong greatly admired the vintage aircraft which participated in the annual competition. "He always enjoyed personally presenting the trophies to the owners of the winning aircraft," said Kaplan. "Neil was proud to represent the Hall of Fame with his fellow Enshrinees, and delighted to be among fellow aviators and the fine vintage aircraft they lovingly restored."
Several Enshrinees of the National Aviation Hall of Fame will join with the Staff and Sponsors of the National Aviation Heritage Invitational to unveil The Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy in Reno and honor the life and accomplishments of Neil Armstrong. Representing the Hall of Fame will be Enshrinees Patty Wagstaff, Bob Hoover, Dick Rutan, Bud Anderson, Herb Kelleher, Sean D. Tucker and Clay Lacy. The presentation ceremony and the unveiling of The Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy will take place at 10:30 AM, Sunday September 16th on the ramp at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada.
James M. Guyette, Chairman, President and CEO, Rolls-Royce North America, said: "Rolls-Royce has been a proud sponsor and supporter of the National Aviation Heritage Invitational since it was established in 1998. Neil Armstrong was a great American who will always be remembered as an outstanding human being, engineer, test pilot and space pioneer. I can think of no finer way to memorialize him than to rename the Rolls-Royce Aviation Heritage Trophy in his honor, as a lasting tribute to his legacy."
William R. Harris, President of the National Aviation Hall of Fame Board of Trustees, said, "I believe that despite Neil's modesty, with his personal involvement in sharing our nation's early aviation history, he'd appreciate that the renamed Trophy will acknowledge his enthusiastic support of the Heritage Invitational and his admiration for its competitors."
Mike Houghton, President of the Reno Air Racing Association, stated, "I am thrilled that The Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy will be unveiled to the NAHI competitors and our air racing fans at the 49th Annual Reno Air Races next month."