The Arkansas Aviation Historical Society is a non-profit organization promoting aviation. It created the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1980, and recently created college scholarships in hopes of encouraging young people to pursue aviation careers. The Aviation Hall of Fame honors individuals who played a great role in aviation and aerospace history on the national or Arkansas scene. Records are hosted by Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute, Central Arkansas Library System, in Little RockArkansas.

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Members to the Hall of Fame have been inducted annually from 1980 to 2010, and again in 2015. Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame inductees for 2015 were Jim Gaston, John Knight and James R. Risner. 2016 saw Lynn C HooperDavid Wallace, and Jesse Vincent inducted. 2017 saw the induction of Zane Anderson, Harold Johnson, and General William Smith, and in 2018 Gwen Batie Blue, Cornelius Robinson Coffey, Ernest Ambort, Dr. Jerry Robinson were each inducted. The Hall of Fame records are located at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute. [2][3]

In 2015, the society awarded its first two scholarships, while expressing the need for aviators to support the dreams of potential young pilots. Two students at Arkansas' collegiate aviation school, Henderson State University, in Arkadelphia, received scholarships of $2,000 each.[4] The Scholarship program has grown each year; in 2018 the society awarded ten scholarships in the amount of $3,000 each to recipients at Henderson State University and Ozarka College.

Hall of Fame Inductees

1980 J. Caroll Cone, Nathan GordonLouise McPhetridge ThadenJames S. McDonnell Jr., Charles M. Taylor

1981 Leighton Collins, Case Hough, Robert Snowden Jr., Admiral John S. Thach

1982 Raymond J. EllisCapt. Field Kindley, Claud Holbert

1983 Maj. Gen. Earl T. Ricks Jr., Lynn Helms, Albert A. Vollmecke

1984 Brig. Gen. John D. Howe, Maj. Gen. Winston P. Wilson, Eddie Holland

1985 Brig. Gen. William T. Seawell, Gen. John Paul McConnellMaj. Pierce W. McKennon

1986 Maj. Gen. Frank A. Bailey, M.T. “Cy” Bond, Earl Rowland

1987 Maj. John H. White, Lucien M. Tallac

1988 Richard Collins, Lt. Wendel A. Robertson

1989 Capt. E. Scott McCuskey, Sanford N. McDonnell

1990 Rear Admiral George M. “Skip” Furlong Jr., John Paul Hammerschmidt

1991 Rear Admiral F. Taylor Brown, Frederick Smith

1992 Adm. William Newell Small, Lt. Col. Woodrow W. Crockett

1993 Emma W. Hall, Seth Ward

1994 Lt. Col. Hugh Mills, James Rodgers, Jack Stephens

1995 Col. Richard O. Covey USAF, Floyd Fulkerson, Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller

1996 Maj. Gen. Lewis E. Lyle, Lt. Roy Rushing, Issac T. Gilliam IV

1997 Houston J. Burford, Richard C. Butler, Harvey C. Couch Jr., Wheat Goss, Bart Gray, Dr. Lafayette Harris, Harry W. Pfeifer Jr., Arthur Phillips, Jack Pickens, John Potts, Raymond Rebsamen, J. V. Satterfield, Howard Stebbins III, Everett Tucker Jr., and Kenneth Pat Wilson

1998 Milton P. Crenchaw, J. Scott Hamilton, Col. Charles P. O’Sullivan

1999 Frank G. Tinker Jr., Fred K. Darragh Jr., Gen. Horace M. Wade

2000 Jim Burnett, Anthony DeSalvo, Lt. Gen. Charles R. Hamm

2001 Alice Walton, Jim Younkin

2002 Rodney Slater, H.A. Thomas

2003 Thomas N. Smith Jr., Brig. Gen. William H. Webster, Capt. Wilbur West

2004 Lt. Col. Robert Hite, James Stamps, Robert M. Wilson

2005 Marlon D. Green, Virginia "Mary" Proctor, Daryl Riddell

2006 Richard N. Holbert, Donald L. Holbert, Robert A. Younkin

2007 Adolphus H. "Pat" Bledsoe Jr., Zemery Melvern "Jack" Stell, Dennis R. Gardisser Ph.D., P.E.

2008 Paul Irving "Pappy" Gunn, Scott E. Parazynski M.D.

2009 Greg Arnold, Col. Billy G. Edens

2010 Brig. Gen. Paul Page Douglas Jr., James C. "Bud" Mars, Mary F. Silitch

2015 Jim Gaston, John Knight and James R. Risner

2016 Lynn C HooperDavid Wallace, and Jesse Vincent

2017 Zane Anderson, Harold Johnson, and General William Smith

2018 Gwen Batie Blue, Cornelius Robinson Coffey, Ernest Ambort, Dr. Jerry Robinson



  1. "Imaginations Soar at Aerospace Center". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 11, 1995.

  2. "LR Aerospace Center Reaches End of Line". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. December 29, 2010.

  3. "Arkansas Aviation Historical Society Collection". Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

  4. "Students receive aviation scholarships". Henderson State University. Retrieved February 1, 2016.

External links



Born 30 October 1939 in Indiana, Amos joined the US Air Force in 1957. Assigned to the Little Rock Air Force Base where he learned to fly as member of the Base Aero Club. Upon discharge in 1962, he joined Hankins Flying Service in Oil Trough, AR as a crop duster pilot. In 1966, Amos joined Newport Flying Service as a duster pilot, but also flew charter and taught flight instruction. In 1968 Russ began flying 680E Aero Commander for Batesville Manufacturing Company where he flew for about five years and then returned to flying AGCATs for another ten years. He starter his own business in 1982 and now flies corporate. A charter member of the Arkansas Aerial Applicators Association, he was the Arkansas Flight Instructor of the Year in 1997. Russ was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2011, Russ continues to fly corporately today.


Zane Anderson

Zane Anderson

zane anderson

Born in Warren, Arkansas in 1948, Zane has been an aviator his entire life after teaching himself how to fly. Anderson has served in multiple capacities: owner, operator, flight instructor, mechanic, Designated Pilot Examiner and mentor to many who desired a career in aviation.  He is rated in gliders and sea planes as well as hot air balloons. He has been the leading helicopter operator in the state since forming his company, Aerial Patrol, in 1983. He has flown for hospitals, TV stations, law enforcement and for over thirty years conducted powerline patrol and other hazardous operations for Entergy Arkansas.

Mr. Anderson was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society's Hall of Fame in November 2017.
Check this space again soon for more information.




Ernest Ambort was born on November 7, 1922, in Little Rock Arkansas. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Force on September 17, 1942, and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and awarded his pilot wings at Williams Field, Arizona, on January 7, 1944. After completing P-38 Lightning training, he was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group in the Dutch East Indies. He became an Ace by destroying five enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus one damaged before returning to the States in September 1945. Ambort was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Bronze Star for his extraordinary achievement as a fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Major Ambort left active duty on February 3, 1946, and served with the 154th Fighter Squadron of the Arkansas Air National Guard until being reactivated during the Korean War. He flew with the 6147th Tactical Control Group in Korea in 1951 and left active duty at the end of the war. Ernest Ambort died on November 17, 1981, and is buried at the Little Rock National Cemetery in Little Rock, AR.


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Gwen Ann Weaver was born on November 3, 1946, in Rogers, Arkansas.

Blue became a Private Pilot November 8, 1973. How ironic that on the same day 45 years later she would be inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame! She continued building hours flying.

After her second son was born she continued flying by earning her Instrument, Commercial, Ground Instructor, Advanced Ground Instructor, Flight Instructor, Gold Seal Flight Instructor, Multi-engine and ATP.

In 1983 she became the First Female Designated Examiner for Arkansas. She was designated for Private, Instrument, Commercial, Flight Instructor, and some Light Twin Check Flights. She had a Part 61 Flight School with four instructors working with her.

Flying recognitions: Accident Prevention Counselor, Flight Safety Award for Arkansas, 1983 Flight Instructor of the Year by the Aeronautical Commission and Arkansas Aviation Historical Society, 1990 - Arkansas CFI of the Year by the FAA.

She retired in 2009 with over 15,000 hours logged.

This past year she reminisced on her "aviation anecdotes" into a paperback book titled Take Off. Hopefully it will be published by November 2018.




The man for whom the Conway airport is named was born in Greenbrier, AR on 22 Jan 1908. He learned to fly in the early 30’s soloing in an Arkansas made Command-Aire. He became the Chief Aircraft Mechanic for Starnes Flying Service at the Conway Airport in 1940 for the duration of WWII.  Cantrell formed Cantrell’s Aero Service in 1947 and became widely recognized as an incomparable expert in aircraft maintenance. He was recognized as the FAA’s first “FAA Mechanic of the Year” in 1962. Cantrell retired in 1986. On 27 Sept 1978, the City of Conway honored Cantrell by naming the Conway Airport “Dennis F. Cantrell Field” in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of aviation in the area. When Conway opened its new airport in 2015, it was named the “Dennis F. Cantrell Field”, as well. He died 1 Aug 2002.


Cornelius Coffey.jpg

cornelius robinson coffey

Cornelius Robinson Coffey was the first African American to establish an aeronautical school in the United States. His school was also the only aviation program not affiliated with a university or college to become part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP).

Coffey was born in Newport (Jackson County) on September 6, 1903, to Henry Coffey and Ida Wright Coffey. In 1916, Coffey had his first experience riding in an aircraft and was convinced that aviation was his calling. In 1938, Coffey established his own aeronautics school. Willa Brown would become Coffey's wife. Coffey and Brown married in 1939.

Coffey was a recipient of the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and, in 1980, was the first African American to have an aerial navigation intersection named after him by the FAA. The "CO FEY Fix"-only five letters are allowed-is a waypoint located on the VICTOR 7 airway over Lake Calumet that provides electronic course guidance to Chicago Midway Airport Runway 31 Left. He also designed a carburetor heater that prevented icing and thus allowed airplanes to fly in all kinds of weather. Devices similar to his are still in use on aircraft today.

Coffey became the first president of the National Airmen's Association of America and flew until he was eighty-nine years old. He died on March 2, 1994, in Chicago.



Leighton Collins

Leighton H. Collins is best-known for his magazine, "Air Facts", and some of his books, "How to get the Most Out of Your ADF" (1954), "Air Facts Reader 1939-1941" (1974), and "Takeoffs and Landings" (1981). "Takeoffs and Landings", with a 2005 reprinting, is a fundamental text for pilots new and experienced.

Collins was born April 20, 1902 in Greenville, TX. He received his Bachelor of Science degree (with majors in physics and math) from the University of the South (1920-23), and then attended Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration (1923-24). He earned a bachelor of law degree from the Arkansas Law School (1925-27).

He learned to fly in 1928 at Little Rock, AR. He first entered aviation while in the insurance business, flying his own airplane to serve his customers. The combination of insurance and aviation led to an early interest in flight safety. It was in the interest of air safety that he founded "Air Facts" magazine in 1938.

He began his work career as a Liability Insurance Company claim investigator on July 1, 1924. He married Sarah Banks of Fordyce, AR on June 27, 1928. Between then and 1938 he was field representative for the Aeronautical Corporation of America based in Cincinnati, OH. He sold their Aeronca aircraft from 6/1/33 to 9/1/34. From 9/1/34 to 6/1/35 he represented the Lambert Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, MO. He sold their Monocoupe aircraft. From 6/1/35 to 1/1/38 he was a flying school operator and aircraft dealer. In 1938 he went into publishing.

His magazine caught on, was widely popular, and it expanded to include subjects of general interest to pilots. Under his editorship, it became one of the most informative and factual publications in its field. Air Facts was primarily focused on helping pilots to understand the risks of flight, and persuading them to fly more safely. Most issues were between 75-85 pages, although in the 1970s they reached 98 pages.

Published between 1938 and May 1976, his magazine led to public understanding and acceptance of general aviation flying. He edited the magazine until 1973 when he retired from full-time publishing. He was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame, the OX-5 Club and of the Aviation Writers Association.

Leighton Holden Collins landed at Tucson on July 17, 1930. Based in Little Rock, AR, he was with his wife as passenger westbound from Lordsburg, NM. Their destination was Los Angeles. They were traveling in NC991K, a Cardinal aircraft. The image below is of the same model. NC991K was a C2-90 model, with the new LeBlond 7-D engine of 90HP at 1,975RPM. According to Juptner (reference, left), the higher power engine was aimed at the "sportier type of pilot."

The airplane's type certificate, #274, was issued on November 14, 1929. NC991K was S/N 115. Cardinals were thinly distributed around the country, due mostly to the economic sag of late 1929 and an already entrenched competition. Nevertheless, it was a decent cross-country machine of its era. It held 30 gallons of fuel and cruised at 100MPH. It also had internal expanding brakes and the tail skid was placed far aft to improve its three-point stance and ground handling.

Pilot Collins held commercial (certificate #7709), instrument, multiengine, seaplane, helicopter and hot air balloon ratings. He had accumulated 2,465 flight hours as of 1943. Over his flying career he accumulated more than 12,000 flight hours. Leighton Collins left us on January 16, 1995 at age 92 in Hendersonville, NC after a full life of influence on thousands of pilots.



Richard Collins

"Safety" and "Perfection" are recurring themes is Richard Collins' life and work. "Safety" is stressed in his books (ten of them) and his magazine articles (over 800 of them). "Perfection" shines through both his writing and his flying - especially his flying. One of his writers said, "Flying with Collins is a humbling experience, albeit an educational one." 

A native of Little Rock, Collins flew for Central Flying Service and as a corporate pilot following two years' service in the US Army. In 1958 he went to work for his father, Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame alumni, Leighton Collins, at Air Facts magazine. After ten years of polishing his skills at Air Facts, he joined the staff of Flying magazine. 

Collins returned to Little Rock when he became a senior editor for Flying in 1970, a position he held for seven years. While in Arkansas he served on the state's Aeronautics Commission, and spent one year as its chairman. In 1977 he became the Editor-in-Chief of Flying and moved to New York City. Under Collins' leadership, the magazine began to encourage pilots to polish their flying skills, to fly like professionals, and to work well within the air traffic control system. His influence extended far beyond the readers of the magazine, often reaching the Washington offices of the FAA.
In April, 1988, Collins packed up his trusty Cessna 210 and moved south to Maryland, where he became the Senior Vice President of the Publications Division of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. As Editor-in­-Chief of AOPA PILOT magazine, he was widely known as a champion of safety and perfection in aviation. 

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Born 26 February 1909 in Dallas, TX, was a true pioneer of agricultural aviation in theSouth. He soloed a “Jenny” at age 12 and was “barnstorming” and instructing by age 14. He was arguably the first to commercially dust a crop from an aircraft in the Delta region. He was a stunt pilot for the Ivan Gate Flying Circus and the Lone Star Flying Circus in the 1920’s. He was one of the first three pilots for the predecessor of Braniff Airlines. He took his operation to Stuttgart, AR in 1938 and developed his dusting business throughout the south and Midwest with upwards of 100 Stearman aircraft at its peak. He taught ferry pilots during the early years of WWII. A member of the National Agricultural Hall of Fame, Dockery died 20 December 1997.



Raymond J. Ellis


Raymond J. Ellis was born at Adona, Perry County, Arkansas, March 28, 1905. At the age of six his family moved to Hugo, Oklahoma, where he completed his high school studies. He continued his education at Oklahoma A & M College, now Oklahoma State University at Still­water. Ellis was an outstanding end on the college football team. During his senior year in 1929 he received an Honor­able Mention on the Missouri Valley Conference All-Star team. 

After a stint as a science teacher and athletic coach at Haskell, Oklahoma, Ellis joined the Pure Oil Company. He soloed in a 40 horsepower J-2 Piper Cub from Hatbox Field, Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1937. He later attended the Spar­tan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa where he received his commercial and instrument ratings. 

On October 1, 1940, Ellis founded Fayetteville Flying Service and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. He brought with him his young bride Sallye Margaret Chadwell. Sallye Margaret not only married a husband, she married a career as well. She was a vital force in the aviation business the two built together. During the years of World War II, Fayetteville Flying Service provided flight training for the CPT program and the 10 hour indoctrination course for aviation cadets. 

After the war Ellis continued his flight training for ROTC cadets at the University, and directed his efforts to selling the benefits of aviation to Northwest Arkansas. 

September 1, 1953, marked the first scheduled flight of Scheduled Skyways, with Ellis as pilot. The Cessna 195 departed Fayetteville Drake Field en route to Little Rock's Adams Field. Two decades later a group of investors acquired the airline, and began the expansion program that has made Scheduled Skyways one of the outstandig com­muter airlines in the nation, and the second oldest in opera­tion. 

In addition to the many honors bestowed on Ray Ellis in his business and civic work, these stand out: President of the Fayetteville Rotary Club, and President of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. In 1969 he was appointed by Gov­ernor Win Rockefeller to fill an unexpired term on the Arkansas Aeronautics Commission. In 1971 Governor Dale Bumpers reappointed him to serve a full five year term. During 1972 he served as Chairman of the Commission. Ray Ellis has been a great influence in the development of aviation and airports in the state of Arkansas and the nation. 



Jim Gaston

James A. Gaston was born in Herrin, Illinois, on December 18, 1941 to Albert and Iola (Cosey) Gaston. He spent much of his boyhood in Olathe, Kansas, before settling in the late 50's in north Arkansas where his father started Gaston's White River Resort in 1958. After his father's death Jim took over at the age of 20. Gaston transformed the small twenty acre resort with just six cabins into one of the nation's premiere outdoor getaways. Now covering over 400 acres with 79 cottages and a 3,200 foot airstrip, Gaston's is internationally known. He married Jill Glenn February 7, 1986, in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Gaston's love of flying traces to his youth - where he enjoyed watching planes flying over the family home. Beginning his flying lessons in Arkansas, and picking up his instrument ticket at about 1200 hours, Jim went on to fly for over 10 years as an aerobatic air show performer. Gaston was so accomplished, the Federal Aviation Administration appointed him as an FAA Safety Designee allowing him an unlimited waiver for air show performances. Jim retired from Aerobatics in 1983. 

An early champion of tourism in Arkansas, Gaston was a lifetime member of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Commission. He served as a president of the group and was commissioner emeritus. He also served as president of the Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation and was a past president of Arkansas Hospitality Association. He was slated to be honored with the Legacy Award from the Arkansas Outdoors Hall of Fame, which is a project of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Gaston was selected for the honor because of the key role he played in establishing trout fishing in Arkansas.

In 2010, Gaston was honored as the Business Executive of the Year by Arkansas Business and was a 1999 inductee into the Arkansas Outdoors Hall of Fame. Locally, Gaston served in the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce and several other civic groups. He was an inductee in the ASU-Mountain Home Trout Hall of Fame. He was named Arkansas Tourism Man of the year in 1985. Gaston was a philanthropist as well, sponsoring the Gaston Lobby at Roller Hall on the ASU-MH campus, as well as endowing the Gaston Lecture Series at the college. Gaston is memorialized for all his contributions by the James A. Gaston Visitor Center at the Bull Shoals-Whiter River State Park. The $4.7 million complex covers 15,744 square feet and includes state of the art Environmental Education Learning Center.

Later in life, Gaston became an accomplished outdoors photographer, publishing "An Ozark Perspective", a collection of his work.

Gaston died July 13, 2015 at the age of 73.


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Ron was born on 13 April 1949 in Lollie, AR just outside Mayflower. He has an international reputation for his knowledge, expertise and experience with autogyros having designed and built the “Little Wing” LW5 autogyro. Herron solved the inherent instability of the auto gyro with his design. The “Little Wing” was one of only two aircraft to meet FAI’s four primary performance categories and holds 29 FAI world records. The Spirit of Wiley Post Award was earned for setting three transcontinental speed records.  The,”Little Wing” is now on display in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
A natural mechanic, Herron taught aviation maintenance at Pulaski Technical College for twenty years retiring in 2013. Well known for his kindness, he placed his design for the LW5 in the public domain without recompense in the interest of safety for all autogiro enthusiasts.


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Claud Holbert

Claud Holbert was born June 2, 1910 in a small rural Texas farming community known as Proffit. His father moved the family to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1916 and opened his own auto parts repair service. A witness to hard work, determination, and success in his early years,Claud realized his dream of flying when he soloed in a Curtiss Jenny at age 17. He would join the Arkansas Air National Guard in 1926, and began attending Little Rock Junior College in 1928. An officer in the 154th Observation Squadron of the Air National Guard, Claud realized a business opportunity and set his sights on training pilots.

Borrowing $1,200, toward the purchase of a Taylorcraft, Claud founded Central Flying Service in Little Rock in 1939. Central was awarded a CPT contract with the Federal Government. With beginnings as a Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPT) Central inevitably transitioned into War Pilot Training (WPT) during World War II. Designated by the government as an Advanced War Pilot Training center, Central Flying Service had over 65 aircraft and 30 instructors. Starting with just one Taylorcraft, Claud Holbert built a company which would go on to become one of the country's oldest, largest air charter and flying schools. Under his leadership, Central Flying Service developed it's own maintenance facilities, adding paint and interior shops, aircraft overhaul, and refurbishment.

Claud logged a staggering 50,000 hours flying his own charters, and served for a decade as the personal pilot for the late Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. Capitalizing on commercial airlines' neglect of Central Arkansas, Claud is credited with having built Arkansas' first multi-engine and turboprop commercial service from the ground up. He would later pioneer the state's first jet charter. 

One of the most experienced pilots in the United States, Claud was the Federal Aviation Administration's Senior Examiner. Having laid a firm foundation for aviation in Arkansas, Claud turned Central Flying Service over to his sons, Don and Richard, in 1976, but his passion for flight never wavered. The Chairman of the Arkansas State Aeronautics Commission, Eddie Holland, remarked: "Claud always said it wasn't work. It was what he enjoyed." Claud continued training pilots, flying, and giving check rides until the day he died; March 7, 1983, at the age of 72. 



Lynn C. Hooper

Lynn C. Hooper was born in July, 1940, on a farm near Jonesboro, Arkansas. The second child of John and Maribell Hooper, Lynn had an older sister, Doris. As a young man, he developed a powerful fascination with automobiles and aircraft. His father worked various jobs, and during Lynn's first eight years the family moved six times. Lynn's motivation to work got him a driver's license when he was fourteen years old, enabling him to find part time work at a local service station. After graduation from high school in Jonesboro, he went on to Arkansas State University, where he spent four years in Reserve Officer Training (ROTC). Hooper was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon graduation from ASU in 1962. He then attended the Army's Artillery Officer Basic Course, and earned his Aviator Wings in May, 1963.

In 1964 Hooper served as a helicopter pilot in Korea and at bases on the East and West Coast. In 1965 he married the love of his life, Lexalynn, a Red Cross worker he had met while in Korea a year earlier. Hooper served in the 189th Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam in 1967 where he was a Platoon Commander for 10 months before taking on the role of Operations Officer for an artillery battalion. In November of 1967, then Captain Hooper was in command of two armed helicopters supporting special forces on the ground. When one of his gunships was shot down, Captain Hooper stayed in the fight, suppressing enemy positions with covering fire - protecting downed crew and special forces on the ground. Staying until he had run out of ammunition, including personal weapons and smoke grenades, his determination saved lives. Because of his bravery in the face of great danger and the lives he'd helped save, Hooper was awarded his first Silver Star. 

A few short weeks after earning his first Silver Star, Hooper earned yet another when his gunships discovered and engaged hidden enemy machine gun and sniper positions. Running low on ammunition, Hooper rearmed and led his gunships back into the fight to engage enemy heavy gun emplacements. He sustained severe damage to his aircraft and was forced to return to base, where he acquired another helicopter and immediately rejoined the fight. His bravery under heavy enemy fire provided for the evacuation of a critically wounded soldier. By the time Lynn Hooper ended his second combat tour of Vietnam in 1974, he had flown over 1,100 combat missions.

After Vietnam, Hooper found time to return to school and earn a Masters Degree in Human Relations while attending the U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Hooper was asked to serve at the Pentagon under the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans as Battalion Commander until 1978. His meritorious leadership oversaw the organization and training of the 501st Combat Aviation Battalion - 1st Armored Division in Ansbach, Germany. From 1981 until his retirement from the Army, Hooper commanded and developed training and procedures at bases from Virginia to Alabama. Most of the training requirements he developed for rotary and fixed wing military aircraft are still in place today.

Rising to the rank of Brigadier General, Hooper was assigned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to represent the U.S. in a 34 Nation Arms Control Negotiation in Vienna, Austria, which produced an agreement between the nations at the Paris Summit in 1990. After 28 years, Hooper had earned countless awards for meritorious military service, and was inducted into Arkansas State University's Hall of Heroes. Hooper was awarded 2 Silver Stars, 2 Legion of Merit Medals, 4 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Bronze Stars, 3 Meritorious Service Medals, 3 Army Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and an Air Assault Badge. After retirement from the Army, Hooper served as Superintendent of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, and operated a successful automobile dealership which is still in business today.


Harold Johnson

Harold Johnson

harold Johnson

Born in Saline County in 1935, Harold Johnson was a Pilot and Flight Instructor from 1955 to 1965 when he joined Southern Airways as an airline pilot.  In 1972, while serving as copilot on a DC-9, his flight was hijacked and after thirty hours and multiple stops ended in Cuba.  Although Johnson was wounded by a hijacker, none the passengers were injured.  Harold was the founder of the Wings of Honor Museum in Walnut Ridge and has served as President to this day.

Mr. Johnson was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society's Hall of Fame in November 2017.
Check this space again soon for more information.



John Knight

John Knight was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi December 5, 1940. He attended High School in Star City, Arkansas and attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello. John has been married to Rose Thornton Knight since 1960.

In 1965, John received his private pilot certificate, later added a commercial certificate and then went on to receive his instrument, multi-engine, and CFI ratings. In his early flying days, John worked part time as an Ag pilot flying Super Cubs and Pawnees. He flew wildlife surveys for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in addition to Charter work. 

Turning his passion for flying into public service, John was the "Face of General Aviation" in Arkansas for nearly thirty years as Director of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics. Under his direction, Arkansas aviation and airports moved forward with millions of dollars of new construction each year. Airport operators in Arkansas enjoyed his years as Director. Without doubt, every airport received state money to improve their airport during his administration, many of them multiple times. During his tenure, just over 2,500 grants were given to airports in Arkansas - totaling over $151 Million. 

After his retirement, he had served as Director for twenty-seven years, working under four different Governors. Knight is credited with having increased the annual appropriation for the Department of Aeronautics from $500,000 annually to $15,000,000 annually. 



James R. Risner

James Robinson "Robbie" Risner (January 16, 1925 – October 22, 2013) was a general and a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force.

During the Vietnam War, Risner was a double recipient of the Air Force Cross, the second highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Air Force, awarded the first for valor in aerial combat and the second for gallantry as a prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese for more than seven years. He was the first living recipient of the medal.[1]

Risner became an ace in the Korean War, and commanded a squadron of F-105 Thunderchiefs in the first missions of Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965. He flew a combined 163 combat missions, was shot down twice, and was credited with destroying eight MiG-15s. Risner retired as a brigadier general in 1976.

At his death, Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III observed: "Brig. Gen. James Robinson "Robbie" Risner was part of that legendary group who served in three wars, built an Air Force, and gave us an enduring example of courage and mission success... Today’s Airmen know we stand on the shoulders of giants. One of 'em is 9 feet tall… and headed west in full afterburner."[2]


Risner was born in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas in 1925,[3] but moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1931. His father was originally a sharecropper, then during the Great Depression became a day laborer for the Works Progress Administration.[3] By the time Risner entered high school, his father was self-employed, selling used cars.[4] Risner worked numerous part-time jobs in his youth to help the family, including newspaper delivery, errand boy and soda jerk for a drug store,[3] for the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce at age 16, as a welder, and for his father polishing cars.[4]

Risner had a religious upbringing as a member of the 1st Assembly of God Church. He wrestled for Tulsa Central High School, where he graduated in 1942.[4] In addition to a love of sports, Risner's interests were primarily in riding horses and motorcycles.[3]

Military career

Army Air Forces and Air National Guard

Risner enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet in April, 1943, and attended flight training at Williams Field, Arizona, where he was awarded his pilot wings and a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in May 1944. He completed transition training in P-40 Warhawk and P-39 Airacobra fighters before being assigned to the 30th Fighter Squadron in Panama.

The 30th FS was based on a primitive airstrip without permanent facilities at Aguadulce, on the Gulf of Panama. Risner noted to a biographer that his tour under these conditions amounted to as much flying as he desired but a distinct lack of discipline on the ground. When the squadron was relocated to Howard Field in the Panama Canal Zone in January 1945 to transition to P-38 Lightning fighters, its pilots were soon banned from the Officers Club for rowdiness and vandalism.[5]

In 1946, Risner was involved in an off-duty motorcycle accident. While undergoing hospital treatment in the Army, he met his first wife Kathleen Shaw, a nurse from Ware Shoals, South Carolina. Risner and Shaw became engaged on a ship and were discharged and married the next month.

In civilian life, Risner tried a succession of jobs, training as an auto mechanic, operating a gas station, and managing a service garage.[5] He also joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard, becoming an F-51 Mustang pilot and flew nearly every weekend. On one occasion, Risner became lost in the fringes of a hurricane on a flight to Brownsville, Texas. Forced to land on a dry lakebed, he found that he was in Mexico and encountered bandits, but successfully flew his Mustang to Brownsville after the storm had passed. He received an unofficial rebuke from the American embassy for flying an armed fighter into the sovereign territory of a foreign nation, but for diplomatic reasons the flight was officially ignored.[6]

Korean War

Risner was recalled to active duty in February 1951 while assigned to the 185th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the OKANG at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He subsequently received training in the F-80 Shooting Star at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Risner's determination to be assigned to a combat unit was nearly ended when on his last day before going overseas he broke his hand and wrist falling from a horse. Robinson deliberately concealed the injury, which would have grounded him, until able to convince a flight surgeon that the injury had healed. He actually had his cast removed to fly his first mission.[7]

Risner arrived in Korea on May 10, 1952, assigned to the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Kimpo Air Base. In June, when the 336th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, also at Kimpo, sought experienced pilots, he arranged a transfer to 4th Fighter Wing through the intervention of a former OKANG associate.[7] Risner was often assigned to fly F-86E-10, AF serial no. 51-2824, nicknamed Ohio Mike and bearing a large cartoon rendition of Bugs Bunny as nose art, in which he achieved most of his aerial victories.[8]

His first two months of combat saw little contact with MiGs, and although a flight leader, he took a three-day leave to Japan in early August. The day after his arrival he returned to Korea when he learned that MiGs were operational. Arriving at Kimpo in the middle of the night, he joined his flight which was on alert status. The flight of four F-86 Sabres launched and encountered 14 MiG-15s. In a brief dogfight Risner shot down one to score his first aerial victory on August 5, 1952.[7]

On September 15, Risner's flight escorted F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bombers attacking a chemical plant on the Yalu River near the East China Sea.[n 1] During their defense of the bombers, Risner's flight overflew the MiG base at Antung Airfield, China. Fighting one MiG at nearly supersonic speeds at ground level, Risner pursued it down a dry riverbed and across low hills to an airfield 35 miles inside China.[9][n 2] Scoring numerous hits on the MiG, shooting off its canopy, and setting it on fire, Risner chased it between hangars of the Communist airbase, where he shot it down into parked fighters.[8][10][11][n 3]

On the return flight, Risner's wingman, 1st Lt. Joseph Logan, was struck in his fuel tanks by anti-aircraft fire over Antung. In an effort to help him reach Kimpo, Risner attempted to push Logan's aircraft by having him shut down his engine and inserting the nose of his own jet into the tailpipe of Logan's, an unprecedented and untried maneuver. The object of the maneuver was to push Logan's aircraft to the island of Cho Do off the North Korean coast, where the Air Force maintained a helicopter rescue detachment. Jet fuel and hydraulic fluid spewed out from the damaged Sabre onto Risner's canopy, obscuring his vision, and turbulence kept separating the two jets. Risner was able to re-establish contact and guide the powerless plane out over the sea until fluids threatened to stall his own engine. Near Cho Do, Logan bailed out after calling to Risner, "I'll see you at the base tonight." Although Logan came down close to shore and was a strong swimmer, he became entangled in his parachute shrouds and drowned.[12] Risner shut down his own engine in an attempt to save fuel, but eventually his engine flamed out and he glided to a deadstick landing at Kimpo.[10][13]

On September 21 he shot down his fifth MiG, becoming the 20th jet ace.[10] In October 1952 Risner was promoted to major and named operations officer of the 336th FIS. Risner flew 108 missions in Korea and was credited with the destruction of eight MiG-15s, his final victory occurring January 21, 1953.[10][14][15]

Regular Air Force career

Risner was commissioned into the Regular Air Force and assigned to the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Clovis Air Force Base, New Mexico, in March 1953, where he became operations officer of the 81st Fighter Bomber Squadron. He flew F-86s with the 50th Wing to activate Hahn Air Base, West Germany, where he became commander of the 81st FBS in November 1954.[16]

In July 1956, he was transferred to George Air Force Base, California as operations officer of the 413th Fighter Wing. Subsequently, he served as commander of the 34th Fighter-Day Squadron, also at George Air Force Base.[16]

During his tour of duty at George Air Force Base, Risner was selected to fly the Charles A. Lindbergh Commemoration Flight from New York to Paris. Ferrying a two-seat F-100F Super Sabre nicknamed Spirit of St. Louis II to Europe on the same route as Lindbergh, he set a transatlantic speed record, covering the distance in 6 hours and 37 minutes.[17]

From August 1960 to July 1961, he attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He next served on the joint staff of Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) in Hawaii.[16]

Vietnam War

In August 1964, Lieutenant Colonel Risner took command of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, an F-105D Thunderchief fighter-bomber unit based at Kadena AB, Okinawa, and part of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing.[16] The following January he led a detachment of seven aircraft to Da Nang Air Base to fly combat strikes that included a mission in Laos on January 13 in which he and his pilots were decorated for destroying a bridge, but Risner was also verbally reprimanded for losing an aircraft while bombing a second bridge not authorized by his orders.[18][n 4] On February 18, 1965, as part of an escalation in air attacks directed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that resulted in the commencement of Operation Rolling Thunder, the 67th TFS began a tour of temporary duty at Korat RTAFB, Thailand, under the control of the 2d Air Division.[n 5]

Risner's squadron led the first Rolling Thunder strike on March 2, bombing an ammunition dump at Xom Biang approximately ten miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. The strike force consisted of more than 100 F-105, F-100, and B-57 aircraft, and in the congested airspace, heavy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire seriously disrupted its coordination and radio communications. Risner's squadron was tasked with flak suppression, dropping CBU-2 "cluster bombs" from extremely low altitude. His wingman Capt. Robert V. "Boris" Baird was shot down on the opening pass, and the mission was in danger of collapsing when Risner took charge.[19] After the last strike had been delivered, Risner and the two surviving members of his flight remained in the area, directing the search and rescue mission for Baird until their fuel ran low. Risner, in a battle damaged aircraft, diverted to Da Nang air base for landing.[20][n 6]

On March 22, 1965, while leading two flights of F-105s attacking a radar site near Vinh Son, North Vietnam, Risner was hit by ground fire when he circled back over the target. He maneuvered his aircraft over the Gulf of Tonkin, ejected a mile offshore, and was rescued after fifteen minutes in the water.[21][22][23][n 7]

On April 3 and 4, 1965, Risner led two large missions against the Thanh Hóa Bridge in North Vietnam. On the afternoon of April 3, the strike package of Rolling Thunder Mission 9 Alpha consisted of 79 aircraft, including 46 F-105s. 16 of those carried AGM-12 Bullpup missiles, while another 30 carried eight 750-pound bombs each, half of which were designated for the railroad and highway bridge. The force had clear conditions but encountered a severe glare in the target area that made the bridge difficult to acquire for attacks with the Bullpups. Only one Bullpup could be guided at a time, and on his second pass, Risner's aircraft took a hit just as the missile struck the bridge. Fighting a serious fuel leak and a smoke-filled cockpit in addition to anti-aircraft fire from the ground, he again nursed his crippled aircraft to Danang. The use of Bullpups against the bridge had been completely ineffectual, resulting in the scheduling of a second mission the next day with 48 F-105s attacking the bridge without destroying it. The missions saw the first interception of U.S. aircraft by North Vietnamese MiG-17 fighters, resulting in the loss of two F-105s and pilots of the last flight, struck by a hit-and-run attack while waiting for their run at the target.[24]

Risner's exploits earned him an awarding of the Air Force Cross and resulted in his being featured as the cover portrait of the April 23, 1965 issue of Time magazine. The 67th TFS ended its first deployment to Korat on April 26 but returned from Okinawa on August 16 for a second tour of combat duty over North Vietnam.

Shootdown and capture

On August 12, 1965, U.S. Air Force and Navy air units received authorization to attack surface-to-air missile sites supplied to the North Vietnamese by the Soviet Union.[25] Initial attempts to locate and destroy the SA-2 Guideline sites, known as Iron Hand missions, were both unsuccessful and costly. Tactics were revised in which "Hunter-Killer Teams" were created. Employed at low altitudes, the "hunters" located the missiles and attacked their radar control vans with canisters of napalm, both to knock out the SAM's missile guidance and to mark the target for the "killers", which followed up the initial attack using 750-pound bombs to destroy the site.[26]

On the morning of September 16, 1965, on an Iron Hand sortie, Risner scheduled himself for the mission[21] as the "hunter" element of a Hunter-Killer Team searching for a SAM site in the vicinity of Tuong Loc, 80 miles south of Hanoi and 10 miles northeast of the Thanh Hoa Bridge.[n 8] Risner's aircraft was at very low altitude flying at approximately 600 mph,[27] approaching a site that was likely a decoy luring aircraft into a concentration of AAA. Heavy ground fire struck Risner's F-105 in its air intakes when he popped up over a hill to make his attack.[26] Again he attempted to fly to the Gulf of Tonkin, but ejected when the aircraft, on fire, pitched up out of control. He was captured by North Vietnamese while still trying to extricate himself from his parachute.[28] He was on his 55th combat mission at the time.[29][n 9]

Prisoner of war

"We were lucky to have Risner. With (Captain James) Stockdale we had wisdom. With Risner we had spirituality."

Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. – 1st U.S. pilot held as a Prisoner of War in Southeast Asia[30]

Main article: U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War

After several days of travel on foot and by truck, Risner was imprisoned in Hỏa Lò Prison, known as the Hanoi Hilton to American POWs. However, after two weeks he was moved to Cu Loc Prison, known as "The Zoo", where he was confronted during interrogations with his Time magazine cover and told that his capture had been highly coveted by the North Vietnamese. Returned to Hỏa Lò Prison as punishment for disseminating behavior guidelines to the POWs under his nominal command, Risner was severely tortured for 32 days, culminating in his coerced signing of an apologetic confession for war crimes.[28][31]

Risner spent more than three years in solitary confinement. Even so, as the officer of rank with the responsibility of maintaining order, from 1965 to 1973 he helped lead American resistance in the North Vietnamese prison complex through the use of improvised messaging techniques ("tap code"), endearing himself to fellow prisoners with his faith and optimism. It was largely thanks to the leadership of Risner and his Navy counterpart, Commander (later Vice AdmiralJames Stockdale, that the POWs organized themselves to present maximum resistance.[29] While held prisoner in Hỏa Lò, Risner served first as Senior Ranking Officer and later as Vice Commander of the provisional 4th Allied Prisoner of War Wing.[32] He was a POW for seven years, four months, and 27 days. His five sons had been ages 3 to 16 when he was shot down and imprisoned.[33]

His story of being imprisoned drew wide acclaim after that war's end. His autobiography, The Passing of the Night: My Seven Years as a Prisoner of the North Vietnamese, describes seven years of torture and mistreatment by the North Vietnamese. In his book, Risner attributes faith in God and prayer as being instrumental to his surviving the Hanoi prison experience. In his words he describes how he survived a torture session in July 1967, handcuffed and in stocks after destroying two pictures of his family to prevent them from being used as propaganda by an East German film crew:

To make it, I prayed by the hour. It was automatic, almost subconscious. I did not ask God to take me out of it. I prayed he would give me strength to endure it. When it would get so bad that I did not think I could stand it, I would ask God to ease it and somehow I would make it. He kept me.[34]

Publication of Risner's book led to a flap with American author and Vietnam war critic Mary McCarthy in 1974. The two had met, apparently at McCarthy's request,[35] when McCarthy visited Hanoi in April 1968. The meeting, described as "stilted",[35] resulted in an unflattering portrait of McCarthy in Risner's book, primarily because she failed to note scars and other evidence of torture he wrote that he had made plain to her.[36] After publication of the book, McCarthy strenuously attacked both Risner (deeming him "unlikeable" and alleging that he had "become a Vietnamese toady") and Risner's credibility in a review.[37] Risner made no rebuttal at the time, but when interviewed by Frances Kiernan decades later, Risner described the review as "character assassination", a criticism of McCarthy's treatment supported by several of her liberal peers including Kiernan."[38][39][40][n 10]

Post-Vietnam career and life

Risner was promoted to colonel after his capture, with a date of rank of November 11, 1965.[18] He was part of the first group of prisoners released in Operation Homecoming on 12 February 1973 and returned to the United States. In July 1973 USAF assigned him to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where he became combat ready in the F-4 Phantom II. Risner was later transferred to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico in February 1974 to command the 832d Air Division, in which he flew the F-111 Aardvark fighter-bomber. He was promoted to brigadier general in May 1974. On 1 August 1975, he became Vice Commander of the USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and retired from the Air Force on 1 August 1976.[16]

Risner's family life during and following his imprisonment was marked by several personal tragedies. His mother and brother died while he was still a P.O.W. and his oldest son Robbie Jr. died two years after his return of a congenital heart defect. In June 1975 Risner was divorced from his wife Kathleen after 29 years of marriage. In 1976 he met his second wife Dorothy Marie ("Dot") Williams, widow of a fighter pilot missing-in-action in 1967, and subsequently married her after her missing husband was declared dead. They remained married until the end of his life, with the two younger of his four surviving sons choosing to live with him and Risner adopting her three youngest children.[41][42] After retirement he lived in Austin, Texas, where he worked with the D.A.R.E. program[21] and raised quarter horses, and later in San Antonio.[43] He later moved to Bridgewater, Virginia.


Risner is one of only four airmen with multiple awards of the Air Force Cross, a combat decoration second only to the Medal of Honor.[1][n 11]

The USAF Weapons School Robbie Risner Award, created September 24, 1976, was donated by H. Ross Perot as a tribute to Risner and all Vietnam era Prisoners of War, and is administered by the Tactical Air Command (now by Air Combat Command). The award is presented annually to the outstanding graduate of the USAF Weapons School.[n 12] The Risner Award is a six and one-half foot trophy consisting of a sculpture of Risner in flight suit and helmet on a marble base, weighing approximately four tons. The trophy is permanently displayed at the United States Air Force Academy, with each winner’s name inscribed. A miniature replica, also donated by Perot, is presented to each year’s recipient as a personal memento. An identical casting, measuring four feet and weighing 300 pounds, was installed in the foyer of the USAF Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in October 1984.[44][45][n 13]

A nine-foot bronze statue of Risner, sculpted by Lawrence M. Ludtke and mounted on a five-foot pedestal of black granite, was commissioned by Perot and dedicated in the Air Gardens at the Air Force Academy on November 16, 2001. In addition to replicating the Risner Award, the statue commemorates Risner and other POWs who were punished for holding religious services in their room at the Hanoi Hilton on February 7, 1971,[32] in defiance of North Vietnamese authorities. The statue was made nine feet tall in memory of Risner's statement, commenting on his comrades singing The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America, that "I felt like I was nine feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch."[46]

Perot helped Risner later become the Executive Director of the Texans' War on Drugs, and Risner was subsequently appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a United States Delegate to the fortieth session of the United Nations General Assembly.[47] He was also inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in November 1974 in recognition of his military service,[48] and announced as an inductee into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame on November 1, 2013.[49]

In 2006, Risner appeared on an episode of the The History Channel series Dogfights. In the episode, titled 'MiG Alley', Risner's "August 5 and September 15, 1952 missions", actions is depicted. The episode was the first episode of the first season of the series, which recreated historical air combat campaigns using modern computer graphics.

On October 19, 2012, ground was broken at the Air Force Academy for its new Center for Character and Leadership Development. In February 2012 the Academy received a $3.5 million gift from The Perot Foundation to endow the General James R. Risner Senior Military Scholar at the center, who "will conduct research to advance the understanding, study and practice of the profession of arms, advise senior Academy leadership on the subject, and lead seminars, curriculum development, and classroom activities at the Academy."[50]

The chapter squadron of the Arnold Air Society for Southern California, based on the AFROTC detachment of California State University, San Bernardino, is named for Risner.[51]


Risner died in his sleep October 22, 2013, at his home in Bridgewater, Virginia three days after suffering a severe stroke.[48][52][53] Risner was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on January 23, 2014. He was eulogized by Perot and General Welsh with fellow former POWs and current members of the 336th Fighter Squadron among those in attendance.[54]

Air Force Cross citations

First award

Lieutenant Colonel Robinson Risner

U.S. Air Force

67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat RTAFB, Thailand

Date of Action: 3 and 4 April 1965

The President of the United States, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Robinson Risner, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force on 3 and 4 April 1965. On these dates Colonel Risner led two successive operations against vitally important and heavily defended targets. Performing in the role of air coordinator, Colonel Risner arrived over the target area before the main strike force, evaluated the effectiveness of each strike, redirected subsequent strikes, and provided flak suppression against defenses that would hinder delivery aircraft in the performance of their mission. On the initial attack, while exposing himself to heavy ground fire, with complete disregard for his personal safety, Colonel Risner's aircraft sustained a direct hit in the left forward bomb-bay area, filling the cockpit with smoke and fumes. He flew his badly damaged aircraft over heavily fortified hostile territory before successfully landing at a friendly airfield. On 4 April, he again led an attacking force of fighter aircraft on a restrike against the same target. Colonel Risner initiated the attack, directing his aircraft into the target in the face of heavy automatic ground fire. His aerial skill and heroic actions set an example for the others to follow. In the course of the operation, Colonel Risner's unit encountered the first MIG force committed in aerial combat against the U.S. Forces in Southeast Asia. However, he refused to be diverted from his primary mission of completing the destruction of the assigned targets. Colonel Risner's actions not only deprived the communist force of its vital supply route and much needed equipment but further served to emphasize the high degree of U.S. determination in Southeast Asia. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship and aggressiveness, Colonel Risner reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Second award[edit source]

Lieutenant Colonel James R. Risner

U.S. Air Force

For actions while a prisoner of war, U.S. Air Force

Date of Action: 31 October to 15 December 1965

The President of the United States, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Air Force Cross to James Robinson Risner, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 31 October to 15 December 1965. Through his extraordinary heroism and willpower, in the face of the enemy, Lieutenant Colonel Risner reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Risner in 1973 after being released as a POW by the North Vietnamese

Risner in 1973 after being released as a POW by the North Vietnamese

Robbie Risner's F-86 with the  336th Fighter Squadron  in 1953.

Robbie Risner's F-86 with the 336th Fighter Squadron in 1953.

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Write here...

67th TFS Republic F-105D-25-RE Thunderchief 61-0217. On 16 September 1965 Risner was flying this aircraft when he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery.

67th TFS Republic F-105D-25-RE Thunderchief 61-0217. On 16 September 1965 Risner was flying this aircraft when he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery.


Wendel A. Robertson.jpg

Wendel A. Robertson

Ten years out of Yale, Wendel A Robertson unwittingly traded the trenches of France for the twisting, twirling flight above St. Mihiel. When the United States entered World War I, Robertson was working at the family's business at Fort Smith. He enlisted in the Army's Infantry Officers Candidate School at Ft. Logan Roots in North Little Rock, but was reassigned to the Army Signal Corps for training as an aviation cadet. 

Following pilot training in Illinois he went to France, assigned to the Third Aviation Instructional Center at Issoudun. There he became a fighter pilot and in July 1918 he went to the newly formed 139th Aero Squadron. For two months Robertson flew combat missions but none of them brought contact with the Air Force. Then, on September 12, 1918, a day that dawned with a rain of American artillery as the St Mihiel offensive began, Robertson took off, flying wingman to his squadron commander, the ace David Putnam. Twice both Americans threw their Spads into dogfights against superior numbers. In the first, Putnam downed a Fokker. In the second, Robertson watched as a German sent Putnam's Spad spinning into the ground. Robertson, though, survived the fight. 

A week later Robertson and his squadron set out to avenge the loss of their commander. Robertson shot down three German fighters. Over the next ten days, the 139th shot down 23 enemy airplanes-Wendel Robertson contributed four, raising his tally to seven in these last days of the war. 
In April, 1919, he returned to Fort Smith and in the years between the two world wars, ran numerous businesses-including working as a sales manager for, ironically, Fokker Aircraft. During WW II, age forced him into administrative work for the Air Force, toiling in overseas posts in North Africa and the Mediterranean Theatre. He died in 1963 in Oklahoma City. 


DR. jerry robinson

Dr. Jerry Robinson served as a missionary pilot in Brazil, as an instructor for Flight Safety, as a demo pilot for Cessna in the Cessna 441 and 425, and as the Flight Training Supervisor for Cessna Aircraft Company's Air Transport Department. He also served as a Master Army Aviator, both fixed and rotary wing, having obtained the rank of Colonel in the US Army Reserve prior to retirement to Arkansas to become Henderson State University's first Chair and Director of the university's new Department of Aviation in 1987 and served in that position for 18 years until his retirement from Henderson in 2005.

During this time, the department grew from around 50 students to see its peak of 168 students in 1992. Dr. Robinson rewrote the curriculum for the department, which ultimately led to its growth and expansion. The new curriculum not only expanded upon the basic ground school courses that were being offered in the professional pilot track, it also added courses to create the new aviation management tracks. This new curriculum led to the program being recognized as an Airway Science Program by the FAA. This recognition helped lead to the building of the 33,000 square foot aviation facility on Henderson's campus now known as the Caplinger Airway Science Center which houses the school's flight simulators and cockpit procedure trainers, aviation class rooms and lecture hall, and the aviation faculty and staff offices.




Don Ruggles founded Lifenet of Arkansas in 1983 and was instrumental in bringing the first Emergency Medical Service (EMS) helicopter service to Arkansas in that year. In the same year he founded Helicopters Southwest based in Texarkana and in the subsequent thirty-six years his company has flown over 10,000 accident free missions throughout Arkansas and Texas. Ruggles has served in many civic and charitable endeavors including as a member of the Arkansas Aeronautics Commission and as Chairman of the Texarkana Airport Commission. He was the recipient the Wilbur Award for Exemplary Community Service in Texarkana for 2019.


General William Smith

General William Smith

William Young Smith 

(August 13, 1925 – January 19, 2016) was a United States Air Force four-star general who served as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (COFS SHAPE) from 1979 to 1981 and as Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command (DCINCEUR) from 1981 until his retirement from military service in 1983.

Life and career

Smith was born in 1925, in Hot Springs, Arkansas,[1] where he graduated from high school in 1943. He spent one year at Washington and Lee University, then entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated in 1948, among the first academy graduates commissioned directly into the newly established Air Force. He received a master of public administration degree in 1954 and a doctorate in political economy and government in 1961, both from Harvard University. He completed Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, in 1959 and National War CollegeFort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1965.

His first assignment was training recruits at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Subsequently he went through flight training at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, and Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, receiving his pilot wings in September 1949. He then served as a pilot with the 20th Fighter-Bomber Group at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

In March 1951 Smith was assigned to the 27th Fighter Escort Group at Itazuke Air Base, Japan, and flew combat missions over Korea in F-84 Thunderjets. He spent two months as a forward air controller with the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division. He next joined the 49th Fighter-Bomber Group and served as operations officer for combat crew training at Itazuke, then as assistant group operations officer at Taegu Air Base, South Korea, flying combat missions until hit by flak and wounded on his 97th mission.

After prolonged hospitalization, Smith attended Harvard University for graduate study in preparation for a teaching assignment with the department of social sciences at the U.S. Military Academy.

From August 1954 to July 1958, he taught government, economic and international relations, and attained the rank of associate professor at the U.S. Military Academy. He attended the Air Command and Staff College from August 1958 to June 1959. He spent that summer on special assignment with the president's committee to study the U.S. Military Assistance Program, the Draper Committee. In the fall he became a planning and programming officer with the deputy director of war plans in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.

In July 1961 he moved to the White House as Air Force staff assistant to General Maxwell D. Taylor who was then military representative to President John F. Kennedy. When General Taylor became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962, Smith worked in a dual capacity as an assistant to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as a staff member on the National Security Council under McGeorge Bundy. As a major, he became the first military person to serve simultaneously In these two positions.[2]

Smith went to the National War College in August 1964 and after graduation in June 1965, was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Lindsey Air Station, Germany. He worked first in the Policy and Negotiations Division and later as chief, War Plans Division, both under the deputy chief of staff for operations. In July 1967 he became commander of the 603rd Air Base Wing at Sembach Air Base, Germany.

Following his return to the United States in July 1968, he became military assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, serving first with Secretary Harold Brown and subsequently with Secretary Robert C. Seamans Jr.In this position it was Smith's job to advise and assist the secretary on matters of substance, particularly operational, budgetary, joint-service and system acquisition matters. In addition he carried out special projects for the secretary.

He was appointed vice commander of the Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area, now the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center in August 1971, and become commander in June 1972. The center provided logistics support for U.S. Air Force weapon systems that includes B-52sand associated missiles, A-7D'sC-135s and its configurations ranging from tankers to airborne command posts, command control communications systems, aircraft engines for Major Air Force combat and airlift aircraft, and component parts for various Air Force equipment.

In October 1973 Smith transferred to Air Force headquarters and served as director of doctrine, concepts and objectives in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations. In July 1974 he was appointed director of policy plans and National Security Council affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. He became assistant to the chairman, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in September 1975.

He returned to Europe in July 1979 as chief of staff for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Belgium, and became Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command in June 1981.

His military decorations and awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal (Air Force) with oak leaf cluster, Silver StarLegion of MeritAir Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal and Purple Heart.

He was promoted to general July 1, 1979, with same date of rank and retired on July 31, 1983. In retirement from the Air Force, he became a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and later served for five years as President of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a federally funded research center. Smith was also President of the Air Force Historical Foundation and a board member of the National Security Archive. He also participated in a number of oral history projects on nuclear deterrence and arms control. He died on January 19, 2016, of congestive heart failure.[3][4]

Smith co-authored Operation Anadyr: U.S. and Soviet Generals Recount the Cuban Missile Crisis[5] with former Soviet Union General Anatoly Gribkov, published in 1994, about their experiences on opposite sides of the Cuban Missile Crisis.


  1. Jump up^ Paul Martell; Grace P. Hayes (1974). World military leaders. Bowker. ISBN 978-0-8352-0785-0.
  2. Jump up^ "William Smith". The Daily Oklahoman. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  3. Jump up^ Barnes, Bart (1925-08-13). "William Y. Smith, four-star Air Force general, dies at 90"The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  4. Jump up^ "William Smith". The Daily Oklahoman. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  5. Jump up^ A. I. Gribkov; William Y. Smith; Alfred Friendly (1996-01-01). "Operation ANADYR: U.S. and Soviet Generals Recount the Cuban Missile Crisis" Retrieved 2016-01-25.

The Bendix Trophy

The Bendix Trophy

Louise McPhetridge Thaden

Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden (November 12, 1905 – November 9, 1979) was an American aviation pioneer, holder of numerous aviation records, and the first woman to win the Bendix trophy, alongside Blanche Noyes.[1]


Birth and education

Louise McPhetridge was born in Bentonville, Arkansas and attended Bentonville public schools. McPhetridge attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas from 1921 to 1926 and studied as a journalism, physical education, and pre-medical major.


In 1926, McPhetridge was working for the J.H.J. Turner Coal Co. where one of her main customers was the Travel Air Corporation in Wichita, Kansas, owned by Walter Beech. Beech liked McPhetridge and offered her a job as a sales representative in San Francisco, California, which she accepted. Her salary included free pilot's lessons, and she earned her pilot's certificate in 1928. She was the first female pilot to be licensed by the state of Ohio.


McPhetridge met Herbert von Thaden, who was a former United States Army Signal Corps pilot and engineer who worked on developing the first American all-metal aircraft, the Thaden T-2. McPhetridge and von Thaden were married in San Francisco on July 21, 1928. By 1929, Louise Thaden had become only the fourth woman to hold a transport pilot rating.


Thaden rapidly became a major figure in the aviation world and set many world performance records and won many major flying events. In 1929, she became the first pilot to hold the women's altitude, endurance and speed records in light planes simultaneously. Thaden set the women's altitude record in December 1928 with a mark of 20,260 feet. In March 1929, she set the women's endurance record with a flight of 22 hours, 3 minutes, 12 seconds.

Women were barred from air racing from 1930 to 1935, due to sexism.[2]

Women's Air Derby

Thaden was a friend and rival of pioneer aviators Amelia EarhartPancho BarnesOpal Kunz, and Blanche Noyes. Thaden defeated her colleagues in the first Women's Air Derby, also known as the Powder Puff Derby, in 1929. The Air Derby was a transcontinental race from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the site of the National Air Races that year. It took place from August 13–20, 1929. Twenty women were entered in the race. Marvel Crosson was killed. Earhart damaged her aircraft at Yuma, Arizona, Barnes became lost and flew into Mexico and damaged her plane attempting to get back on course, and Noyes suffered an in-flight fire over Texas.[3]

Middle career

In 1930, Thaden went to work as public relations director of Pittsburgh Aviation Industries and became the director of the Women's Division of the Penn School of Aeronautics. That same year, Thaden and Earhart participated in the founding of an international organization for women pilots called the Ninety-Nines. Thaden turned down the presidency of the organization but served as the treasurer and vice-president. The Ninety-Nine organization still exists. In 1991, astronaut Eileen Collins carried Thaden's flying helmet into space on the space shuttle to honor her achievements and the early women pioneers of flight. In 1935, Phoebe Omlie, another pioneer female aviator, asked Thaden to become a field representative for the National Air Marking Program.

1936 Bendix Trophy Race

In 1936, Thaden won the Bendix Trophy Race in the first year women were allowed access to compete against men. She set a new world record of 14 hours, 55 minutes from New York City to Los Angeles, California. In her astonishing victory, she flew a Beech C17R Staggerwing biplane and defeated twin-engine planes specifically designed for racing. Laura Ingalls, another aviator, came in second by 45 minutes flying a Lockheed Orion. First prize was $4,500, and she also won the $2,500 prize for a woman finishing. Time magazine wrote on September 14, 1936:

To Pilots Thaden & Noyes the $7,000 prize money was far less gratifying than the pleasure of beating the men. Among the first ten U.S. women to earn transport licenses, they have for years been front-line fighters in aviation's "battle of the sexes." A fuzzy-haired blonde of 30, Mrs. Thaden has been flying since 1927, has held the women's speed, altitude and endurance records, is the mother of a 6-year-old son. She and Flyer Noyes both work regularly as air-marking pilots for the Department of Commerce. Short, brunette Mrs. Noyes is better known as the only pilot ever to fly John D. Rockefeller Sr. In the National Air Races, men contestants have always patronized women, in 1934 ousted them altogether. Smilingly observed Pilots Thaden and Noyes last week when they found they had won one of the two most important events of the Races: "Well, that's a surprise! We expected to be the cow's tail."

For her achievements Thaden won aviation's highest honor given to women, the Harmon Trophy.

Aviation career

Thaden teamed up with Frances Marsalis and set another endurance record by flying a Curtiss Thrush biplane over Long Island, New York for 196 hours. The pair made seventy-eight air-to-air refueling maneuvers. Food and water were lowered to the two by means of a rope from another aircraft. The event gained national attention and the pair made a series of live radio broadcasts from the aircraft.

In 1937, she became the National Secretary of the National Aeronautics Association. Just prior to her retirement, she returned to Beech Aircraft Corporation as a factory representative and demonstration pilot.


Thaden retired from competition in 1938. She worked for a time with the Bureau of Air Commerce to promote the creation of airfields. She also wrote her memoirs, High, Wide and Frightened soon after her retirement. In addition to her memoirs, she wrote numerous newspaper and magazine articles dealing with aviation issues. Thaden said women were "innately better pilots than men." The final chapter of her autobiography, "Noble Experiment," omitted from the 1973 and 2004 reissues of the book, is a short story giving a dystopian vision of the use of women in combat. It gains particular pertinence in its implicit criticism of the strategic bombing theories of Giulio Douhet and William ("Billy") Mitchell.[4]

The Arkansas Aviation Historical Society selected Thaden in 1980 as one of five initial inductees in the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame.


Thaden died of a heart attack at High Point, North Carolina on November 9, 1979.



  1. Corn, Joseph. "Making Flying "Thinkable": Women Pilots and the Selling of Aviation, 1927-1940". The Johns Hopkins University Press. JSTOR 2712272.

  2. "Terry Von Thaden – 2004 Convention" (PDF). Retrieved 12 July 2012.


  4. Erisman, Fred (December 2014). "Louise Thaden's 'Noble Experiment': An American Aviation Dystopia". Journal of American Culture 37:4.

External links



Jesse Vincent

Aviation and Automobile pioneer and legend, Jesse Gurney Vincent, was born February 10, 1880, in Charleston, Arkansas. Vincent's maternal grandfather had been the Chief Engineer and Designer of the Union Army’s railroad operations during the civil war. The son of a blacksmith, Vincent learned his fathers craft and was the proprietor of his own small tool repair business by age 10. When the Vincent family moved to Michigan, young Jesse witnessed firsthand the early 1900’s boom in automobile manufacturing. Having no formal engineering education beyond his years of public school, he taught himself engineering through correspondence schools, building quite a portfolio for patents and designs of business machines. Working briefly as acting engineer of the now historic Hudson Automobile Company, his skills landed him a job as an engineer for Packard Motor Company. Quickly moving through the ranks at Packard between 1912 and 1915, while still in his 30’s, Vincent became V.P. of Packard Engineering. It was here that he designed the now legendary Straight 8 and V-12 engines.
World War one briefly interrupted Vincent's auto career, but earned him newfound challenges and even greater fame. Having been commissioned as a major in The U. S. Army Signal Corps, he achieved immortality for his role in the creation of the Liberty V-12 aircraft engine, for the then Army Air Force. Many of Vincent's V-12 engines were later used in boats and set several World Speed Records at that time. Vincent supervised work on the creation of the first diesel aircraft engine, known as the D-980. This engine, in a 1931 Bellanca CH-300, set a World Record for staying aloft for nearly 85 hours.

Vincent and Packard were also instrumental in building the Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engine during World War 2. 60,000 engines came out of Detroit, and were used to power the P-51 Mustang and UK Spitfire fighters, as well as the Hurricanes and Lancaster Bombers. Vincent was also instrumental in the first ground-to-pilot spoken radio message In 1929, where radio operations were conducted at the Packard Proving Grounds by Jesse’s brother, Charles, also an accomplished engineer.

Acting on his guiding principle that 'no one succeeds alone', Vincent guided Packard to success in automobile and aircraft engines for 33 years. His work for Packard Automotive earned him a place in the Automotive Hall of Fame. A plaque in his honor at the Packard Proving Grounds proclaims Vincent as “ America's master motor builder.”

Jesse Vincent passed in April,1962, at the age of 82.



David Wallace

Born and raised on a farm in Northeast Arkansas, the son of R.D. and Faye Wallace, David Wallace's love of aviation began in the small town of Leachville. As a boy, he was mesmerized by the bombers and other aircraft which often flew only 500 feet over his family's home en route to Blytheville Air Force Base. After High School, Wallace attended Arkansas State University in Jonesboro where he received Officer Training. Upon graduation from ASU in 1970, Wallace entered active duty during the height of the Vietnam conflict. Shot down twice during some of the war's most vicious fighting, his repeated acts of heroism typify a driven patriot, a man who would again and again go beyond the call of duty to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Wallace served as a Lieutenant in the First Calvary Division's Task Force Garryowen, which garnered his division a Presidential Unit Citation for combat action during the bloody Easter Offensive of 1972. Platoon Leader and Aircraft Commander of a flight of 4 Cobra helicopters flying support for a besieged south Vietnamese outpost in bad weather and enemy anti-aircraft fire, Wallace and his men successfully destroyed one target after another, resulting in the rescue of the outpost and sending the enemy into full retreat. Wallace is credited with having fought until the last five minutes of the war in 1973.

Rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in Vietnam, Wallace earned 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 1 Air Medal for Valor, 2 Vietnam Crosses for Gallantry, and 1 Vietnamese Honor Medal. He was awarded the Legion of Merit, The Bronze Star, and 18 Air Medals. Having served in the military for twenty-one years, he was inducted into the Arkansas State University ROTC Hall of Heroes in 2010. David Wallace and his wife Karen live in Leachville, Arkansas, and are the parents of two children, Jason and Kelly Wallace. No stranger to disaster, Wallace now operates a disaster restoration company and has been instrumental in clean-up and rescue operations after major storms have impacted the Southeast.