A Legendary Aviation Evening

Prince Harry
Credit: William Garvey

Satin gowns, black tuxedos and broad smiles were de rigueur in Los Angeles on Jan. 19 as some 700 attendees gathered for the 21st annual celebration and installation of Living Legends of Aviation.

Always a glam and festive event—part reunion and part star-sprinkled, post-New Year’s bash—this year’s convocation in the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom also had a special regal whiff.

Once again, John Travolta hosted the evening’s awards presentations. And while this year’s honorees touched all segments of aerospace, business and general aviation were especially well represented.

The night’s first inductee was quite familiar to long-time BCA readers since his byline and signature aircraft and avionics evaluations appeared on its pages every month for more than two decades. A veteran U.S. Navy aviator with 300+ carrier landings, Fred George later flew charter, conducted aviation seminars and then transferred his piloting knowledge and instructional skill to the written page. Over the years his expert reportage was published in Aviation Week, ShowNews and Flying in addition to BCA, from which he retired as senior editor in 2020. An ATP with flight time in 230+ aircraft, his features won him numerous journalism awards plus a loyal international readership.

The year’s Legends group also included Marc Parent, president and CEO of CAE, the Canadian simulator manufacturer and training provider. Prior to joining CAE in 2005, he held numerous executive positions with Canadair and, later, Bombardier. Also an ATP, Parent was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Aviation Week, among other honors.

A third ATP inducted was Steve Hinton, who set the world speed record for piston-powered, prop-driven aircraft, and who has piloted aircraft in some 100 movie and television productions. A warbird specialist, he launched Fighter Rebuilders, a company that has to date restored 44 historic aircraft, most recently a Lockheed Constellation.

The fourth and final inductee, a combat veteran Apache pilot, humanitarian and best-selling author, carries the title of Duke of Sussex, but is best known as Britain’s Prince Harry. In accepting a Legend’s ribbon and medal, he teased Travolta, noting that when the host famously danced with his “Mum,” Princess Diana, Harry missed out since he was just one year old. But now, he added, “Captain John” could correct that oversight by flying with him.

And while “proud to be recognized among such a dynamic and inspiring group of individuals,” he added, “it is important to remember that aviation only advances by celebrating each and every person—from design and factory floor to mechanics and safety staff. All these individuals are the true living legends of aviation in my book because without them, we’d never leave the ground.”

In addition to presenting the four newest Legends, the event also celebrated aerospace leaders of signal achievement. Thus:
•    Mark Burns, the president and 40-year veteran of Gulfstream who is leading the development, certification and production of the company’s next-generation G600, G700 and G800 business jets,  was presented with the Lifetime Aviation Industry Award;
•    Linden Blue, former president of Beech Aircraft, CEO of Lear Fan Ltd., COO of Gates Learjet and now vice chairman of General Atomics, a leading company in fusion and sensor development for remotely piloted vehicles. For that, and more, he received the Dr. Sam Williams Technology Award; 

•    Lance Toland, attorney, long-time commercial pilot, former collector of vintage warbirds, and founder of an eponymous and much-respected aviation insurance brokerage with multiple Georgia locations, was given the Freedom of Flight Award;
•    Lauren Sanchez, a former Southern California television news journalist and anchor, rotary wing pilot, founder of Black Ops Aviation and vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund, received the Elling Halvorson Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award;
•    Laurans “Larry” Mendelson, president and CEO of HEICO of which he assumed control in 1990 and grew into an international aerospace and electronics producer valued at $21 billion, received the Kenn Ricci Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award;

•    And Kyle Clark, an engineer, pilot, former pro hockey player and founder/CEO of Vermont-based BETA Technologies which is developing ALIA, an all-electric fixed wing and VTOL aircraft and charging infrastructure, was presented the Eren Ozmen Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The Living Legends of Aviation and awards ceremony are organized by the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy of Littleton CO. A non-profit, 501 (C) (3) organization, its mission is to generate interest among youths in all aspects of aerospace and help to create the Legends of the future.

A European edition of the celebration is scheduled for Aug. 27 in Salzburg, Austria, while the next class U.S. event will take place Jan. 17, 2025, at the Beverly Hilton.


William Garvey

Bill was Editor-in-Chief of Business & Commercial Aviation from 2000 to 2020. During his stewardship, the monthly magazine received scores of awards for editorial excellence.