U.S. Air Force four-star Gen. William Young Smith. The "Face of General Aviation" John Knight. Jim Gaston of Gaston's White River Resort. Central Flying Service Chairman and Chef Executive Officer Richard "Dick" Holbert. These men are some of the heroes of the new chairman of the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society.
Richard Dawe, president of Ozarka College in Melbourne, recently was installed as the 2018 chairman of the society. Its mission: Honor Arkansans who have played a large role in the state's aviation and aerospace history and provide scholarships to students who want to pursue careers in aviation.
"The priority remains honoring the inductees to the Aviation Hall of Fame," Dawe says of the society. "But with the addition of the scholarships, it also is helping advance the future aviation heroes of Arkansas."
The society began honoring Arkansas aviators and champions of aviation in 1980. After taking a four-year break, the awards resumed in 2015. Eighty-nine people have been inducted to date.
Smith, who died in January 2016, was inducted posthumously last year into the Aviation Hall of Fame. Born in Hot Springs, Smith served as chief of staff of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and deputy commander in chief of the U.S. European Command. He retired from military service in 1983.
Knight attended high school in Star City and the University of Arkansas at Monticello. He was director of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics for almost 30 years before retiring in 2014, earning him the nickname "Face of Aviation."
Gaston, who died in July 2013, spent more than 10 years as an aerobatic air show performer. He was so accomplished, the Federal Aviation Administration named him an FAA Safety Designee, giving him an unlimited waiver for air show performances.
Holbert is chairman and CEO of Central Flying Services. He learned to fly when he was 14 and took his first solo flight at 16. He co-founded the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society in 1979 to preserve aviation history in the state and establish the Hall of Fame.
Dawe's work at Ozarka College and the society are a perfect fit. Ozarka is about to enter its third year of offering an associate of science degree in aviation. The college partners with Henderson State University so the students who want to can go on to earn a four-year degree. Twenty student pilots are enrolled at Ozarka this year.
Dawe's love of aviation dates back to his father, who was a captain with Trans World Airlines. The family lived in Thayer, Mo., about five miles from Mammoth Spring, Ark.
"Myself and my two brothers grew up in the back of various airplanes flying with the family and inhaling second-hand smoke in the old days," Dawe says.
Dawe decided he wanted to fly in the military and was offered a commission as a U.S. Air Force navigator.
"My dad said 'Well, if you don't want to be a navigator, you know the Navy flies airplanes.' But what he didn't tell me is that they land on the boat at night," he says.
As an aviator in the U.S. Navy, Dawe made about 750 carrier landings. He retired as a Navy captain in 2004.
"Richard Dawe, by his experience as a former Navy captain and his serving as a college president, is the perfect choice for heading the AAHS," Holbert says. "His love of aviation and history seals the deal."
Dawe and his wife, Chris, both have pilot licenses. She runs a credit union consulting business. They have two grown children, Richard Dawe Jr. and Stephanie Shine, and three grandchildren.
"My wife and I are absolutely very enthusiastic pilots and do a lot of things in aviation at a small level and we are very engaged so anything we can do to advance aviation in our state we want to be involved with," he says.
The couple owns several airplanes including a Cessna 310 and a Yak-52.
The aviation scholarships are funded by the society's annual Hall of Fame event and dinner, according to Holbert. This year's event will take place Nov. 8.
Money raised at the event covered three $3,000 scholarships this school year at Ozarka and HSU.
"Our concept at our small rural college is walk before you run and do things in an incremental way so we don't overextend ourselves," Dawe says. "We are fiscally conservative and the flight program is no different."
Ozarka College offers an Associate of Science in Aviation-Professional Pilot degree.
The program is designed to put students on the fast track to becoming commercial pilots. At Ozarka, students learn the required skills to earn a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land rating from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Through the partnership with HSU, students can complete the 60 additional credit hours to earn a Bachelor of Science in Aviation. Henderson's Department of Aviation is Arkansas' only university program offering a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in aviation.
More information about the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society and the Aviation Hall of Fame can be found at arkavhs.com.
“My wife and I are absolutely very enthusiastic pilots and do a lot of things in aviation at a small level and we are very engaged so anything we can do to advance aviation in our state we want to be involved with.”
High Profile on 01/28/2018
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