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  • Writer's pictureBrooke Samuelson

Three from AZ

Every pilot has a goal that they want to accomplish, be that joining the airlines to fly internationally or joining NASA and going to space, these goals are the fuel to pilots to continue through the hardships and achieve their dreams. All pilots must start somewhere. The Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame discusses pilots that have made an impact on aviation and details their history into the career. Many of these inductees are still talked about today while others are not widely known. Some are from Arizona themselves or have just been inducted into it for their accomplishments.

It is important to remember that all of these pilots started at ground zero, just like you. These remarkable pilots can serve as an example of how hard work can create endless possibilites.

Berry M. Goldwater

In 1909 in Pheonix, Arizona Berry M. Goldwater was born. He was born to his father Baron M. Goldwater and his mother Hattie Josephine Williams. He would grow up and take over the family business of running a department store until World War II sent a reserve commission into the United States Army Air Force. Goldwater was placed into the Ferry Command as a supplier runner to warzones all around the world. These routes that he would have to fly were dangerous due to the chances of being shotdown or the routes needed to be taken. One particular route that Goldwater flew, was "The Hump". A supply route into the Republic of China that went over the Himalayas. However, flying supplies during the war is not what Goldwater is particularly known for.

After the war ended, Goldwater would go on to help create the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), a renowned school in El Paso, Colorado that educates cadets for the Air Force and the Space Force. He would later serve on the board of advisors for the academy. After his time at the USAFA, Goldwater would then help create the Arizona Air National Guard and would also desegregate the gaurd two years before the rest of the U.S. Military. Goldwater would serve as a Command Pilot in the Arizona Air National Guard until 1967 retiring with a rank of Major General.

Outside of his military career, Goldwater also had a political career as a Senator in the U.S. Government between 1952-1958. He would also try to run for president during the 1964 presidential election against John F. Kennedy, a very close friend to Goldwater. In 1963, following Kennedy's assasination, a grief stricken Goldwater would now run against the Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson. Goldwater couldn't recover from his grief of loosing his close friend and would lose to Johnson by a landslide.

Throughout his life, Goldwater has made countless of contributions to the United States both militarily and politically. Berry M. Goldwater passed away in 1998 at the age of 89 in Paradise Valley. He left a memorable life, leaving with starting the USAFA, the Arizona Air National Gaurd, becoming a Major General, serving as senator, and recieving over 10 military awards. The USAFA's visiting center is name in his honor for anyone wanting to visit it.

Frank Luke Jr.

Frank Luke Jr. was born in 1897 in Phoenix, Arizona to his father and mother who had immigrated from Germany in 1874. Luke was the fifth of eight children and excelled in sports and boxing during his teen years. In September of 1917, Luke would enlist into the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps, three years after the start of World War I and five months after the United States entered the war. In March 1918, he would be commissioned as a second lieutenant and go to France for further training. In July of the same year, Luke would be finally assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron.

The 27th Aero Squadron, was a squadron of fighter pilots that were assigned to destroy German observation balloons. These missions were very dangerous as the balloons were heavily guarded by anti-aircraft guns stationed on the ground. Despite these dangers, Luke and his close friend Lieutenant Joseph Wehner often volunteered to take on these targets. Luke and Wehner weren't liked by some of their peers and superiors as they often disobeyed orders and tendencies to fly alone. The duo were excellent at attacking the balloons as Luke would attack the balloons and Wehner would fly as protective cover. Due to these repetitive attacks, Luke garnered the nickname "The Balloon Buster".

Sadly, Wehner would be killed in action on September 18, 1918 defending Luke while he was in a dogfight. During this fight, Luke would go on to shoot down two Fokker D.VIIs, two balloons, and a Halberstadt. These killers enabled Luke to achieve his 13th official kill. He would make is 14th and 15th kills during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Luke would pass away on September 29, 1918, at the age of 21, after a bullet from a machine gun stationed on the ground struck him in the chest. He would passaway 200 meters from his plane that he landed while trying to get to a stream for cover. His body was retrieved and buried in Murvaux, France by German soldiers 2 days after his death. His body would be retrieved two months later by American forces where he was then laid in his final resting place in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial.

Following the war, Luke would be awarded the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and the War Merit Cross. An airforce base in Pheonix, Arizona has been named in his honor, it is the Luke Air Force Base. Lukeville, Arizona is also named in his honor, it is about a two-in-a-half car ride to as it sits as an entry point into Mexico. There is a statue of Luke on the ground of the State Capitol in Pheonix and a memorial to honor Frank and his 1918 class from Pheonix Union High School.

During his time of flying for the 27th Aero Squadron, Frank would shoot down 14 German balloons and four airplanes resulting in 18 confirmed victories during 10 sorties in an 8 day period. These kills made Frank Luke Jr. an ace, the second-ranking United States ace during World War I.

Frank Borman

Frank Borman was born in Gary, Indiana in 1928 to his father Edwin Borman and his mother Marjorie Borman. Frank would move to Tucson, Arizona as a child due to the climate in Indiana affecting his health issues as he dealt with sinus and mastoid problems. Borman was introduced to aviation in 1941, Borman aged 13, when his family found work at a Consolidated Vultee aircraft factory down in Tucson. Two years later Borman would get his pilots license at Gilpin Field and joined a flying club.

Borman wanted to study aeronautical enginering but his family could not afford to send him to university and he had no connections to get into the United States Military Academy at West Point. With encountering multple deadends, Borman decided we would enter the Army so that he could qualify for the G.I. Bill and gain free tuition. However, luck struck him when a friends father got him an interview with Richard Harless, Arizona's congressman at the time. This landed Borman as the 3rd alternative for West Point. Borman passed the West Point entrance exam and after graduating from high school he was flying out to West Point as those in line before him dropped out.

He would graduate in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science and ranked 8th in his class of 670. After graduation he was a second lieutenant in the Air Force and would avoid fighting in the Korean War as he suffered from a ruptured ear dream, he was instead sent to the Philippines in 1951. He would return home soon after and in 1955 he would transfer to Luke Air Force Base, the one named after Frank Luke Jr..

In 1957 he would be an assistant instructor at West Point but would leave the position as in 1960 Borman would become a test pilot at United States Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. This even would lead him into being accepted as 1 of 5 students into the Aerospace Research Pilot School, which was a school that would begin preparing Borman to become an astronaut, the first class at this school. Two years later, Borman would apply to NASA to become an astronaut which would lead him to be part of the Next Nine, a group of astronauts who were there to assist the Mercury Seven to fly Project Gemini. This acceptance would end Borman's Air Force career as he officially becomes an astronuat for NASA. Borman logged 3,600 hours of flight time, 3,000 of that being in a jet aircraft.

At NASA, Borman was assigned to be the backup co-pilot on Gemini 3, however he would be changed to being the main co-pilot for Gemini 6. Borman and his commanding pilot were moved to be the prime crew of Gemini 3 in 1963 after the commanding pilot was grounded. However, this was also changed when the commanding pilot said he could not work with Borman. Borman was then moved to commander of Gemini 7 with his co-pilot being Jim Lovell.

Gemini 7 launched December 6, 1965 at 14:03 local time and would return from space on December 18, 1965, a twelve day mission. Upon landing, Borman was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and was promoted to Colonel, the youngest full colonel in the Air Force at only 37 years old. Due to flying in Gemini 7, Borman was asked to be the commander for the Apollo 8 mission on December 21, 1968. During this mission, Borman fell ill with space adaptation syndrome, which affects some astrounauts as their bodies adjust to their first day in space. Apollo 8 would become the first to have humankind circle another celestial body. The famous picture, Earthrise, was photographed by member Bill Anders.

Borman would be elected in the International Space Hall of Fame and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1982. Before his retirement in 1970, Borman would join President Nixon in watching the Apollo 11 space mission landing on the moon. In June 1970, Borman retired from NASA and the Air Force where he was awarded over 15 awards for both his work in NASA and the U.S. Air Force. He has spent over 19 days in space and has well over 4,000 flying time combined. Borman is still alive to this day and his currently 95 years old.

Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame

The Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame has a lot more inductees outside of these three, these are just the three that had some of the biggest influence on aviation here in Arizona since the first World War. There are many more that have had modern day impacts and contributions to other areas of aviation outside of Arizona. If you would like to check that out, click here.

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