The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) this morning awarded its 11th Annual Combs Gates Award to aviation artist, Mike Machat, of Woodland Hills, California. Machat is being recognized for his 10’ by 20’ mural titled Fly DOUGLAS!, located at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, California. Machat received the $20,000 Combs Gates Award in a formal presentation at a special session of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) 66th Annual Meeting & Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“I wanted to pay tribute to the life and career and vision of Donald Wills Douglas,” said Machat in his acceptance speech. “I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award.”
Presenting Machat his award were NAHF Chairman of the Board, Philip A. Roberts, accompanied by Hall of Fame enshrinees including former astronaut and the last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan; business aviation pioneer and aerial cinematographer, Clay Lacy; and air show legends Bob Hoover and Sean D. Tucker. NAHF Enshrinement Director, Ron Kaplan, led the presentation ceremony.
According to the artist, the Fly DOUGLAS mural preserves America’s rich aviation heritage by depicting some of the greatest and most legendary commercial aircraft ever built, reminding viewers that the U.S. was once the world leader in aircraft production, and specifically airliners. From the pioneering DC-3 to the stalwart DC-6, and from the DC-8 jetliner to the wide-body DC-10, America’s technical supremacy led the way in aircraft manufacturing, and Douglas led the way in airliners.
“The specific aviation era depicted in Fly DOUGLAS! from 1933 through 1970 was by far the most significant time period for the development of the commercial airliner, and is considered today as the Golden Age of Air Travel,” said Machat.
Although rivals Lockheed and Boeing also built noteworthy piston-powered commercial airliners, the artist noted they were never produced in the same quantities reached by the industry leading Douglas Aircraft Company. The mural is publicly displayed in the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport, located across the runway from the original Douglas factory site.
NBAA convention attendees are invited to stop by the Hall of Fame’s show exhibit (Booth #C10125) to meet Mike Machat and view a scale reproduction print of his award winning mural.
“Douglas brought us the machines that gave us the modern transportation system that we enjoy and almost take for granted today,” the artist added.
The prestigious Combs Award, its original title, grew out of a donation to the NAHF by the late Harry Combs, a 1996 enshrinee of the Hall of Fame. As part of his generous $1.3 million gift for the creation of a NAHF research center, Combs stipulated that the Combs Award be established to encourage and support relevant aviation history research and preservation efforts. A panel of expert judges reviews each submission based upon criteria such as historical accuracy, creativity, potential for long-term impact, and value to the Hall of Fame mission of honoring America’s outstanding air and space pioneers.
Combs was instrumental to the growth and development of business aviation. Consequently the NAHF partnered with the NBAA to host the award presentation at its annual meeting and convention, the largest purely civil aviation event in the world. The inaugural award was presented at the Opening General Session of the NBAA Meeting & Convention in 2003, the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight.
John Gates and his sister, Diane G. Wallach, are co-trustees of the Gates Frontiers Fund, created by their late parents and philanthropists, Charles C. and June S. Gates. The late Mr. Gates, who passed away in 2005 at age 84, was a partner with Combs in several aviation businesses including the Combs Gates FBO chain and Gates Learjet. This year marks the tenth year for the award and the seventh year with the name changed to reflect a multi-year commitment by the Gates Frontiers Fund to fund the award.
The award pays homage to Gates’ belief in the benefit of historic preservation and study, and to Combs’ own research efforts behind his acclaimed 1979 book, Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secrets of the Wright Brothers. Combs was inspired to write the book after close friend and fellow NAHF enshrinee, Neil Armstrong, presented him a bound collection of the Wright Brothers’ personal papers.
Combs died in December 2003 at age 90. During the inaugural award ceremony at the NBAA convention held a month before his passing, Combs remarked, “Just as Neil’s gift inspired me to discover the secrets of the Wrights, I want to motivate a new generation of historians, researchers and preservationists to continue the process of clarifying and preserving our nation’s amazing air and space history for generations to come.”
To find out more about the NAHF or to secure an application for next year’s Combs Gates Award, please contact the NAHF Harry B. Combs Research Department at (937) 256-0944, Ext. 10, or visit www.nationalaviation.org.
For more information about Clay Lacy, visit: www.claylacy.com