Hearts Turn Skyward For Younkin, Franklin

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Jimmy Franklin and Bobby Younkin were lost to this world July 10, but at AirVenture the two men are this week held close at heart. Just last year at AirVenture, the men and their X-Team left all onlookers wide-eyed with the Masters Of Disaster display -- if you were on the grounds last year, you likely couldn't look away. Younkin was awarded the World Airshow News Bill Barber Award for Showmanship here at AirVenture last year. But for a pair of men who together shared more than seventy years of flight experience and thrilled air show-goers for decades, the flying ended in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on a Sunday when their craft collided in mid air. Monday, the greatest general aviation gathering in the country began in tribute. A missing man formation was flown to a lone bugle that played Taps. The tribute at the same time both recognized the lost performers Younkin and Franklin, and officially started the show. The moment was punctuated as the show's biggest arrival and welcome -- SpaceShipOne, its host White Knight, its entourage of money-man and dreamer Paul Allen, designer Burt Rutan, pilots Brian Binney and Mike Melvil, plus EAA president Tom Poberezny -- stopped in the middle of their arrival press conference to remove cover as each man turned with hand on heart to face the display. It was a moment to remember. In memoriam, recall your stories with those who never saw the men fly, relive the emotions the displays evoked and share the memory of Jimmy Franklin and Bobby Younkin, lost to us, too soon.