NAHF Announces Call For Entries For Combs Gates Award


The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) has officially announced its nationwide “call for entries” for the 14th Annual Combs Gates Award. The prestigious $20,000 cash award is presented each year to an individual or group for a submitted project judged to be exemplary in the promotion and preservation of America’s air and space heritage.

The subject of submitted projects ideally spotlights one or more of the 229 men and women aviation pioneers that have been inducted, to date, into the Congressionally-chartered, non-profit NAHF. The 2016 award ceremony will take place during a special session of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual meeting and convention. The NBAA convention is the largest civil aviation event in the world and this year takes place on November 1-3 in Orlando, Florida. Officials from the NAHF and NBAA will present the award, joined by several previous enshrinees of the NAHF.

Among projects eligible for the Combs Gates Award are books, film/video, public exhibits, photography and artwork. The deadline for 2016 submissions is June 13. Full details of the guidelines are posted on the Awards Presentations page of A blue ribbon panel of five judges independently 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. Applicants will be notified of the winner by August 29, 2016.

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. 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. In 2006, the award name was changed to reflect the Gates Frontiers Fund’s support, paying 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.”

Last year’s recipient was filmmaker Kim Furst for her documentary, “Flying the Feathered Edge: The Bob Hoover Project.” NAHF Director of Enshrinement and Outreach, Ron Kaplan, said, “The Combs Gates Award is the pinnacle honor for those dedicated historians who research and produce great content, often in obscurity, so that the rest of us can learn and be inspired by the legacies of our nation’s air and space pioneers.”