The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) has announced that Sarah Byrn Rickman’s two-volume work, “WASPs Pilots,” has earned its author the 17th Annual Combs-Gates Award.
Rickman will be presented the $20,000 cash prize on Tuesday, October 22nd, at the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA’s) 72nd annual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (BACE) in Las Vegas, Nevada. NAHF Trustees making the presentation will be joined by NAHF Enshrinees, NAHF Board of Trustees, NBAA Board Members and several other aviation dignitaries.
WASPs Pilots, which are written for the young readers age 10 an up, consists of two biographies, Nancy Love and Barbara “BJ” Erickson. Love founded and commanded the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), who were 28 experienced women pilots who flew as part of the U.S. Army Air Forces beginning in fall 1942. The 28 grew in time to 303 women pilots who ferried 12,652 military aircraft, logging more than 60 million miles. Erickson commanded a squadron of approximately 75 women ferry pilots, attached to the 6th Ferrying Group, Long Beach, CA. She proved to be an exceptional leader and was one of Love’s most versatile pilots, ferrying a wide range of Army aircraft, including the four-engine B-17 bomber and all the WWII pursuit (fighter) aircraft.
Sarah Byrn Rickman, who has a B.A. in English, Vanderbilt University, and an M.A. in Creative Writing, Antioch University, is the author of nine books about the WASPs. Rickman has written nine nationally published articles about the WASP. Before becoming a full-time writer, Rickman worked as a reporter and columnist for The Detroit News, and later, as editor of a suburban newspaper. She has spoken on the WASP at the National WASP WWII Museum and the Ninety-Nines International Conference; and for numerous other libraries and organizations. Rickman is also a pilot who flies vintage tailwheel aircraft.
The Combs Award, the original title, grew out of a donation to the NAHF by the late Harry Combs, a 1996 Enshrinee of the NAHF. As part of a $1.3 million gift to help fund 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 review each submission based upon criteria such as historical accuracy, creativity, potential for long-term impact, and value to the NAHF’s 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 business aviation event in the world. The inaugural award was presented at the Opening General Session of the NBAA’s 2003 convention, which was held in conjunction with 100th anniversary of the first powered flight.
John Gates and his sister, Diane G. Wallach, are co-trustees of the Gates Frontiers Fund, a foundation created by their late parents, Charles C. and June S. Gates. Mr. Gates, who passed away in 2005 at age 84, was former Chairman and CEO of the Gates Corporation, an avid multi-engine and helicopter pilot, and partner with Combs in several aviation businesses, including the Combs Gates FBO chain and Gates Learjet. This year marks the 17th year for the award and its 14th year with the name changed to reflect a multi-year commitment by the Gates Frontiers Fund to endow the award.
The award pays homage to Gates’ belief in the benefit of historic preservation to educate and inspire, and to Combs’ own research efforts behind his acclaimed 1979 book, “Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secrets of the Wright Brothers.”