Arizona Aerospace Foundation Adds Three to the Aviation Hall of Fame

The Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame has named three new inductees. The aviation pioneers were recognized at the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame’s 21st Annual Induction Ceremony held April 17 at the Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia in Tucson, Arizona.

The new members of the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, located inside the Dorothy Finley Space Gallery at the Pima Air & Space Museum, are Tucsonan Barbara Lee Harper,  Phoenix area resident Maj. Gen. Donald L. Owens (AANG.Ret.), and, in memoriam,  Phoenix resident Clifford M. Sterrenberg.

Harper came to Arizona in the early 1970s and was hired as a flight instructor at Tucson International Airport.  She has been a member of the Civil Air Patrol since 1971 and served as the Chief Pilot for the Davis-Monthan AFB Aero Club from 1975 to 1984.  From 1989 until she retired in 1998, she was a pilot for Continental Airlines.

She did aerial survey work for organizations studying archeological sites.  This interest let to her earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Arizona.  She also received Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Phoenix in Organizational Management. Harper has worked extensively with both the FAA and pilot’s organizations to improve aviation communications and enhance flight safety.

She is a member of numerous aviation organizations including; the Operations Council of the Tucson Airport authority, the Arizona Aero club, the Arizona Pilots Associations, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, the 99s, and the National Aeronautic Association.

Maj. Gen. Owens, a native of Phoenix, joined the Arizona Air National Guard as a private in 1952. He served nearly 45 years.  He received his Air Force pilot’s wings in 1953 along with his commission as an officer.  In 1956, he became the Chief of Maintenance for the Phoenix Air National Guard Base at Sky Harbor International Airport, a position he held for the next 20 years.  He was responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft of the 161st Air Refueling Group.

In 1977, he became the Chief of Base Activities for the Phoenix Air National Guard Base. A year later, he became Commander of the 161st Air Refueling Group.  From 1983 to 1985, he was the Commanding General of the Arizona Air National Guard.  In 1985, he became the Adjutant General and Director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, a position he held until 1994.

Since his retirement from the Air National Guard, General Owens has worked as a consultant for several defense contractors and as the Director of Military Programs for Robertson Aviation.

Sterrenberg learned to fly in 1937. When he was 19, he received his Commercial and Instrument pilot ratings through the famous Parks Air College.  In 1940, he began work as an Army flight instructor through the Civilian Pilot Training Program.  He worked as an instructor throughout the war in Alabama and South Carolina, spending more than 3,000 hours in the air teaching future Army pilots to fly in the PT-17, PT-13, and PT-19.

After World War II, Sterrenberg continued to work as a flight instructor.  In 1965, he became the Chief Flight Instructor and aerobatic flight instructor with Rhodell Aviation in Phoenix.  Over the next few years, Rhodell became the foremost aerobatics school in the country based on programs put in place by Sterrenberg.  He is one of the few people to have spent their entire aviation career as an instructor.  His students included both new and experienced pilots, several of whom went on to become aerobatic champions.  By the end of his career in the late 1980s, he had over 10,000 hours of flight time as an instructor.  Sterrenberg lived in Arizona until his death in 1990.

The Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame was started in 1985 to recognize Arizona men and women who made significant contributions to aerospace and aviation development.  Noteworthy Arizona aviators who are in the Hall of Fame include Col. Frank Borman, Senator Barry Goldwater and Senator John McCain.