7th Annual 'Living Legends of Aviation'(R) Awards Ceremony to Honor Tom Cruise, Dr. Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin and Other Aviation Legends

Jan 12, 2010, 18:12 ET from Kiddie Hawk Air Academy

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Jan. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The 7th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards, presented by Learjet, are taking flight on January 22nd at the Beverly Hilton.

John Travolta, the official Ambassador of Aviation, will present Tom Cruise with the "Top Aviation Inspiration and Patriotism Award." Tom Cruise's passion for aviation started at a young age. Growing up in modest economic conditions, Cruise's family moved frequently but once young Tom hung his P-51 Mustang photo in his bedroom, he felt at home.  Not surprisingly, he now owns a P-51 Mustang and other aircraft and is an accomplished aerobatic pilot.  Top Gun, the highest grossing aviation movie of all time, has inspired generations of young pilots and patriotism in many Americans.  Cruise's flying machines and commitment to aviation define his passion for flight.

Dr. Buzz Aldrin will receive the "First Out of This World Landing and Take-Off Award." John Travolta, the Ambassador of Aviation, will present the award.  Buzz took his first airplane ride with his father when he was 2 years old.  His father, a military man, served as aide to Billy Mitchell, the father of the U.S. Air Force. As a boy, Buzz showed an early interest in all things mechanical, designing all types of contraptions.  As a young man he flew 66 missions in Korea.  Astoundingly, walking on the moon barely tops the very long list of successes and challenges that have defined Buzz Aldrin's life as a pilot, military man, scientist, astronaut and one of the world's most forward-thinking futurists.  "The world needs to venture outward to satisfy our curiosity, our need to achieve and learn more about our place in this magnificent universe," says Aldrin.  In 2009, the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11.  He is one of only 12 astronauts to walk on the moon, and at age 80, is not slowing down. Buzz Aldrin continues to inspire.

Often referred to as the "Academy Awards of Aviation," the aviation Legends awards gala is produced by Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, a non-profit organization that introduces kids to aviation. The awards ceremony recognizes great work, dedication and accomplishments in aviation. The importance of leadership and commitment to aviation in these challenging times make this recognition event even more significant.

Additional awards presented by the Legends throughout the evening include:

Preston Henne – "Aviation Industry Leader of the Year" – Pres Henne has earned the aviation industry's highest leadership award.  Henne became VP of General Dynamics in July 1999 when the company acquired Gulfstream.  He is responsible for Gulfstream's product program management, engineering, and flight operations.  He joined Gulfstream in 1994 and is credited with the design, development and certification of the Gulfstream V aircraft, which was awarded the 1997 Collier Trophy.  Henne's leadership, management and engineering skills have earned him extraordinary respect and admiration throughout the aviation industry.

Elon Musk - "Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year" – South African born, Elon Musk, an American physicist, inventor, entrepreneur, innovator and philanthropist, is best known for founding PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX.  His father inspired his love of technology. In 1999 Musk co-founded x.com, an online financial services and email payments company. He later changed the company's name to PayPal and sold the company in 2002.   Musk founded Tesla Motors, and is Chairman and CEO of the electric sports car company.  The company is now developing an economical four-door electric sedan.  Musk founded and serves as Chairman and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which was recently awarded a multi-billion dollar contract with the U.S. Government to develop and build space launch vehicles for NASA to replace the retiring space shuttles.  

Joe Clark - "Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur" - Joe Clark's early fascination with aviation developed into a lifelong passion.  He founded JetAir, the first Learjet distributorship in the Northwest in 1965.  His career moved to Raisbeck Engineering where he became VP of Sales.  He later partnered with Milt Koult to form Horizon Air, a highly successful Seattle-based regional airline that was purchased by Alaska Airlines.  In 1988, Clark, Clay Lacy, and Bruce McCaw formed the Friendship Foundation, raising more than $500,000 for children's charities, as they set a world speed record flying a 747 around the world.  In 1991, Clark and Dennis Washington founded Aviation Partners, inventing and developing blended winglets.  Clark's innovations and entrepreneurial impact reach well beyond the aviation industry.  His patented winglets are making a huge ecological impact, saving millions of gallons of fuel and diminishing wear on aircraft engines. A recipient of the Horatio Alger award in 2008, Clark is the only person who has been honored as both Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year and Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur, receiving the Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2005.

Kermit Weeks – "Bob Hoover Freedom of Flight Award" - As a child, Kermit Weeks was a "dreamer and a designer."  When he was 13, his life's focus became flight and aircraft. He was always fascinated with technical things. Weeks has the largest private collection of vintage aircraft in the world, with over 140 aircraft. All of these aircraft are well-maintained and flying. As founder of Fantasy of Flight, Weeks is dedicated to teaching young people about aviation and flight.  Fantasy of Flight is billed as "the world's greatest aviation attraction."

Kurt Russell – "Aviation Mentor Award" – Highly successful life-long actor Kurt Russell says, "Flying has taught me more about who I really am than anything I've ever done."  Nearly 22 years into his love affair with flying, he encourages others to fly and mentors many pilots in and out of the entertainment business.  He's positively passionate about learning every aspect of flying.  "You know what they say about a pilot's license? It's a license to learn." Kurt continues,  "Leave your ego at the door; when you get into a plane, it's serious business. And yes, it's a love affair in the air that continues to add joy to my life."

"I consider being inducted in the Living Legends of Aviation (in 2007) among the most important happenings of my life." -- Aviation Legend Bob Lutz (Co-Chair General Motors)

This year's celebrity/ Legend attendees include: John Travolta, Bob Hoover, Kurt Russell, Clay Lacy, Morgan Freeman, Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Tom Cruise, Joe Clark, Maj. Gen. William Anders, Cliff Robertson, Tony Bill, Dr. Forrest Bird, Carroll Shelby, James Raisbeck, Linden Blue, Barron Hilton, Sir Richard Branson, Harrison Ford, Gene Cernan, Julie Clark, Dick Rutan, Pat Epps, Greg Herrick, Alan Klapmeier, Bob Lutz, Lee Iacocca, Bruce McCaw, Lorenzo Lamas, Max Moga, Zoe Dell Lantis Nutter, Paul Poberezny, Mike Melvill, Vern Raburn, Si Robin, Frank Robinson, Ed Swearingen, Sean Tucker, Steven Udvar-Hazy, Emily Howell-Warner and Kermit Weeks.

For more information or to purchase tickets please visit: livinglegendsofaviation.org

About Living Legends of Aviation:

The "Living Legends of Aviation" are 70 admirable people of remarkable accomplishment in aviation including: entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders, record breakers, astronauts, pilots who have become celebrities and celebrities who have become pilots.  The Legends meet yearly to recognize and honor individuals that have made significant contributions in aviation.  Living Legends of Aviation is a registered trademark.

About Kiddie Hawk Air Academy:

The event is produced by the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, a non-profit 501(c)(3) qualified organization. Kiddie Hawk introduces kids ages 5 thru 11 to flight with the Kiddie Hawk Trainer. The Kiddie Hawk Trainer allows kids to take their first flight lesson with the sophistication of motion and control of real flight, piloting their airplane, albeit just a few feet off the ground.  Kiddie Hawk follows the students as they progress, making scholarships available as Kiddie Hawk pilots enter actual flight training.  The Kiddie Hawk program also introduces youngsters to other aviation related careers.

SOURCE Kiddie Hawk Air Academy