Famous Kansans » Transportation
Ruth Blaney Alexander
- Born: May 18, 1905
- Died: September 18, 1930
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Irving
Ruth Blaney Alexander was a female aviation pioneer who began her flying career in 1929 and became the 65th licensed female pilot in the United States. Less than 24 hours after attaining her license she took off from Lindbergh Field in San Diego and set an altitude record for women in light planes at 15,718 feet. In 1930 she became the first female glider instructor in the United States and later in 1930 she set a new altitude world record in light planes (for both men and women) at 26,600 feet. She died when her plane crashed into a hill in dense fog shortly after take-off while attempting a transcontinental flight from San Diego to New York.
Edward J. Dwight, Jr.
- Born: September 3, 1933
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Kansas City
Edward J. Dwight, Jr. was the first African-American to be appointed to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut training school in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. However, he faced significant resentment from his fellow students and instructors for what was viewed as a political, racially motivated assignment. Shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 he was reassigned out of the training school and he would eventually resign from the U.S. Air Force in 1966. Today he is an internationally renowned sculptor whose works include bronze statues of African-American historical figures in public and private spaces throughout the country.
- Born: July 24, 1897
- Died: January 5, 1939
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Atchison
Amelia Earhart was a female aviation pioneer who began flying in 1922, becoming the 16th licensed female pilot, and set many early avaiation records for women. She is most famous for being the first woman to fly as a passenger across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 and in 1932 she was the first woman to pilot a plane solo across the Atlantic. For her solo flight she was the first woman to received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion on Honor from the French Government and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society. Other records she set where women's altitude records, the first woman to fly an autogyro, the first woman to fly coast-to-coast across the United States, the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California and many other records. In 1937 she attempted to circumnavigate the globe in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra, taking off from Oakland, California and flying east with stops in South America, Africa and Asia. On July 2, 1937 she took off from New Guinea and heading toward a airstrip on Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. During the flight she lost radio communication a ship that was monitoring her progress and disappeared somewhere over the Pacific. Searches were made for her and her plane, but came up empty and she was declared dead on January 5, 1939. Today, her disappearance still remains a mystery and many books, television specials and movies have been made about her life and death. She is a member of The National Aviation Hall of Fame.
- Born: August 26, 1932
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Chapman
Joe Engle was a United State Air Force (USAF) test pilot and a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut. He began flying for the Air Force in 1957 and served as a test pilot in the X-15 research project from 1963 to 1965. He earned his USAF astronaut wings in 1965 by flying the X-15 to an altitude of over 50 miles above the earth's surface. He was selected by NASA in 1966 and was back-up Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 14 and was due to land on the moon for Apollo 17 but was replaced when future Apollo missions were cancelled. He served as mission commander of the second NASA Space Shuttle mission in 1981 aboard Space Shuttle Columbia and again served as mission commander of the 20th Space Shuttle mission in 1985 aboard Discovery. He logged over 225 hours in space and is the only person to fly two different types of winged vehicles in space. He is a member of The National Aviation Hall of Fame and was named Kansan of the Year in 1981 by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas.
- Born: November 10, 1933
- Died: April 7, 1990
- Connection to Kansas: Born in St. Francis
Ron Evans was a United State Navy aviator and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut who was one of 24 people to have flown to the Moon. He began flying for the Navy in 1957 and and flew combat missions during the Vietnam War. He was one of 19 astronauts selected by NASA in 1966 and served on the astronaut crews for Apollo 7 and Apollo 11 and was backup command module pilot for Apollo 14. His first and only space flight was on Apollo 17 when he served as command module pilot, and remained in orbit around the Moon while the two other astronauts decended to the Moon's surface. He logged over 300 hours in space and holds the record for the most time spent in lunar orbit. He was named Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 1971 by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas.
Daniel Forbes, Jr.
- Born: June 6, 1920
- Died: June 5, 1948
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Carbondale
Daniel Forbes, Jr. was a pilot in the United States Army and United State Air Force who became one of the pioneers of stategic photo-reconnaissance. He flew missions during World War II from bases in North Africa, India and Pacific theater and continued through the first atomic bomb tests. He was killed in 1948 test piloting an expirimental aircraft in California. Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka (now named Topeka Regional Airport) was named in his honor.
- Born: December 21, 1951
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Ottawa, grew up in Salina
Steve Hawley is a physicist and astronomer who became a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut in 1978 and flew on five different Space Shuttle missions between 1984 and 1999, serving as a mission specialist on each flight. His most notable mission was aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990 when he helped deploy the Hubble Space Telescope. He retired from NASA in 2008 having logged 770 hours in space and millions of miles orbiting the Earth.
- Born: December 21, 1895
- Died: June 11, 1967
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka
Donald Hudson was a United States Army World War I flying ace credited with six aerial victories and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the war. Postwar he became a pioneer aviation instructor for the Bolivian Air Force and is credited as being the first person to fly over the Andes Mountains and also set early South American altitude records.
Frank E. Petersen
- Born: March 2, 1932
- Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka
Frank E. Petersen was a United State Marine Corps (USMC) officer who became the first African-American pilot in the Marine Corps in 1952. He served two combat tours during the Korean War, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and later served two combat tours during the Vietnam War where he was awarded the Legion of Merit. He was also the first African-American to command a fighter squadron, a figher air group, an air wing and a major military base. In 1979 President Carter promoted him to brigadier general making him the first African- American general in the Marine Corps. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1988 as a lieutenant general.