Nugteren
Major General Cornelius Nugteren

1913-1973 Deceased 

   Ralph Kiker was born July 14, 1913 in Americus, Georgia. He learned to fly from Andy McILwrath in 1935 and took over the Americus Municipal Airport in 1938 when Andy went to work for TWA.

    He was recruited by the Army Air Corps as a civilian pilot in December 1937. He was sought after for his great aviation skills that he acquired at the Americus Municipal Airport. He then became a flight instructor at the airport in 1939. In 1940, he was chosen as CAA Flight Instructor at Georgia South Western College in Americus. The USAAF recruited Ralph as a flight instructor at the Army Air Corps Base Souther Field. Souther Field was used a training facility for England for both British and American pilots. Kiker continued to work at the Americus Municipal airport during this time.  From 1941 to 1944 He worked for Graham Aviation assigned to Army Air Corps 56th Flight Detachment Group Commander at Souther Field. He instructed hundreds of cadets to fly including R.A.F. cadets. Frank Cardamone remembered Ralph Kiker as one of the greatest pilots ever. During the years of 1945 through 1948, He worked to get the trade school Aircraft Mechanic course (for what is now South Georgia Tech) established while he also laid the groundwork for what is now the current airport. He also acted as an airplane sales broker-selling surplus – PT13’s and Gliders from surplus. He played a major role in working with the airport commission to get the runways paved between 1957 and 1961.  In 1961, The Grand opening was held for the Americus Airport complete with state of the art lighted taxiways and runways that were extended to be able to accommodate larger planes that used radio navigation equipment. The runways were paved and modernized into the pattern you see today which Ralph Kiker, laid the roots for so many of those improvements.

    He also took one of the abandoned air corps buildings and used it as a hangar and gunsmith shop. He was renowned to be an exceptional gunsmith that could fix anything. He always had a gunsmith shop next to the hangar, sometimes using it to dope airplane wings. The Hangar later became the present location of the current airport. In 1945 the hangar from the old Americus Municipal Airport was moved from it’s location on Lee Street to the current location at Souther Field. The airport modified the hangar and renamed it after Ralph in 1986.

    Kiker worked every day of his life at the Americus Municipal Airport except the occasional Christmas day.  Although, it wasn’t really work for him, as he loved every second of flying and being a part of the airport. His wife was quoted in 1990 as saying, ” It was the airport/flying, the dogs/horses, the guns, and then me, that’s just the way it was.“

    Ralph Kiker died of a heart attack on April 27, 1973. He was 59 years old. He was a one of a kind personality and his grandson is quoted as saying, “ Trying to define Ralph’s spirit in aviation is almost impossible to capture on paper.”

 

  

 

 

Perry M. Smith is a teacher, speaker, TV and radio commentator and best-selling author. Hundred of millions of television viewers world-wide came to know him during the 1991 Persian Gulf War for his more than 100 appearances as a military analyst for the Cable News Network, the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour and NBC news.

A retired major general, Smith served for 30 years in the U. S. Air Force. During his career he had a number of leadership experiences, including command of the F-15 fighter wing at Bitburg, Germany where he provided leadership to 4000 personnel. Later, he served as the top Air Force planner and as the commandant of the National War College. Smith’s total number of flying hours as a pilot (mostly in fighter aircraft: F-84, F-100, F-4 and F-15). is 3400  He flew 180 combat missions in the F-4D aircraft over North Vietnam and Laos during the Vietnam War. He was a member of the following fighter squadrons, 10th, 615th, 612th, 555th and the following fighter wings. 50th, 401st, 432nd and 36th. . Smith is the recipient of two distinguished flying crosses, ten air medals and the bronze star. Other awards include the distinguished service medal, defense distinguished service medal and two legions of merit.

Born  into a military family at West Point in 1934, Smith travelled extensively as an “Army brat”. ON 7 December, 1941, he was on the way to Sunday School in the back on an Army truck. At 7:50 AM that fateful morning, the truck was stopped as it approached the main gate of an Army post near Honolulu. Six year old Perry McCoy Smith Jr. witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor as the truck raced around Honolulu returning the children to their homes. 
A graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, he later earned his Ph.D. in International Relations from Columbia University. His dissertation earned the Helen Dwight Reid award from the American Political Science Association. At West Point, he played on the varsity lacrosse team—earning All American honors (second team) his senior year. 

Smith has made presentations on leadership, strategic planning or ethics for Harvard's Kennedy School, The Chautauqua Institution, The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Texas Instruments, Intel, the WK Kellogg Foundation, Microsoft, Augusta University, and the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. He has conducted workshops on executive leadership for the governors of three states, and the mayor of Detroit. Smith gives keynote addresses at conventions and conferences. Since 1992, he has been an enrichment lecturer and celebrity speaker on Crystal Cruises.  Smith’s published books include Rules and Tools for Leaders, Assignment Pentagon, and Courage, Compassion, Marine: The Unique Story of Jimmie Dyess. The latter book is a biography of the only person to have earned America's two highest awards for heroism, the Medal of Honor and the Carnegie Medal. In 2015, Smith produced a 60 minute video, Twice a Hero: The Jimmie Dyess Story. 


In 2016, he produced at 55 minute DVD, When Duty Calls: The Life and Legacy of Don Holleder. Holleder, an All American football player at West Point, was killed in combat in 1967. He was the recipient of the Soldiers Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross. Smith was Holleder’ roommate at West Point and served as best man in Holleder’s wedding. With more than 350,000 copies in print, Rules and Tools for Leaders is his most popular book. A practical guide for leaders, this book contains hundreds of rules of thumb and includes 25 checklists on how to hire, fire, plan, deal with the media, give compliments, run meetings, make decisions, provide counseling, check organizational ethics, transition into a new job, manage the electronic workspace, etc. After he was interviewed on the Today Show, this book reached #2 on the amazon.com bestseller list. The 4th edition was published in August, 2013. Army brigadier general Jeff Foley is the co-author of the newest edition. Assignment Pentagon, the only substantive guide on how to operate in the Pentagon, is also in its 4th edition.Smith’s seven-year relationship with CNN ended on June 14, 1998, when he resigned over an issue of integrity (CNN's egregious special accusing the U. S. Air Force of using lethal nerve gas during the Vietnam War). Later he served on contract as a military commentator for NBC TV, CBS TV and CBS radio. In 2016, The General Perry Smith Parkway near the Augusta Regional Airport was completed. Smith received this honor largely because of his fund-raising efforts on behalf of Saint Paul’s Church, the regional Boy Scouts, the Augusta Museum of History, the Augusta Warrior Project, the new Fisher House, the Heritage Academy, the Westminster Schools and Christ Community Health Services. Smith is married to the former Connor Cleckley Dyess, the daughter of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Dyess. They were married at St. Paul’s church in Augusta in May 1959. Connor was eight years old when her father was killed in the Marshall Islands in Febraury,1944. The Smith’s have two children, McCoy and Serena, and three grandchildren, Dyess, Porter and Perry IV.  Dyess and Porter are undergraduates at Emory University—Dyess, class of 2018, Porter, class of 2020. Both are varsity athletes—members of Emory’s cross country and track teams.

 

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel John (Jack) Robert Millar, Jr., was born on June 11, 1918, in Marietta, Georgia.  He graduated from Marietta High School in June, 1935, and from the Citadel in 1939, as a 2nd Lieutenant.

He entered United States Army Air Corps in March 1940, where he completed advanced training at Kelly Field, Texas, and received his wings in December, 1940.  He was assigned to Maxwell Field, Alabama, as a flight instructor and was transferred to Cochran Field, Georgia, as an instructor for the United States, and the Royal Air Force cadets.  In March, 1942, he was selected to represent the Southeast Training Command on a secret mission with the Royal Air Force, in England.  On August 17, 1942, he flew with the first B-17 raids over Nazi occupied Europe.  In 1942, General Eisenhower designated him to deliver the plans for the African Second Front Invasion to President Roosevelt and General Marshall at the White House.  Upon completion of this assignment, he was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Chamblee, Georgia, to work with the Navy’s instrument flying program.  In 1943, he was assigned to Randolph Field, Texas, where he wrote the Army Air Corps Instrument Training Manual.  The Air Corps Instrument Instructors School was opened in Bryan, Texas, in 1943, and Captain Millar was assigned as group commander.  In July, 1943, Brigadier General Kenneth Wolfe drafted Captain Millar to join the 58th Very Heavy Bombardment Wing Headquarters Staff in charge of instrument training for all B-29 pilots.  Major Millar requested a combat assignment and was named Squadron Operations Officer of the 793rd Squadron, 468th Group.

During 1942-43, the Bell aircraft B-29 plant was built in Marietta, Georgia, and upon completion, Millar landed the first military plane at what is now Dobbins AFB, Georgia, and flight tested many of the Bell planes.  He was assigned to one of Bell’s first B-29’s that he named the “Georgia Peach.”  The 58th Very Heavy Wing was destined for India and China, and in 1944, Major Millar and his crew flew the “Georgia Peach” to Kharagpur, India.  As planes and crews began arriving from the States, General Wolfe ordered Millar to fly across the Himalaya Mountains to the four China bases and establish instrument landing procedures for the B-29s.  In 1944, Millar and his crew took off from Chengtu, China, in the “Georgia Peach” for the first land based air raid over Japan.  The target was Yawata Iron and Steel Works, the flying time was over 17 hours and was the longest air mission ever flown at that time.  With this first mission over Japan, Millar became the only person to have flown on the first B-17 raids over Europe and first land based raid over Japan.  Millar flew 31 operational missions in the China-Burma-India theater.  The 468th Group history recorded that he set the record for hauling the most gasoline over the hump for storage in China. He rotated back to the states and was assigned to the Air Staff Course, Command and General Staff College.  He was subsequently reassigned to Smoky Hill AB, Salina Kansas, as director of flying training for all B-29 training bases.  He was at Maxwell Field, Alabama, when the first atomic bomb was exploded at Alamogorda on July 16, 1945.  Flying from Maxwell to Salina early in the morning of July 17, 1945, Millar encountered an electrical storm and was personally struck by lightning in the cockpit.  The resulting crash killed ten and three survived.  Major Millar was permanently injured and spent almost two years in hospitals.  He was promoted to Lt Colonel and retired on physical disability in December 1946.

John Millar graduated from Emory Law School in 1950 and received a PhD from Florida State University in 1954. 

Captain Norman Topshe was born in Camden, S.C in May of 1914. He officially soloed July 5, 1936 in Albany, Ga He received his private license on June 14, 1938 and commercial license on April 19, 1939. later he went on to Barnstorm through South, GA and North, FL until late 1939.

In late 1939 he served as Flight Instructor for Hawthorne flying Service in conjunction with the University of S.C. he then went on to accept a position as co-pilot with Delta Air Line where he remained until 1992. he retired after 31 years as a captain at the age of 60. He was then re-hired under a separate contract as a consultant in flight operations. He served as a liaison between the pilots and top management for an additional 17 years. He often rode the jump seat on all types of aircraft as a liaison between the flight crew and top management.

Captain Topshe’s career, both as a Captain and Flight Operation consultant turned out to be a Hallmark. In the early 1940’s he was elected Chairman of the Airline Pilots Union for Delta, then chairman of the Negotiating committee for the pilot’s contract. In mid 1945 he was elected as Chairman-Master Executive Council (MEC). During this time he co-authored and promoted the Pilot’s Mutual Aid Association which today is a multi-million dollar project which protects the pilot during an illness or disability. Later, it became a national project for the nation’s airlines. During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Captain Topshe was appointed Chairman of the Retirement and Insurance Committee of Delta pilot’s. in the early and mid 1950’s he was also appointed Chairman of the Pilots Grievance Committee and Contract Administrations. Captain Topshe was also Chairman and mentor of most pilot contracts.

During his career he was also a line check airman on the CDC-9 and Boeing 747 performing periodic flight checks for qualified line pilots and initial line checks for new pilots. Captain Topshe served as a member of Delta’s Retirement and Insurance committee during contract negotiations in 1973 when their major retirement program went into effect based on 60% of final 5 years of a average earnings. They were leaders in the industry of this type of retirement program.

Captain Topshe’s last flight for Delta occurred in the summer of 1993 when at the age of 70 he ferried Delta’s only remaining DC-3 from San Juan, PR to Atlanta. The DC-3 was restored to its original condition, licensed and flown on exhibitions throughout the US. His total time with Delta was 51 years covering over 7,000 pilots and logging approximately 33,000 flying hours.

John Bingham McKibbon, Jr. (Jack) was born on February 10, 1924 in Newnan Georgia.Jack graduated from Gainesville High School in 1941. He completed two years of college at North Georgia College in Dahlonega. In December 1942 he joined the United States Air Force. He started active duty in 1943 at the age of 19.Jack completed his Air Force pilot training and in April 1944 he "got his wings". Jack was the pilot of a B-25 bomber. He had a five man crew including himself, a copilot/navigator and three gunners.  Jack and his crew followed the war north completing 59 "tree top flying" ten-hour missions. Jack was the bombardier and pilot dropping 100 pound parachute or delayed detonation bombs or 500 pound bombs on Japanese ships and aerodromes (airports).

 The treetop flying provided the advantage of surprise and Jack's planes were never significantly hit by enemy fire. Jack did witness six other U.S. aircraft shot down.  In 1951, during the Korean War, Jack was called back to active duty in the Air Force. For 21 months he was stationed in Tampa, Florida where he flew tanker aircraft. He worked for the Strategic Air Command refueling B-47 and B-50 bombers. This was early in the evolution of in-air refueling and Jack trained other pilots flying between Tampa and Puerto Rico.

Jack McKibbon's Flying Career

1.                First Flight, 8 years old on Good Year Blimp

2.                First Airplane flight in Piper Cub with Duard Gilmer (Lee's brother) 14 years old

3.                Flew model airplanes 14-17 years old

4.                Dec.7, 1942 signed up for Army Air Corp.

5.                Feb. 15, 1943 called to active duty

6.                Pre cadet training, Miami Beach, Williamsport, PA where I flew Piper Cubs

7.                July 1943 was classified for pilot training at Nashville, TN Classification Center

8.                Class 44-D pre-flight Maxwell Field, AL Aug-Sept. 1943

9.                Primary flight school- Flying P-17 Arcadia, FL

10.             Solo flight Oct. 20, 1943

11.             Basic flying school Flying B.T. 13-AT-10 Nov, Dec, 1943 Bainbridge, GA

12.             Advanced flying school Albany, GA Flew B-25's. Received my wings and commission on April 1-5, 1944. Three cadets had the same advanced instructor in B-25's. Both of my fellow cadets were lost in the SW Pacific.

13.             B-25 training in Greenville, SC, Columbia, SC and Savannah, GA

14.             August 1944 was flown to Nadzab New Guinea

15.             Joined 345 Bomb Group. 498 Bomb Squad on at Biak New Guinea. Flew combat missions from Biak to the Philippines.

16.             December 1944 to Leyte in Philippines. Flew combat in Philippines, South China Sea

17.             Jan.1945 Moved to San Marcelino, Subic Bay in the Philippines. From there I flew combat missions as far as French and China and Formosa (now Taiwan).

18.             June 1945 had completed 59 combat missions and was flown home and discharged.

19.             March 10, 1951 - I was called back to active duty with the U.S. Air Force. I was stationed at McDill AFB in Tampa, FL. While there, I flew C-47, C45 and KC97. I flew air to air tankers refueling the B-50 and B-47. During this time, I was in Seattle, WA at the Boeing Aircraft plant picking up new KC 97 and flying them back to McDill. I was told by a Boeing employee to be at the airport at 11:00 a.m. the next morning. I was there and saw the maiden voyage of the B-52.

20.             I was stationed at McDill for 15 months then was transferred to Lockbourne Air Force base in Columbus, OH for the remaining time of duty. For the 6 months that I was there, I flew only KC 97 air to air refuelers.

21.             December 1952 I was mustered out of the military for the second time.

22.             December 1945 bought a 55HP Taylor craft. Did a little barnstorming. Even flew it to San Francisco and back.

23.             Flew with some of the Navy pilots when Gainesville airport was a naval air station

24.             For a short time, had a flying school at the Gainesville airport after Navy left.

25.             Flew many different airplanes

26.             ln my business career, I have owned a Beechcraft 435 Bonanza, Beechcraft C35 Bonanza, 185 Cessna, Aero Commander 560A push pull Cessna, my company had a King Air Turbo Beachcraft and now has a Cessna J5 Jet.

 

 

 

 

 

   Born 3 January 1925 and raised on a farm in Sylvester Georgia, Bill Jones was always interested in airplanes.  Enlisting in the Army Air Corps in Gulfport Mississippi in 1944 he began his Aviation adventure, soloed a Stearman after 7 hours , completing flight school and assigned to flying B-24s in the Pacific. An accident resulted in a broken neck, being shipped back to the states to a VA hospital, after a years recovery he returned to flying status.  While in the Active Reserve he received a Business Administration degree from Georgia State University, he then obtained his Law Degree from   University of Georgia, passing the State Bar exam in two years. He was a classmate of Carl Sanders, later Georgia Governor. He was recalled to active duty during both the Korean Conflict and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

   Returning to Atlanta in 1963, taking a Test Pilot position with Lockheed Georgia Company at Dobbins AFB, he flew the  B-47,  C-130,  C-140, C-141 and all C-5A aircraft. He was commended for saving a C-5A during a test flight. During this time he joined the Georgia Air National Guard which was flying the Douglas C-124 transport.

  He served in several positions becoming Wing Commander and in 1972  he directed the conversion from the C-124 transports to the F-100D fighter.    The 116 Tactical  Fighter Wing was converted to full combat readiness a year ahead of schedule for which it received the first of five consecutive Air Force Outstanding Unit awards. Col. Jones was promoted to Brigadier General in 1973 and Commander of the 116th.

  In 1975 Governor George Busbee appointed  Jones as his Adjutant General of Georgia and he was promoted to Major General.  He was responsible for both Army and Air National Guard units but also served as State Director of Selective Service and Director of Emergency Management . In this capacity he had 14,000 part time and 1800 full time persons to command. During his Nine years as Adjutant General the Georgia National Guard  was repeatedly recognized by both Army and USAF as the best in the nation for Combat Readiness and Modernization of equipment.  Especially noted the Army NG 24th Infantry Division and the Air NG 165th C-130H unit in Savannah.  Very notable was Georgia ANG being the first to receive the new F-15E fighter, stationed at WRAFB.

  Nationally, while Adjutant General he served on the Reserve Forces Policy Board  for three years,  Executive Council of the Adjutant General  Association for six years  and as Vice President of the Adjutant General Association for two years.  He was respected for his judgement, his dedication and his integrity.

  Decorations included the Adjutant General Distinguished  Service Medal 14 January 1975 to 31 October 1983,   Meritorious Service Medal,  Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal,  WW II Victory Medal,  the Armed Forces Reserve Medal,  Vietnam Service  Medal,  National Defense Service Medal,  Army of Occupation Medal (Japan),  the Air Force Longevity Service Medal. Upon retirement he had over 11,000 flight hours in over 40 different types of aircraft.

  On 28 December 1983 General Jones  became a Deputy Defense Secretary appointed by James H. Webb Jr. under  President Ronald Regan.  Recognized as a national spokesman for the National Guard he served until 1985  and retired from Washington D.C. back to Atlanta after forty one years of distinguished  service to the United States of America. After retirement he returned to Marietta Georgia where he was involved both in Real Estate, Land Development and the Stock Market and continued to own a farm down in Sylvester Georgia. A very humble and religious man he became a deacon of his Baptist church when eighty years old. He passed away on 4 September 2013 leaving behind his son Jeff Jones and family and daughter Jennifer Jones Rodgers and family. Son Jeff is a Delta Air Lines Captain and also Georgia Air National Guard Pilot.

 

 

 

 

 

Frederick Schwaemmle was a pioneering aviator. In his youth he witnessed a Wright Flyer actually in flight that inspired him to learn to fly as an Army aviation cadet at Brooks Field, San Antonio, Texas two classes ahead of Charles Lindbergh. His civilian pilot license is signed by Orville Wright and he barnstormed and hopped passengers to build hours. Fritz inaugurated the northbound mail from Miami to Jacksonville for Pitcairn Aviation (which became Eastern Aviations). Fritz logged 3000 hours in the Pitcairn Mailwing and “the monotony”, he says, “was something out of this world.” Nevertheless, it must have been exhilarating. He followed the beach, flying so low a Palm Beach resident complained, “if it wasn’t for the fact he had doors on his patio closed, the damned mail plane would have flown right through his living room.” Subsequently, he was one of Delta Air Lines earliest pilots and is credited with several “first” flights.

Lt. Col. Schwaemmle’s wartime service with the Air Transport Command spanned three and a half years and embraced five continents. His most significant contribution to the war effort was as a Chief of Navigation and Briefing, in Marrakech, French Morocco where he was responsible for dispatching 6000 aircraft to the 8th and 9th Air Forces in the British Isles and some more to the 12th and 15th Air Forces in North Africa. Among his other decorations, Schwaemmle was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his outstanding achievements during the northern Italy and African campaigns.

Following the war, Schwaemmle returned to Delta and at mid career as an airline pilot, Schwaemmle suffered a setback pilots dread. He lost the sight of an eye and became medically unfit to fly. In his words, “that ended my career and that broke my heart at 46 years of age.” Undaunted, Schwaemmle redirected his energy and talent into public relations and ultimately retired as Delta Air Lines’ Director of Public Relations. Calling on his experience as a pilot, Fritz developed a unique visual aid to use in talks explaining the ILS for bringing aircraft safely down through the weather. He figures he gave speeches six or seven days a week, sometimes two or three in a day, to over 500 groups. American Aviation Magazine named him one of the top five pilot’s for exceptional contributions to piloting and to the industry” in 1950. For his contributions as a pioneering pilot, aviation proponent, and long time Georgia resident.  

-present

Dr. Robert G. Loewy, long-time resident of Georgia and recently retired chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering, represents a lifetime of contribution to aviation.  He quickly rose through the engineering ranks to become chief technical engineer of the ‘Vertol’ (vertical takeoff and lift) division of Boeing by 1958.  He shortly-after served as Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force, and then started a career as an academic researcher and administrator that led to the highest recognitions of the American Helicopter Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the National Academy of Engineering, as well as public service medals and awards from NASA and the USAF.  He continues to advise numerous aviation corporations and federal agencies. 

In 1993 Dr. Loewy and his wife moved to Atlanta, and he started his long tenure as Chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering.  In this capacity, Dr. Loewy was the leader in catapulting Georgia into the highest national rankings, establishing what is now the largest student enrollment in aerospace engineering in the country and largest sponsored aerospace research program in academia in the USA. 

 Throughout, Dr. Loewy is also known for his calm and classy leadership style, sharp intellect, and personal integrity.

 

 

 

 

1917- Deceased 

Henry “Grady” Thrasher, Jr. was born in 1917. He served as flight instructor for the Army Air Corps during World War II, teaching hundreds of new cadets their primary flight skills.

Returning home to Athens, Georgia in 1945, Grady was determined to make a living as a pilot in northeast Georgia. Using $600 in savings and a modest bank loan, he purchased a war sur-plus J-3 Piper Cub, a Waco biplane trainer and ordered a new 1946 Ford two-door sedan, which was delivered in late 1945. He also taught his two younger brothers, Richard (Bud) and Tunis, who were home from service in the Navy, to fly.

Determined to stimulate interest in private aviation, Grady began performing stunts in his airplanes to attract people, first at the Athens airport, then at the nearby Elberton, GA airport (a grass field with a 2000 foot dirt runway) that had been abandoned during the War.

In late 1945, Grady was invited to perform at an air show being organized in Anderson, SC. For that event, he designed and built the “World’s Smallest Airport”, an 8 x 20 platform on top of the new 1946 Ford (which also served as our family car). In two weeks, with Tunis driving the car on the short, rolling field in Elberton, Grady perfected making full stop landings if the Cub on the World’s Smallest Airport. Then, with Tunis turning the car back into the wind, Grady would take off. The Thrasher Brothers Aerial Circus had been born.

From December 1945 to November 1950 Grady was featured in a total of 378 air shows, from Houston, TX in the west to Erie, PA in the north to Miami, FL, most of which were organized and promoted by Grady. Grady and his brothers also performed as featured acts in combined air shows with such well-known pilots as Woody Edmundson,  Bevo Howard, Betty Skelton, and Ben F. Huntley.

Among the many acts developed for the aerial circus, Grady believed he had three firsts:

1. The full stop landing on and takeoff from “The World’s Smallest Airport”

2. The Human Pick Up and Return, whereby Bud, riding atop the World’s Smallest Airport would grab a ladder hanging from the struts as Grady flew by on the piper Cub, hang on as they circled the field, then drop back onto the moving platform.

3. The World’s only (then or ever) Twin Ercoupes bolted together and flown by Grady from the left fuselage (he could loop and roll it and did so in 270 air shows, including the 1948 Cleveland Air Races.

Grady and his brothers designed the Thrasher Brothers Aerial Circus to be a unique “spectator-friendly” event that could adapt to rural and small town airports as well as big city venues. Using combinations of skill, courage, ingenuity, and originality; Grady and his brothers were instrumental in bringing the wonders of exhibition flying to small towns (as well as big cities) post WWII America.

 

 

Bruce Erion is best known as the helicopter aviation personality in Atlanta since the 1980s, and he will never escape being a virtual emblem to aviation professionalism in our region.  His long and very well-known presence as an unforgettably outstanding personality in Georgia's aviation community will long be remembered for its highly visible reflection of the very best attributes of aviation professionalism, and for its untiring endurance presented on behalf of service to community.After graduating from West Point during the Viet Nam years, Bruce Erion was trained in the US Army as a Ranger, decorated as an Air Cavalry Rifle Platoon Leader, and achieved additional final status as a qualified helicopter pilot.  Following the war years he continued to develop his involvement in aviation as a notably productive sales representative for Bell Helicopters, and some of his customers inevitably identified as television stations around the country, as these highly competitive groups started exploring the use of aircraft as electronic news-gathering tools.  Bruce became comfortable and popular in this setting, and it eventually developed that he envisioned the possibility of becoming involved as more than an equipment specialist.  His remarkable communications skills quickly developed further, as he assumed duties reporting traffic and news for a network affiliate in New England, and then in Phoenix, where truly pioneering work was being accomplished in adapting helicopters as legitimately irreplaceable news-reporting assets.  When Atlanta's NBC Affiliate, WXIA, followed the trend, Bruce was able to negotiate a contract and relocate to the part of the country in which he had long hoped to live, and to serve in some constructive way.To say that the rest is history doesn't really do justice to the success that Bruce Erion achieved in Georgia.  He unintentionally but inevitably became Georgia's most popular local television personality, as he literally invented the science and art of reporting the news while flying a helicopter.  There were a few other notable helicopter news reporters around the country, but none had the polish and professionalism that Bruce perfected, and the content of his presentations always held aviation in high and very favorable priority, accomplishing considerable public relations value in the process.  His explanations of aviation-oriented material, in a state in which aviation is a central economic feature, were consistently both educational and promotional, and he put a pleasant face on an industry that is not always welcomed by all communities.  

Bruce Erion's contributions within the aviation disciplines would not finish with his success in television, however.  Toward the end of the 90s, as trends in television news began to downsize budgets and reduce expenses by finding alternatives to extensive helicopter news reporting, Bruce shifted to what turned out to be an even more meaningful and satisfying aviation sub-specialty when he joined Georgia Baptist Life Flight, as a lifesaving professional.  Very soon into this phase of his professional aviation development he observed that the sense of moral contribution inherent in lifesaving would be, perhaps, his highest calling.Bruce Erion, trading his high-profile years as a performing television aviation personality for the deep and meaningful satisfaction of quietly but substantively helping people through aviation professionalism, in perhaps the most consequential way possible, flew emergency medical missions for more than sixteen additional years before retiring to look back on a truly extraordinary flying career.