Outstanding military and civil aviators have been recognised by the Honourable Company of Air Pilots in their annual Trophies and Awards.
The Air Pilots’ Trophies and Awards are regarded as being among the world’s foremost aviation accolades and are particularly noteworthy because the recipients are selected by fellow aviators from both the military and commercial worlds.
Captain Robert Lee ‘Hoot’ Gibson’s outstanding and enduring contribution to aviation has been marked by the Award of Honour. Born in 1946, Hoot Gibson entered service with the US Navy in 1969, flying combat duty over Vietnam. After graduating from the world famous ‘Top Gun’ US Navy Fighter Weapons School, he went on to the US Naval Test Pilot School and was later selected by NASA to begin training as an astronaut.
He flew five missions on the Space Shuttle, eventually leaving NASA in 1996 when he became a pilot for Southwest Airlines and flying at the National Air Races at Reno, Nevada. Captain ‘Hoot’ Gibson remains one of the world’s most decorated pilots.
Accolade for ‘Mr Spitfire’
The Hanna Trophy for an outstanding contribution to the art of display flying of historic, vintage or modern fighter or combat aircraft is this year awarded to RAF Flight Lieutenant Charlie Brown.
An RAF instructor, Flt Lt Brown is well known for his flying the Spitfire at airshows and events throughout the UK and Europe since 1991. He is also known for flying the Spitfire’s Battle of Britain adversary, the Messerschmitt 109, as well as the Hawker Hurricane, Fury and Nimrod and is most often found at the historic Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire. He is a CAA Display Authorisation Examiner and has amassed more than 1,000 hours on Spitfires.
The Hanna Trophy is named for the late Ray Hanna, an outstanding air display pilot and former leader of the Red Arrows.
This year an outstanding act of bravery has been recognised by the Hugh Gordon-Budge Memorial Award. Captain Richard Alvarez, a former Bolivian Air Force pilot, saved his aircraft along with seventeen passengers and two crew members on board after it was struck by a large bird, smashing a two-metre-wide hole in the left wing, causing it to roll hard to the left on its approach to land.
Captain Alvarez acted instantly using ‘supernatural human force’ over fifteen agonising minutes to counteract the imbalance in the aircraft’s flying characteristics. He fought to avoid a catastrophic and irreversible loss of control and was able to save all of the people on board.
The pressure needed overcome the damaged aircraft’s tendency to roll caused a herniation in Captain Alvarez’s back which later required surgery and has since ended his flying career of 32 years.