Kermit Weeks accepting the “Bob Hoover Freedom of Flight Award” from the award’s namesake at the “7th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards” ceremony in Los Angeles.
POLK CITY, Fla. (Feb. 25, 2010) – Kermit Weeks, creator and founder of Central Florida’s premier aviation attraction, Fantasy of Flight, recently received the “Bob Hoover Freedom of Flight Award,” one of the highest awards given at the “7th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards” presented by Learjet. Often called the “Academy Awards of Aviation,” the red-carpet event was held at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel.
Other awards presented at the event were the “First Out of This World Landing and Take Off Award,” given to Dr. Buzz Aldrin, astronaut, moon walker, author and entrepreneur; and the “Top Aviation Inspiration and Patriotism Award,” given to Tom Cruise, an accomplished aerobatic pilot and star of Top Gun, among others. Well-known guests included astronauts Neil Armstrong, Col. Frank Borman and Gene Cernan, as well as actors Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank.
The “Bob Hoover Freedom of Flight Award” was created to recognize extraordinary accomplishments that inspire and cause appreciation for the freedoms associated with flight. A WWII hero and aerobatics champion, Hoover served as Chuck Yeager’s backup pilot for the Bell X-1 program and the chase pilot for Yeager in a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star during the Mach 1 flight. He is best known as the pilot who pushed the limits of the twin-piston engineered aircraft, the Aero Commander 500 Shrike Commander. Able to pour a cup of tea during a barrel roll, Hoover has been called the father of modern aerobatics and was named the third best aviator in history in the Centennial of Flight edition of “Air & Space Smithsonian.” Above all, Hoover is often called “a pilot’s pilot.”
According to Hoover, Weeks was chosen to receive the high honor given by the “Living Legends of Aviation Awards” not only because of his passion for flight, and his accomplishments as an aerobatics champion, aircraft designer and restorer, but also for his lifelong mission, through his Fantasy of Flight attraction as well as his other personal and professional endeavors, to spark the imagination of every adult and child and to inspire them to pursue their own dreams, whatever they may be.
Past recipients of the award include Senator George McGovern, WWII decorated bomber pilot; Dr. Forrest Bird, inventor of the heart-lung machine; and Emily Howell-Warner, the first woman captain of a scheduled airline. During his acceptance speech, Weeks spoke of the magnitude of being included in this history-changing group of aviation industry legends.
“The word legend doesn’t even come close to describing Bob Hoover. He has been one of my personal heroes,” said Weeks. “To receive this award named for him, presented by him and to be included in such an accomplished group of past recipients, is truly one of the most rewarding moments of my life!”
Last year, Weeks was selected to join some of the greatest pilots in Florida history as a member of Florida Aviation Hall of Fame. A pilot and aircraft designer, Weeks has placed among the top three aerobatics champions in the world five times and has won more than 20 medals in World Aerobatics Championships. The aviation enthusiast began restoring and preserving antique aircraft in the 1980’s and today owns more than 150 civilian and military planes, the largest private collection in the world, many of which he has been displaying for the enjoyment of the public at his Polk City attraction, Fantasy of Flight, since 1995.
Weeks’ philosophy for life, and business is included in his attraction’s mission statement, “Flight, more than anything on this planet, symbolizes man’s desire to go beyond himself. Let’s use it to inspire mankind…to take the next step on its journey.” Furthering that mission to inspire and educate tomorrow’s leaders, in 2009, Weeks authored his first children’s book “All of Life is a School” (KWIP Publishing, $19.95), which won a Bronze IPPY Award in the 13th Annual Independent Publisher Book Awards.
The “Living Legends of Aviation Awards” are produced by the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, a non-profit association whose mission is to educate and inspire today’s youth and create tomorrow’s aviators and legends.