At the recent AMA East Expo, held at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, NJ, crowds had a double helping of Aviation History. Special guest speakers retired NASA astronaut and Unlimited Reno Racing pilot Robert “Hoot” Gibson, and Nicholai Sikorsky, son of Igor Sikorsky founder of Sikorsky Aircraft Co., gave amazing talks about their unique experiences.
Hoot Gibson, who also has been a model airplane modeler and builder his entire life spoke about his experience as a Naval aviator, test pilot and the commander of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, on June 27 to July 7, 1995.
Hoot and his crew of seven as apart of flight STS-71, carried out the first Space Shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir which also involved exchanging US and Russian crews.
Hoot spoke in detail about life in the Mir space station as well as crew life aboard the space shuttle including reentry whick starts at 37,500mph!
He also spoke about his impressive experiences as the pilot of several unlimited aircraft flying at the Reno Air Races, including setting a speed record of over 480 mph in a highly modified Hawker Sea Fury.
Nicholai Sikorsky spoke about his close and interesting relationship with his father Igor, and he brought to the podium a personal and intriguing view point of his father’s amazing history as a Russian immigrant who left everything behind to start a world recognized aircraft company. Nicholai remembered childhood memories of having family meals with the likes of Charles Lindberg, Jimmy Doolittle, world famous Bendix air racer Roscoe Turner, and many other personalities from the pages of aviation history.
Nicholai was the guest of MAN contributor and MA Giant Scale columnist Sal Calvagna who also gave a presentation about his 2016 “Best in Show” winning aircraft, the WW1 4-engine heavy bomber, Ilya Mourometz.
Sal Give his talk about the history of his model and the Sikorsky Aircraft Co. and the Sikorsky family. I was very pleased to help out during the day and I went up to West Hartford, CT to pick up Nicholai and bring him to the Expo. Imagine being able to sit and talk with such an interesting gentleman during a 2 1/2 hour road trip. It certainly was a day of aviation history and a once in a lifetime opportunity for sure.