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Annual Combs Gates Award







The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) is now accepting applications for this year’s Combs Gates Award, to be presented at a special session of the 2017 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Annual Meeting and Convention. When the late Harry B. Combs, a NAHF enshrinee, pledged $1.3 million to fund the Harry Combs Research Center and the Harry Combs Resource Lab at the NAHF, he also initiated the Combs Award, an annual, juried competition launched in 2003 to encourage the efforts of researchers and preservationists and reward a winning project with a $20,000 cash prize. In 2006, the Charles C. and June S. Gates Family Fund, now called the Gates Frontier Fund, provided the NAHF a grant to continue the award. Combs, who died in 2003, and Gates, who died in 2005, were pioneers of the business aviation industry and former business partners. Thus, with the Gates Frontier Fund’s support, the award was renamed the Combs Gates Award.

Past Recipients

  • 2017 — Dennis R. Jenkins
  • 2016 — David McCullough — Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2015 – Kim Furst – Encino, CA
  • 2014 – Jon Tennyson/Scott Guyette – Green Lake, WI
  • 2013 – Mr. Mike Machat, Woodland Hills, CA
  • 2012 – Ms. Regina Wirtanen Bucher, Baltimore, MD
  • 2011 – Ms. Heather Taylor, Columbia, MD
  • 2010 – Mr. Philip Handleman, Birmingham, MI
  • 2009 – Ms Sarah Byrn Rickman, Centerville, OH
  • 2008 – First Flight Foundation, Kitty Hawk, NC
  • 2007 – Ms Jane Gardner Birch, Crownsville, MD
  • 2006 – Dr. Richard P. Hallion, Alexandria, VA
  • 2005 – Mr. Jay Miller, Fort Worth, TX
  • 2004 – Wright State University Special Collections/Archives Accepted by Ms. Dawn Dewey, Dayton, OH
  • 2003 – Mr. Dan Patterson, Dayton, OH


An annual cash reward of $20,000 presented to an individual or group completing a project judged exemplary in promoting and/or preserving America’s air and space heritage. In keeping with the Congressionally chartered mission of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, ideal projects will reflect an emphasis on the individual pioneers – the people – who defined America’s aerospace horizons. The award is named in part to honor its founder, the late Harry B. Combs, a 1996 NAHF enshrinee who was a significant force in civil aviation, developing modern air traffic control standards, saving Learjet from bankruptcy, and operating one of the nation’s most successful fixed base operation chains. Combs later researched and wrote one of the definitive works on the brilliance of the Wright Brothers, Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secrets of the Wright Brothers. The late entrepreneur, Charles C. Gates, not only shared Combs’ passion for historic preservation, but was also a partner with Combs in several business ventures including the Gates Learjet Corporation and the Combs-Gates chain of fixed base operations (FBO’s). The commitment of both these visionaries to preserving and promoting America’s aerospace history is the reason this award bears their names.


Projects may be unpublished or yet-to-be-broadcast/displayed but should be at least 90% complete at the date of submission.

Nominees may not be employees or relatives of employees of the NAHF, nor any of its contractors, vendors or assignees. The term “employee” includes only those financially compensated by the NAHF for their services; it does not include those who volunteer their time and/or services to the facility.

Nominees must fill out the appropriate paperwork and send seven (7) completed copies of the application and relevant project materials.  Printed materials in PDF format on thumb-drives are acceptable along with one physical copy of the project.  All applications and materials remain the property of the NAHF.

The NAHF will keep materials for re-submission the following year by advance request of the applicant.

No materials will be returned.

If deemed necessary, award finalists must submit to an interview by member(s) of the review committee to elaborate upon aspects of their project.

Nominees retain full ownership of the project being submitted; however, a nominee must agree, in advance, to share research, materials and/or a mutually agreed-upon number of completed project elements (as in the case of a video, book or artwork) with the NAHF for the purposes of education, promotion and fundraising.

Award recipients must agree to the use of their name, likeness and project description for the purposes of promotion of the award and the mission/vision of the NAHF.

Eligible projects must have a primary focus on American air and space achievements and/or pioneers.


Combs Gates Award recipients will be recognized for their substantial and lasting contribution to the preservation and/or promotion of America’s aerospace heritage. Projects eligible for this recognition, and for the $20,000 award, include, but are not limited to: film/video, book, research paper, internet/web site, artwork/illustration, restoration/exhibit development. For those submitting an as yet unpublished book project, at least two completed, representative chapters must be included with the application.

Submissions will be viewed in terms of their historical accuracy, presentation and public appeal, and relevancy to the NAHF mission, as well as the uniqueness and creativity of the project.

Applicants are encouraged to review and understand the history and function of the NAHF and its role in promoting American air and space pioneers and their achievements (explore www.nationalaviation.org). The Combs Gates Award review committee is charged with selecting a suitable award recipient from the perspective of the NAHF’s role in promoting the history of aviation through individual initiative and achievement.

Committee members will judge each submission by assigning points to seven key criteria:

  • Relevancy and value of project to the NAHF mission: (1-10)
  • Historical accuracy/quality of research: (1-30)
  • Timeliness/value to filling gap or need in historic documentation: (1-10)
  • Presentation of applicant (how well applicant expresses motivation etc. in writing): (1-15)
  • Creativity/Innovation of the project: (1-10)
  • Public appeal and promotional potential of project: (1-10)
  • Potential long-term impact of project toward preserving U.S. air & space heritage: (1-15)


The Board of Review reserves the right to solicit award nominations in the event that submitted projects do not fulfill the NAHF criteria for promoting and preserving American air and space history. In the event that all submitted projects fail to adequately address the NAHF’s objectives, the award money will be rolled over into the next selection year at which time multiple awards may be given if multiple projects fit the criteria and standards of the NAHF and the Combs Gates Award review committee.

Nomination Process

Applications will be available through the NAHF and may be submitted between February 1 and June 16 of each year in order to be eligible for that year’s presentation.

Once applications and project copies have been received, the six-member Combs Gates Award review committee will each independently evaluate submissions based upon the seven key criteria. The committee consists of members selected each year representative of a broad spectrum of air and space industry and heritage expertise.

The NAHF will receive and tabulate the scoring, thus determining that year’s award recipient. The recipient and applicant will be notified with the results by mid-August.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame will pay round-trip travel and up to two nights’ lodging expenses for the Combs Gates Award winner and a guest to attend the award presentation at the NBAA convention.

Deadline for applications: June 16 annually.

Please address any questions and/or correspondence to:

National Aviation Hall of Fame
Harry B. Combs Research Center
Re: Combs Gates Award
P.O. Box 31096
Dayton, OH 45437

or submit an e-mail to Melissa Paule, [email protected]

Questions?  Please call, 937-256-0944 ext. 19

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