Albert Francis Hegenberger
Hegenberger made his first blind solo flight around Dayton on a sunny Sunday morning in May 1932. The airplane buzz disturbed churchgoers, including Orville Wright. But Hegenberger was cruising Montgomery County at 5,000 feet listening to a church program on WLW, Cincinnati, because he felt guilty that he was not in church. History couldn’t wait, though, and in the cloudless blue sky he was nearer to God than anyone bound to Earth.
- In 1919 he went to McCook Field, Ohio, where he developed and tested flight instruments and taught the first course in navigation.
- Received the Mackay Trophy in 1927 for his Lester Maitland “Bird of Paradise” flight from San Francisco, California to Hawaii.
- On May 9th, 1932 made the first complete solo blind flight from take-off to landing for which he received the Collier Trophy.
- Created the first fully automatic flight system.
- Led the 2nd Bomber Command, 21st Bomb Wing during World War II.
- Was chief of staff of the 2nd and 14th Air Forces and commanded the 10th Air Force.
- Helped develop an atomic explosion detection system in 1948.
Hegenberger enlisted in the aviation section of the Signal Corps in 1917 while attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his wings, as well as a commission in the Army in 1918. He served for the remainder of World War I as a flight instructor.
Upon graduation from M.I.T. in 1919, Hegenberger received orders to McCook Field, Ohio, where he developed and tested flight instruments and taught the first course in navigation. After serving in Hawaii, he went to Wright Field, Ohio and planned a flight to Hawaii in the Bird of Paradise with Lt. Lester J. Maitland. After taking off from San Francisco on June 26th, 1927, his Earth inductor compass and navigation radio failed. He used dead reckoning and celestial navigation to complete the first flight to Hawaii, a feat for which he received the Mackay Trophy. After developing a blind flight system at Wright Field, Hegenberger accomplished the first official solo blind flight on May 9th, 1932. This remarkable achievement earned him the Collier Trophy. Later Hegenberger invented a fully automatic flight system. After completing the Tactical and the Command and General Staff Schools, he served with the various Air Corps units in Hawaii. In World War II, Hegenberger served with the 21st Bomb Wing, led the Second Bomber Command, became Chief of Staff of the 2nd and 14th Air Forces, and commanded the 10th Air Force. After the war, he commanded the 1st Air Division of the Far East Air Force, was Chief of Special Weapons in Air Force Headquarters, served as Assistant for atomic energy to the Chief of Staff and in 1948, helped develop an atomic explosion detection system.
Albert Hegenberger died on August 31st, 1983, but his legacy lives on.
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