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Noted author wins Eighth Annual Combs Gates Award

The National Aviation Hall of Fame has announced that pilot and noted aviation author/photographer Philip Handleman of Birmingham, Mich. is the recipient of its Eighth Annual Combs Gates Award. He is being recognized for his work-in-progress, The Rise of American Airpower, an illustrated history of the first century of American airpower with select works from leading aviation artists. Handleman received the $20,000 cash award in a formal presentation Oct. 19, 2010 at the Opening General Session of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) 63rd Annual Meeting & Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hall of Fame President Alan Hoeweler and several Hall of Fame enshrines, including former astronaut and the last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan; business aviation pioneer and aerial cinematographer, Clay Lacy; and Chairman Emeritus of Cessna Aircraft, Russell Meyer, Jr., presented the award to Handleman. The award’s founder and NAHF enshrinee, the late Harry B. Combs, was represented

Philip Handleman, noted author and pilot, is the winner of the Eighth Annual Combs Gates Award

by his son, Harry (Terry) Combs, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Integrated Airline Services, Inc.

Handleman’s 150-page oversize hardcover book will incorporate approximately 120 paintings culled from a variety of sources and collections. Each section will contain a comprehensive 7,500-word essay pertaining to the respective period’s developments in air power as well as American leadership in air warfare. The book is currently slated for publication in November 2013. Handleman has authored or edited 21 aviation books spanning subjects from air shows to air combat and from airliners to air racing. In addition to his writing, Handleman is a prolific photographer and documentary filmmaker. His photographs have graced the commemorative postage stamps marking the 50th anniversaries of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The prestigious Combs Award grew out of a donation to the NAHF by the late Harry Combs, a 1996 enshrinee of the Hall of Fame. As part of his $1.3 million gift for the creation of a NAHF research center, Combs stipulated that the Combs Award be established to encourage and support relevant aviation history research and preservation efforts. A panel of expert judges reviews each submission based upon criteria such as historical accuracy, creativity, potential for long-term impact, and value to the Hall of Fame mission of honoring America’s outstanding air and space pioneers.

Combs was instrumental to the growth and development of business aviation. Consequently the NAHF partnered with the NBAA to host the award presentation at its annual meeting and convention, the largest purely civil aviation event in the world. The inaugural award was presented at the Opening General Session of the NBAA Meeting & Convention in 2003, the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight.

John Gates and his sister, Diane G. Wallach, are co-trustees of the Gates Frontiers Fund, created by their late parents and philanthropists, Charles C. and June S. Gates. The late Mr. Gates, who passed away in 2005 at age 84, was a partner with Combs in several aviation businesses including the Combs Gates FBO chain and Gates Learjet. This year marks the eighth year for the award and the fifth year with the name changed to reflect a multi-year commitment by the Gates Frontiers Fund to fund the award.

The award pays homage to Gates’ belief in the benefit of historic preservation and study, and to Combs’ own research efforts behind his acclaimed 1979 book, Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secrets of the Wright Brothers. Combs was inspired to write the book after close friend and fellow enshrinee, Neil Armstrong, presented him a bound collection of the Wright Brothers’ personal papers.

Combs died in December 2003 at age 90. During the inaugural award ceremony at the NBAA convention held a month before his passing, Combs remarked, “Just as Neil’s gift inspired me to discover the secrets of the Wrights, I want to motivate a new generation of historians, researchers and preservationists to continue the process of clarifying and preserving our nation’s amazing air and space history for generations to come.”