Two Wichita women among winners of Aviation Legacy Awards

Wichitans Marilyn Richwine and Rhonda Fullerton will be in good company Friday when actor Harrison Ford presents them with an Aviation Legacy Award for their work coordinating Cessna Aircraft’s Citation Special Olympics Airlift.

The awards are part of the 11th annual Living Legends of Aviation awards produced by the nonprofit Kiddie Hawk Air Academy.

Living Legends of Aviation will honor Fred Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx, with its Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award and Bruce Whitman, chairman and CEO of FlightSafety International, with the Lifetime Aviation Industry Leader Award.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor recipient, will receive the Freedom of Flight Award, and actor Morgan Freeman will narrate a tribute to Experimental Aircraft Association founder Paul Poberezny in a segment of the program.

Seven Legends of Aviation will be inducted, including Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas; David Hurley, chairman emeritus of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum; John Uczekaj, CEO of Aspen Avionics; David Neeleman, founder of Jet Blue and Azul Airlines; Roy Morgan, founder of Air Methods; actor and pilot Treat Williams; and Jack Erickson, inventor of the SkyCrane and a helicopter and fixed-wing pilot. Erickson also will be honored as the Bell Helicopter’s Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award honoree.

Cessna’s first Special Olympics Airlift began in 1987 when 130 Cessna Citation owners flew nearly 1,000 athletes and coaches to Special Olympics games in South Bend, Ind. The program matches volunteer pilots and plane owners with Special Olympics athletes in need of transportation.

The games are held every four years.

Richwine, now retired from Cessna, worked with Airlift from its beginning and led it through the 2006 games. Fullerton, Cessna’s director of promotions, started working with Airlift in 1995 and now leads the program.

Before each game, Cessna puts out a plea for volunteers to help fly athletes and coaches. It’s working to recruit at least 175 Citation owners to fly the athletes to this year’s games in New Jersey in June.

The Living Legends event will be Friday at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.