“The Wright Brothers” book earns author and historian 14th Annual National Aviation Hall of Fame Combs Gates Award

David McCullough to receive $20,000 prize from NAHF during NBAA Convention in Orlando

(Dayton, OH – September 15, 2016)  The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) announced that David McCullough’s best-selling book, The Wright Brothers, has earned its author the 14th Annual Combs Gates Award.   McCullough will be presented the $20,000 cash prize on Wednesday, November 2nd, at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) 69th Annual Meeting & Convention in Orlando, Florida.  Presenting the award will be representatives of the NAHF as well as several Hall of Fame enshrinees.

The Wright Brothers (Simon & Shuster, 2015) presents the extraordinary story-behind-the-story of two brothers from Dayton, Ohio – Orville and Wilbur Wright – and how they succeeded at powered, controlled flight where many others had failed.  Orville and Wilbur Wright are understandably the first two individuals to be enshrined by the National Aviation Hall of Fame, located in Dayton.  Since its release, The Wright Brothers has become a best-seller, and was optioned as the source material for an upcoming mini-series about the brothers.

Its author, McCullough, has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback.  He now adds the prestigious Combs Gates Award for The Wright Brothers.

His other acclaimed books include The Greater Journey1776, Brave Companions, The Johnstown Flood, and The Great Bridge.

The Combs Award, its original title, grew out of a donation to the NAHF by the late Harry Combs, a 1996 enshrinee of the NAHF.  As part of a generous $1.3 million gift to help fund 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 review 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 fourteenth year for the award and its eleventh year with the name changed to reflect a multi-year commitment by the Gates Frontiers Fund to endow 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 NAHF enshrinee, the late Neil Armstrong, presented him a bound collection of the Wright Brothers’ personal papers.

Combs died in December 2003 at age 90.  There is no doubt he would be well pleased with the judges’ selection of The Wright Brothers.  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.”

To find out more about the NAHF or to secure an application to submit a project for 2017 Combs Gates Award consideration, please contact the NAHF Harry B. Combs Research Department at (937) 256-0944, Ext. 19, or visit www.nationalaviation.org.


Ron Kaplan, Enshrinement & Outreach Director

[email protected]

TEL: (937) 256-0944 x16

CELL: (937) 212-8847