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A BIOGRAPHY Of WALTER J. BOYNE

February 1, 2004 by Carl Chance

Walter J. Boyne was the Director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution from 1983 to 1986, and Acting Director from 1981 to 1983. He retired in August, 1986 to pursue a career as a novelist, nonfiction author and consultant. He is one of the few writers to have both fiction and nonfiction books on the New York Times Best Seller lists. An inventor, he has been awarded a patent on an advanced information retrieval system.

A career Air Force officer, Boyne entered the Aviation Cadet program in 1951, and won his wings and commission in 1952. He has flown over 5,000 hours in a score of different aircraft, from a Piper Cub to a B 1B, and is a Command Pilot. Boyne retired as a Colonel on June 1, 1974 after 23 years of service. In November, 1989, he returned for familiarization flights in the B 1B bomber.

He began writing articles on aviation subjects in 1962, and has since then completed more than 1,000 articles, forty non-fiction books and five novels. He is the author of aviation sections in the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as in three other encyclopedias, including Encarta. He is the editor of the new (2002) Encyclopedia of Air Warfare, by ABC-Clio.

His latest novel celebrates the Wright brothers’ triumphs and is called Dawn Over Kitty Hawk. It is published by Forge, part of St. Martin’s Press, and appeared in April, 2003. It was followed by The Influence of Air Power on History, published in July, 2003, by Pelican Publishing. His Chronicle of Flight, a 95,000 word, 1,000 photograph history of flight will appear from Publications International in August, 2003, as will his latest book Operation Iraqi Freedom: What Went Right, What Went Wrong and Why. In October, 2003, Rising Tide, the story of the Russian and Soviet submarine force will be published, co-authored with Gary Weir. In December, there will be published three works that Boyne edited, including Today’s Best Military Writing, Aviation 100, Volume III, and The Alpha Guide to the Military

His first novel The Wild Blue (co-authored with Steven L. Thompson) was published by Crown Publishers. It was a national best seller on the New York Times list in both hard cover and paperback editions, and won the Aviation/Space Writers Association Award for best Fiction Book of 1986. His second novel, Trophy for Eagles, a solo effort, was published by Crown in May, 1989, and received strong critical acclaim. The second novel in the trilogy, Eagles at War was published in May, 1991, to similar reviews. In January, 1991, he published Weapons of Desert Storm and Gulf War. Weapons of Desert Storm made the New York Time’s nonfiction best seller’s list. The third novel of his trilogy, Air Force Eagles was published in June, 1992.

A nonfiction book, Classic Aircraft was published in the summer of 1992. Art in Flight , a book on the magnificent work of sculptor John Safer, was published in October of 1992..Silver Wings, a nonfiction history of the Air Force appeared in October, 1993, while Clash of Wings, a nonfiction history of the great air campaigns of World War II, appeared in June, 1994. It was a main selection of the History Book of the Month Club for July, 1994. Both of the latter two books are published by Simon & Schuster, as is Clash of Titans a non-fiction history of the great sea campaigns of World War II, which was published in June, 1995.

Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-1997 was published in 1997 for St. Martin’s Press. The Air Force Association presented Boyne the Gill Robb Wilson Award in recognition of what has been called the definitive history of the United States Air Force. In 1998, St. Martin’s Press published his “Beyond the Horizons” a history of the Lockheed Company from 1913 to 1995. It has received unanimous critical acclaim . His next work was co-editing an anthology with Philip Handleman . It is titled Brassey’s Air Combat Reader , and was published by Brassey in 1999.

An earlier nonfiction book, The Smithsonian Book of Flight published in June, 1987, was a Book of the Month Club Premium selection, won the New York Public Library Prize, and sold some 400,000 copies. In 1986, The Leading Edge was also a Book of the Month Club Premium Selection. It won the Best Non Fiction Book of 1986 Award by the Aviation/Space Writers Association. It was also published in England and Germany. In 1987 another nonfiction book, Power Behind the Wheel traced the evolution of the automobile in technical and cultural terms, and was awarded the Thomas McKean Cup by the Antique Automobile Association of America for best book of the year.

Both The Leading Edge and The Power Behind the Wheel were republished in hardcover in the Spring of 1991 by Abbeyville Press, and both have been published in German and English foreign editions. Boeing B-52, Phantom in Combat and Messerschmitt Me 262 were all republished in 1994. Boyne’s books have been published in England, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Italy and Japan. The novel The Wild BLue was republished in 1998 year by Wind Canyon publishing. Simon & Schuster republished Clash of Titans and Clash of Wings as trade paperbacks in 1997. Both books have been placed on audio and have been published in Poland, Italy and Czechoslovakia.

His latest books include Aces in Command, Classic Aircraft, and Best of Wings, all three published in 2001, along with ABC-Clio’s Encyclopedia of Air Warfare, and The Two O’Clock War: the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the American Airlift that Saved Israel, published in September, 2002, by St. Martin’s Press.

Boyne is currently editor of the Walter J. Boyne Military Aircraft Series for McGraw Hill. Boyne serves as Associate Editor on two national aviation magazines and contributes a articles to several national newspapers. He is a consultant to four publishers, several museums and several aerospace firms. His aviation interests are wide ranging, and he serves as an advisor to a number of national and international organizations.

Boyne became involved in television in 1991, writing scripts and directing production of the highly successful series of Wings television program that appeared on the Discovery Channel. This led to his co-founding of the cable television channel Wingspan the Air and Space Channel, went on the air in April 1998 and was bought out by the Discovery Channel a year later. Boyne currently consults for the Discovery Wings Channel, and has been designated “Aerospace Expert in Residence” by Discovery.

Boyne is a familiar figure on television, appearing as a commentator on aviation and military events on all the major networks, including PBS, CNN and C-Span, as well as the History, A&E, Discovery and Speedvision cable channels. He has hosted and narrated three television programs. The first of these is a five-part series made from his book Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the Air Force, 1947-1997. It appears on the History Channel. The second is the thirteen part series made from his book Clash of Wings, and appears on Speedvision and PBS. The third is a program on John Safer’s sculpture, entitled Flight in Art.

When Boyne left the Air Force, he joined the Air and Space Museum as an assistant curator on June 10th, 1974, and gained wide experience in every aspect of museum operations. He was successively Curator of Aeronautics, Chief of Preservation and Restoration, Chief of Exhibits and Production, Assistant Director, Deputy Director, Acting Director and Director. Boyne’s career at the Museum was highlighted by a number of extraordinary achievements. One of the first of these was to transform the totally inadequate facility then existing at Silver Hill into the world’s premier restoration facility. When the facility was up and running, and a new museum open to the public there, Boyne led the initiative to re-name the facility in honor of his good friend and mentor, Paul Garber.

While this was going on, Boyne was responsible for the movement, assembly, and installation of all of the precious artifacts in the new Museum, coordinating this with the rapid-paced exhibit installation. So effective was his work that the Museum was ready to open four days before its scheduled July 4th 1976 official opening.

Boyne founded the magazine Air & Space, and established the editorial policies which made it the best selling aviation magazine in the United States. He negotiated an agreement with NASA to fly an IMAX camera on the Space Shuttle, and directly supervised the production of two of the most successful IMAX films, “The Dream is Alive” and “On the Wing”. The latter film included a close cooperative effort with Dr. Paul MacCready to create “QN” a radio-controlled flying pterodactyl. He spearheaded the planning of the huge new restaurant which rectified two of NASMs shortcomings, an inadequate restaurant and inadequate restrooms.

In one of the most far-seeing moves, he negotiated directly with Donald Engen, then the Adminstrator of the FAA, and created the agreements that provided the land upon which the new extension of the Museum at Dulles. To insure that the Smithsonian would act upon this concept, he arranged for the Space Shuttle Enterprise to be flown and stored there in 1985.

Boyne had a profound effect upon Museum operations, insisting that the staff realize that the public was their boss, and that they had to work hard to satisfy that responsibility. He also pioneered the Museum’s well received video disc program, and patented the “Digitizer” automated storage and retrieval system.

Boyne infused the Museum’s research and publication program with a new vigor, and personally supervised the upgrading of the Museum’s exhibit program. He is generally recognized to have made the Museum the most popular in the world while at the same time providing a very high level of education content. In addition, his entrepreneurial success resulted in the Museum’s shop operating at record profits, and the IMAX films paying for themselves and generating additional income.

In his capacity as Director, he served as pro bono consultant to dozens of museums in many different countries, a task he continued in a professional role after his retirement. He has acted as consultant for the Museum of Flying, in Santa Monica, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, the Aerospace Education Center in Little Rock, the Captain Michael K. Smith Educational Institute in McMinnville, Oregon, and for many others.

He is a member of almost all of the major aeronautical associations, and is a fellow of the French National Academie de l’Air et l’Espace. He has a BSBA with honors from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MBA, with honors, from the University of Pittsburgh. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Aerospace Sciences from Salem College, West Virginia in 1984.

He was awarded the Cliff Henderson Trophy for lifetime achievement in aviation by the National Aviation Club, which recently also named him an “Elder Statesman of Aviation”. Previous winners include famous test pilots Scott Crossfield and Tony Levier. In 1997 he received the Gil Robb Wilson Award from the Air Force Association, and in 1998 was given the Paul Tissandier Diploma by the F.A.I. In 2000, he was placed in line for nomination into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. His biography appears in both Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who in America. He lives in Ashburn, Virginia, with his wife, the former Jeanne Quigley. They have four children, Molly, Katie, Bill and Peggy, five grandchildren, J.D., Grace, Walter, Charlotte and Charles, one cat. Ace, and two dogs, Minnie and Max.

BOOKS BY WALTER J.BOYNE

Non-fiction:

  1. The Jet Age ( With Donald Lopez) Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979
    Flying,Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1980
  2. Messerschmitt Me 262: Arrow to the Future Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980
    Jane’s Publishing Company, New York, 1981; republished Schiffer Publications 1990
  3. Boeing B 52: A Documentary History, Jane’s Publishing Company, London, 1981
    Janes Publishing Company, New York, 1982; Republished Schiffer Publications, 1990
  4. The Aircraft Treasures of Silver Hill, Rawson Associates, New York, 1982
  5. Vertical Flight (with Donald Lopez) Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983
  6. De Havilland DH 4: From Flaming Coffin to Living Legend, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984
  7. Phantom in Combat, Janes Publishing, Ltd., New York and London, 1985
    (also published in Japan)
  8. The Leading Edge, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York, 1986
    Also published in England and Germany
  9. The Smithsonian Illustrated History of Flight Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987
    (republished 1996)
  10. The Smithsonian Book of Flight for Children, McMillan, New York, 1988
  11. The Power Behind The Wheel , Stewart Tabori & Chang, 1988
    (Published also in England, Germany and Italy)
  12. FLIGHT, Time/Life Books, Alexandria, 1990
  13. Weapons of Desert Storm, Publications International, 1991
    (New York Time’s Best Seller List)
  14. Gulf War, Publications International, 1991
  15. Classic Aircraft, Publications International, 1992
  16. ART IN FLIGHT, The Sculpture of John Safer, Hudson Hill Press, 1992
  17. Silver Wings, Simon & Schuster, New York ( September, 1993)
  18. Clash of Wings, Simon & Schuster, New York, (June, 1994)
    (Also published in Italy, Poland & Czechoslovakia
  19. Clash of Titans, Simon & Schuster, New York (June, 1995)
    (Also published in Italy, Czechoslovakia and Poland)
  20. Fly Past, Fly Present, Arms & Armour, London, (June, 1995)
  21. Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the USAF, 1947-1997, St. Martins Press (March, 1997)
  22. Beyond the Horizons:The Lockheed Story, St. Martins Press (Sept, 1998)
  23. Air Warfare (With Phillip Handleman as editors)Brassies, (March, 1999)
  24. Aces in Command, Brassey’s, March 2001
  25. German Military Aircraft, Brassey’s 2001
  26. The Best of Wings, Brassey’s 2001
  27. Aviation 100, Volume 1, Faircount, 2001
  28. Classic Aircraft, 2001, Publications International, 2001
  29. Aviation 100, Faircount, 2002 Vol II
  30. Aviation 100, Faircount 2003 Vol III
  31. The Two O’Clock War St. Martin’s Press 2002
  32. Encyclopedia of Air Warfare (Editor) ABC-Clio
  33. The Influence of Air Power on History, Pelican, 2003
  34. Chronicle of Flight Publications International, 2003
  35. Rising Tide (with Gary Weir), Perseus Books, 2003
  36. Operation Iraqi Freedom, What Went Right, What Went Wrong and Why Forge 2003
  37. The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Air Force (Editor) Tekno Books 2003*
  38. The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Navy (Editor) Tekno Books 2003
  39. The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Army (Editor) Tekno Books 2003
  40. The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Marines(Editor) Tekno Books, 2003
  41. Today’s Best Military Writing (Editor) Forge, 2004

Fiction:

  1. The Wild Blue ( with Steven L. Thompson), Crown Publishers, New York
    (New York Times Best Seller List)
  2. The Wild Blue (paperback) Ivy Press, New York, 1988
    (also published in England and Japan)
  3. The Wild Blue (Trade Paperback) Wind Canyon Publishing, Niceville, FL 1998
  4. Trophy for Eagles, Crown Publishers, New York, 1989
    (also published in England and Japan)
  5. Trophy for Eagles (paperback), Ivy Press, New York, 1990
  6. Eagles at War, Crown Publishers, New York, 1991
    (also published in England and Japan)
  7. Air Force Eagles, Crown Publishers, New York , Spring, 1992
    (Also published in Japan)
  8. Eagles at War, (paperback) Ivy Publishers, December, 1993
    (also published in England and Japan)
  9. DAWN OVER KITTY HAWK: The Novel of The Wright Brothers, Tor, 2003)
  10. Plus editing book series for Time-Life, McGraw Hill, Brassey’s, etc.
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