The 2004 Kansas Aviation Honor Awards

The Kansas Aviation Museum (KAM) and the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) through the office of Director of Aviation, have honored Kansans for the year 2004 who have contributed significantly to aviation in the state of Kansas. The 25th Annual Wright Brothers’ 2004 Celebration honorees are as follows:

Robert J. (Bob) Waner is the Vice-President of Engineering and New Programs at Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Robert J. (Bob) Waner is the Vice-President of Engineering and New Programs at Boeing Commercial Airplanes – Wichita division. Bob was born in Florence, Kansas. He joined the Boeing Company in June of 1964, after graduating from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. In 1970, Bob received his Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Wichita State University. He has held various positions in the Engineering Department throughout his career working on all of the commercial airplanes from the Model 707 through the Model 7E7 Dreamliner, currently under development.

Bob Waner has been directly responsible for ensuring the technical performance and integrity of aircraft design that have been contributing to the growth of the State’s economy. His leadership has helped make Boeing-Wichita a key partner in developing the new 7E7 Dreamliner aircraft, resulting in maintaining and growing technical jobs in Kansas.

For many years now, Bob has been very active in support of higher education, serving on industry advisory boards at the University of Kansas and at Wichita State University. He is a corporate council member of the American Society of Engineering Education. He is an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Associate Fellow, and the West Central Region representative for Boeing on Education Relations. Bob Waner recognizes the importance of distance education in today’s global economy, and he worked with Wichita State University in establishing the Boeing Endowed Global Learning Professorship in 2002, which has been benefiting aircraft workers around the world.

Bob Waner’s dedication to aviation research has benefited the State of Kansas by attracting aviation corporate support to conduct various research activities. He serves on the Industry Advisory Board of the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. He plays a key role in defining the direction of aviation research and planning the multi-million dollar expansion and improvement of the research facilities. In 1995, he led the establishment of the Aircraft Design and Manufacturing Research Center.

This research center is a consortium of four Kansas universities, four major aviation manufacturers, many small Kansas aviation suppliers, and the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation. This research consortium has been an effective model in bringing industries, university and the State together in solving aviation industry research and development concerns. In 2001, Bob was named to Senator Pat Roberts’ Advisory Committee on Science, Technology and the Future. He was selected as Chairman of the Aviation Task Force to assist the Senator to set priorities for technology growth and economic development in Kansas.

To focus national attention on aviation in Kansas, Bob took the leadership role in planning and implementing the Second Annual Federal Aviation Administration Centers of Excellence Conference in Wichita in October of 2002. The Conference, hosted by Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, Raytheon and the National Institute for Aviation Research at W.S.U., attracted over 200 engineers and aviation administrators from universities, businesses and government agencies around the country. Bob’s strong sense of aviation mission and his organizational skills have won the respect and support of the F.A.A. in this endeavor.

Bob also served on the Goodwill Industries Board of Directors for seven years. He likes all kinds of sports as a spectator, and enjoys playing golf as often as he can. he likes to travel and learn about the cultures of other countries. Bob is married and has two children. His son is employed as an engineer with Boeing, and his daughter is a commercial airline pilot. He and his wife enjoy their two grandchildren.

Martin and Osa Johnson

The husband and wife team of Martin and Osa Johnson were the first persons to film wild animals undisturbed in their natural surroundings, and the first to film the country of Africa from an airplane.

Osa Leighty was born in 1894 in Chanute, Kansas, and learned the genteel ways of cooking, sewing, gardening of a young lady in the Victorian era. Little did she know that the things her mother taught her about keeping house in a modest home in southeast Kansas would be the test that made her life bearable in the uncivilized jungles of Borneo, South Pacific, and the deserts of Africa. She felt it was her wifely duty to provide the best nutritional meals, comfortable quarters in a tent, and be her husband’s assistant on the job when photographing natives and animals in remote, rugged wilderness.

Martin Johnson was born in 1884 in Rockford, Illinois.

As a small child, he spent his early school years in Lincoln Center, Kansas, before moving to the southeast Kansas town of Independence at the age of 11.

His father opened a jewelry store and was the sales distributor for Eastman kodak camera supplies. Martin helped his father unpack the boxes of cameras and was instantly excited about what this mechanical device could provide. He talked his father into letting him build a dark room in the back of the jewelry store and began experimenting with the Eastman cameras.

When he was only thirteen years old, Martin was intrigued with the colorful posters of strange animals in a circus that was coming to Kansas City. He decided that the best thing for him to do was to take his camera and hop a freight train. Unfortunately, by the time he reached Kansas City, the circus had left, and he sadly returned to Independence, but firmly convinced that traveling and photography would be his life.

When he met the young Osa, at the age of 25, it was love at first sight. After only a three week courtship, Osa and Martin eloped and began their life together as partners in world travel. A few years earlier, Martin had joined up with the famous Jack London on a sailing ship to the South Pacific. Now with a new bride, Osa, he knew he had to provide a living for them. By touring the Vaudeville circuit and showing his films of the far away islands of the South Pacific, and charging an admission fee of ten cents, they managed to save enough money to buy more film, more cameras, and finance more trips to the South Pacific, and eventually the dark continent of Africa. This was all done in the days before residents of the United States even knew that there were animals and human beings never before photographed. Over the course of the next twenty years, the Johnsons pioneered the art of live-action wildlife photography.

Between 1917 and 1937, the Johnson’s extended trips to the South Seas, Borneo, and Africa resulted in ten feature-length films and over seventy silent films.

Through years of work and travel, they grew to be innovative in many areas, adopting the latest technology and soon recognizing the advantages of the airplane and aerial photography. They became licensed pilots and purchased two amphibian aircraft from the Sikorsky Aviation Company in 1932 for $20,000.

The twin-engine aircraft was painted with zebra strips and named, “Osa’s Ark”. The single engine aircraft was painted with giraffe spots, and named, “Spirit of Africa”. Cameras were mounted on the exterior and the interior was stocked with supplies for a safari.

The “Flying Safari” from 1933 to 1934, became their most recognized and best documented trip, flying the length of Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo, over 60,000 miles. Their aircraft furnished the first films of Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro. They were able to record the movements of huge herds of elephants, rinos, lions and giraffe, together with pictures of the peoples of these lands in their native dress, dances and cultural life styles.

These two amazing people, Martin and Osa Johnson, have been honored by many exploration and photography organizations around the world.

Their adventure together ended tragically when they were traveling together on a commercial airline flight in California, in 1937. Martin was killed, and Osa seriously injured. Osa devoted the rest of her life to writing books about their life of world travel, and raising public awareness about animal conservation.

The Johnson’s left most of their life’s work in books, films, photographs and documents on public display in the museum named in their memory, “The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum” in Chanute, Kansas.

Robert L. Kanaga

Robert L. Kanaga is native Kansan, born in Winfield in 1925. He grew up in a family of three brothers and two sisters in Derby, Kansas, graduating from Derby High School in 1941. Being raised in the shadow of Wichita Aircraft Companies, he would often watch the flights of the bi-winged Stearman and B-17 Beech Staggerwing and wished he could be a pilot, too.

At the age of 15, he would pedal his bicycle to the Wichita Municipal Airport across from the Stearman factory. He purchased a flight in a Staggerwing for a flight over Wichita and dreamed of being a fighter pilot. When he turned 18 in 1943, he joined the United States Army Air Corps at Strother Field in Winfield, Kansas. Bob Kanaga completed his pilot training at Williams Field Air Base in Mesa, Arizona, in 1946. After receiving his wings, he went to the Pacific island of Guam with the 20th Fighter Group where he flew P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft. While in Guam, he enjoyed an athletic program playing both basketball and football.

In 1950, he volunteered for combat duty with the 8th Fighter Group where he flew 125 missions, some of them in P-51 Mustangs, and the F-84 fighter plane. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

By this time, Kanaga had obtained the rank of Captain in the United States Air Force, and was assigned to Luke Air Force Base as an instructor pilot. While assigned to Luke, he was instrumental in the formation of a new aerial exhibition team called, “The Thunderbirds”, using the F-84 aircraft.

With no previous experience in demonstration flying, he helped to create the manuals and established guidelines for the Air Force Thunderbirds to create the dazzling aerial displays for which they would become world famous. Captain Kanaga was chosen to fly the “slot” position in the four plane formation, a more perilous position at the rear of the diamond. In September of 1953, only four months after its initial formation, the Thunderbird team appeared at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita for their aerial demonstration show.

One of the highlights in his Thunderbird career, besides performing for thousands of spectators, was meeting celebrities such as the famous movie-star, Jimmy Stewart.

Following his flying career with the Thunderbirds, he continued to fly for the Arizona Air National Guard, where he was honored as the most outstanding Arizona Guardsman. His Guard unit was activated and he was sent to Germany to fly the F-104 Star Fighter escorting military cargo and civilian passenger aircraft in the Berlin Corridor.

More recently, the original Thunderbird Team was inducted into the International Council of Air Shows in 2002. The following year, the Thunderbirds observed their 50th Anniversary of their formation of 1953, and was inducted into the Thunderbird Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada, the home of The Thunderbirds.

Retired from 32 years of military flying, Bob Kanaga entered civilian flying jobs with several interesting jobs in fighting forest fires, charter flights in Beech King Air’s, and corporate flying in Cessna Citations. Recently celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary, Bob and his wife enjoy their grandchildren and life in the desert of Mesa, Arizona.

James R.

James R. “Jim” Greenwood helped to make the name “Learjet” a household word.

Born in 1920, in Washington, D.C., he began flying at the age of 16 and soon started making exhibition parachute jumps at local air shows. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941, one week following Pearl Harbor, serving aboard the U.S.S. Badoeng Strait. He was a parachute rigger and helped develop emergency parachute equipment. He worked for a commercial parachute service following his discharge from the Navy in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1946.

He started his writing career in Alexandria, as a journalist for the local newspaper. In 1948, he combined his two primary interests, flying and writing, and became widely recognized as an aviation author and historian. The three books he wrote were: “Parachuting for Sport”, and “The Parachute: From Balloons to Skydiving”, and “Stunt Flying In The Movies”. The latter book received several awards and remained in print for years.

He briefly worked for Eastern Air Lines, and then American Airmotive, where he managed publicity for the 1950 Miami All American Air Maneuvers. From 1951 to 1955, he was the Assistant to the President of Hawthorne School of Aeronautics, serving as Coordinator of Training.

The Hawthorne School had a contract with the U.S. Air Force to train pilots needed for the Korean Conflict. His public communications and community relations programs became models for the Air Training Command. In 1951, in the wake of a series of crashes that killed spectators at air shows, the Civil Aeronautics Administration threatened to ban all public demonstrations of aerial stunts. Based on the recommendations of James Greenwood, the C.A.A. issued new criteria for air shows, which are still being used today.

Arriving in Wichita, Kansas, in 1955, Jim became manager of press relations for Beech Aircraft Corporation. Working closely with Olive Ann Beech and Frank Hedrick, he set up guidelines in the areas of aircraft accidents and aviation safety. Greenwood proved that prompt and accurate responses to public questions benefited the aircraft manufacturer and the inquiring public. As supervisor of the Beech’s external publications, he was awarded the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedom Foundation.

A move across Wichita to the west side to the newly formed Lear Jet Corporation in 1964, brought a new set of opportunities and challenges. With his skillful writing talents, he was able to make the Learjet airplane the most popular business jet of the sixties.

Between 1970 and 1973, he accepted an appointment from the Nixon administration to serve as director of public affairs at the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C. He is shown here taking the oath of office at the swearing-in ceremony. During his time with the F.A.A., he wrote the Department of Transportation’s first manual for the review and release of public information. This allowed the F.A.A. to inform the public with authentic information about aviation to rebuff misleading rumors.

He returned to Gates Learjet in Wichita in 1974, serving as corporate vice-president until 1981. One of the more enjoyable benefits of a job in public relations was the opportunity to meet famous celebrities making visits to the aircraft factory. Among the more famous faces were actors Bob Cummings…….Lee J. Cobb……. James Coburn……and television personalities such as Arthur Godfrey, ……and Johnny Carson….

He organized and managed the golfer Arnold Palmer’s record-setting flight around the world in a Learjet 36, in 1976. He was instrumental in assisting Neil Armstrong’s flight that set five world records in 1979.

Jim Greenwood developed business jet safety seminars and numerous humanitarian projects using the Learjet. In 1982, the Federation Aeronautique International in Brussels, Belgium, awarded him the Paul Tissandier Diploma for a “lifetime of service to the cause of aviation”.

He retired from Gates Learjet in 1985 as Senior Vice-President of Corporate Affairs. But not letting any grass grown under his feet, Greenwood continued to maintain an active role in aviation. He helped set up the Carrier Aviation Test Pilots Hall of Honor in Charleston, South Carolina, and was enshrined in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in 1996. In the same year, he was awarded the National Aeronautics Association’s “Elder Statesman of Aviation” award for “increasing public awareness of the social and economic benefits of human flight”.

Besides contributing greatly to Kansas aviation for 30 years, Jim Greenwood has been an articulate and effective spokesman for aviation for his whole life.