Astronaut Honored in Larger-Than-Life Airport Display

A new mural unveiled at Dick Scobee Field (S50) in Washington honors the aviator’s legacy.

Dick Scobee, an Air Force test pilot, engineer, and astronaut, was the pilot on the space shuttle Challenger’s last flight in 1986. [Courtesy: Meg Godlewski]

Very rarely do pilots visit an airport to see a particular hangar—unless there is something unique and striking about it, such as a large mural that honors a notable aviator with local ties. That may soon be the case at Auburn Municipal Airport-Dick Scobee Field (S50) in Auburn, Washington, south of Seattle, as recently a mural honoring space shuttle commander Dick Scobee was unveiled. Scobee was born in Washington and, in 1957, graduated from nearby Auburn High School.

Scobee, an Air Force test pilot, engineer, and astronaut, was the pilot on the space shuttle Challenger's last flight in 1986. The Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven crew members. In the years that followed, there were several honorifics granted in honor of the crew. In 2004, they were named to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and the airport was renamed Auburn Municipal Airport-Dick Scobee Field.

How the Mural Came To Be

The mural is on the airside of the airport, on an exterior wall of a hangar next to the taxiway. The project was the result of a collaboration between Silvana Vasquez, airport management intern, and artist Myron Curry. 

"The significance of the mural on the hangar is not just to beautify the airport, but also [to] memorialize and honor Dick Scobee, Challenger Space Shuttle Commander, who lived in Auburn, Washington, in his early life," says Vasquez. "Our airport was honorifically named Dick Scobee Field to celebrate the life and achievements of a great Pacific Northwest Native. This mural added color and an identity to the hangar wall and the airport, which is a treat for pilots who get to see it when they operate at our airport."

The mural depicts a larger than life image of Scobee in his space shuttle commander's uniform in the foreground, and the space shuttle Challenger behind him. The space images are embraced on a wall that is a riot of color with a larger letter "A" and the slogan, Welcome to S50 Dick Scobee Field.

"The airport staff decided that we wanted the mural to look very similar to our challenge coin. We wanted a welcome sign, Dick Scobee, the Challenger Space Shuttle, and our logo in it so that is what we did," Vasquez says.

About the Artist

The artist, Myron Curry, has spent several years in the Pacific Northwest. His other works appear in downtown Seattle. The murals are often done to honor locally famous individuals. Curry says he was excited to be asked to recognize Commander Scobee, and he quickly set to work coming up with a concept.

"It took me a few days to come up with a concept drawing," he says. "I did a really deep dive into the subject matter. I learned a lot about the airport and about him." Through his research, he developed the mix of colors—designed to convey the energy that is often present at airports—used in the mural.

That energy and the people at the airport were a pleasant surprise for Curry. "This was my first time painting at an airport. It is like a small community there, and I really enjoyed that," he says.

Curry spent approximately four days working on the image. "I got there at 8 in the morning and worked until dark, so about 14- to 15-hour days," he recalls. The image was finished the last week in September.

According to Vasquez, the Scobee mural may be the first of several designs painted at the airport.

Curry says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the pilots’ reactions to his work. "I think people appreciate it," he says. "There were some people who approached me about painting their individual hangars. It was one of the best projects I have ever worked on."

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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