First Flight Society Selects 2023 Honorees

This year, the First Flight Society is recognizing two aviation luminaries through its Honorary Membership program.

2023 First Flight Society Honorees

The First Flight Society has selected Erik Lindbergh (left) and Mack Rutherford (right) to receive honorary lifetime memberships. [Courtesy: First Flight Society]

It is safe to say that without the Wright brothers, we would not have aviation as we know it. The First Flight Society, a nonprofit organization whose mission tells the story of the famous inventors and recognizes those who carry on their commitment to promote and encourage aviation through their Honorary Membership program, have selected two new Honorary Lifetime Members: aviation record-holder Mack Rutherford and aviator Erik Lindbergh.

The Honorary Membership program was launched in 2020 to give public appreciation to those who have achieved national recognition in aviation.

About the Honorees

“The First Flight Society is proud to honor both Mack Rutherford and Erik Lindbergh with lifetime honorary memberships," said Mike Fonseca, president of the First Flight Society. "They are both great individuals who are currently influencing the field of aviation.”

Mack Rutherford

In 2022 Rutherford, raised in Belgium, became the youngest to fly solo around the world using a microlight aircraft. Rutherford launched his epic journey from Belgium in March. The trip took five months and had him traveling through the airspace of 52 countries. Epic flights run in the family; Mack's older sister Zara Rutherford made a similar journey in 2021 at the age of 19 in a Shark Aero UL. She was also named a First Flight Society Honorary Lifetime Member.

Erik Lindbergh

Lindbergh was literally born into an aviation family. The grandson of Charles Lindbergh, who in 1927 became the first pilot to successfully fly across the Atlantic, the younger Lindbergh has made a name for himself as an aviator, adventurer, artist, and entrepreneur. In 2002 on the 75th anniversary of his grandfather's flight, he flew a Lancair Columbia 300 from New York to Paris.

He is also an accomplished artist, often using the natural curves of wood in sculpture. He is the co-founder and executive chairman of VerdeGo Aero, a company dedicated to creating powertrain systems and engineering services for the electric aircraft industry. In addition, he is the co-host of The Lindberghs podcast and serves as the chairman of the board of the Lindbergh Foundation. He is also on the board of trustees of the XPrize Foundation, an organization that encourages public competitions that feature technological developments designed to benefit humanity.

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ aviation achievement. Each year the FFS honors them on December 17, the date in 1923 of the historic first flight. This year's honorees have the chance to attend the December 17 luncheon in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, was created in part by the efforts of a group of local businessmen known as the Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association, a group that later became the First Flight Society. Today, the FFS is a partner with the National Park Service, which oversees the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The FFS celebrates the anniversary of the first powered flight with the special lunch that honors an inductee into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Society Shrine. This year's honorees are Walter and Olive Beech, the founders of Beechcraft.

More information can be found here.

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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