A History of Collier Trophy Fails

A history of Collier awards for achievements that didn't work out as planned. Plus, a look at this year's nominations and a chance to vote for your favorite.

Collier Award

Collier Award

The history of the National Aeronautic Association is a long and glorious one. From the organization's first award to Glenn Curtiss for the development of the floatplane, the NAA has much more often that not hit the nail on the head, recognizing remarkable achievements that have stood the test of time. But there have been some noteworthy mistakes and controversies along the way, some awards that seem in retrospect politically motivated and others that seem wishful thinking for struggling programs. Others were victims of unforeseeable circumstances. While it's true that in some of these failed awards, the noteworthy achievement or product came back to snatch victory from the jaws of failure, in other cases, the failure, as the kids are fond of saying, was simply epic. Here's our list of Epic Collier Fails.
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THE BOEING COMPANY (2011): For designing, building, certifying, delivering, and supporting the Boeing 787; demonstrating significant advances in the use of materials, technologies, and systems to enhance safety, performance, comfort, and value in commercial aircraft. _Boeing's revolutionary design was years late, billions over budget and the worldwide fleet currently sits idle as investigators try to figure out the cause of mysterious battery fires. Here's one program we all hope rises again to great heights. _ _
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THE AUTOMATIC DEPENDENT SURVEILLANCE-BROADCAST (ADS-B) TEAM OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR GROUPS (2007): For conceptualizing, developing, and initially implementing the next generation performance-based air-ground, ground-air, and air-air surveillance system. By 2007 ADS-B was a mess, and the industry-wide team recognized for the Collier was still working to figure out a basic architecture for the system, a quest that five years later is still ongoing to some degree, with numerous questions left unanswered about how ADS-B works (including the U.S.'s odd dual pipe system) and why it works that way. The good news: ADS-B has opened up free near-real-time weather in the cockpit. _
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LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, THE BOEING COMPANY, PRATT & WHITNEY, NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION, RAYTHEON CORPORATION, BAE SYSTEMS AND THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE (2006): For designing, testing, and operating the revolutionary F-22 Raptor, providing total air dominance for America's future. _The Raptor, while capable of doing things that no other front line fighter can, has been a prodigiously expensive project at at time when the very need for next-gen air surpemecy fighters is debatable. The year the Raptor won the Collier, the very fate of the program was in the balance. In the end, the F-22's production continued, but the overall order was cut by a third. The program was halted in 2011 after fewer than 200 very expensive airplanes had been produced. Since its inception, eight of the fighters have been lost, numerous pilots have lost consciousness while flying it, and rain can erode the radar evading aircraft coating. _ _
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ECLIPSE AVIATION (2005): For innovation in the advancement of general aviation through the design, development and manufacture of the Eclipse 500, the World's first very light jet. _While the Collier is supposedly awarded for actual achievement, the Eclipse 500 by 2005 was the very essence of pie in the sky technology. The story of the lightest production jet, its delays, cost overruns and the company's eventual bankruptcy is well known. The eventual full certification and reestablishment of the airplane, as the Eclipse 550, shows that sometimes even epic fails can have happy endings. _ _
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PRATT & WHITNEY, ROLLS-ROYCE, LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION, BAE SYSTEMS AND THE JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER PROGRAM OFFICE (2001): For designing, developing, and demonstrating the Integrated LiftFan Propulsion System, the next generation in aviation propulsion performance, efficiency and safety. _The Joint Strike Fighter, a trillion dollar program, has seen numerous (too numerous to cite) equipment failures, cost overruns, political miscalculations and performance downgrades since it won the Collier just over a decade ago. The cost of the airplane has increased, from less than $90 million per copy to more than $200 million each (or more, depending on how you do the math). Still, the F-35 will be the future of American fighter power, and pilots are now beginning to train on the airplane. Initial overseas deployment, however, is still five years away. _ _
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NASA LEWIS RESEARCH CENTER AND THE NASA/INDUSTRY ADVANCED TURBOPROP TEAM (1987): For the development of advanced turboprop propulsion concepts for single rotation, gearless counter rotation, and geared counter rotation inducted fan systems. _The award for this ducted turboprop research was all very well and good. The only problem is, it has led nowhere, as conventional turboprops and turbofan engines continue to dominate the marketplace and improve upon the state of the art very nicely indeed. _ _
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Operation Linebacker II

Operation Linebacker II

THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE 7th AIR FORCE AND 8TH AIR FORCE OF THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE AND TASK FORCE 77 OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY (1972): For successfully carrying out Operation Linebacker II, the air campaign against North Vietnam in December, 1972 which through precise, accurate, and determined attacks on key military targets in the face of unprecedented defenses, brought about a cease fire under terms which attained United States objectives in Southeast Asia. _One of the most controversial awards in Collier history, the trophy was presented to the personnel behind Operation Linebacker, the air campaign against targets in North Vietnam. While no one disputes the skill and bravery of the personnel who waged the campaign, the outcome wasn't as the Collier committee predicted. While the NAA optimistically stated that the operation had been a success in determining the outcome of the war, history would soon tell a different tale. _ _
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PACKARD MOTOR CAR COMPANY (1931)****: For development of the diesel aircraft engine. _The NAA might have gotten this one right... aero diesels are finally coming into their own, just 70 years or so after Packard accepted the Collier hardware. _ _
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HAROLD F. PITCAIRN AND HIS ASSOCIATES (1930): For development and application of the autogiro. Today autogiros are everywhere we look. Okay, not so much. But they were all the rage in 1930, so the Collier committee saw fit to award its top prize to the technology. Truth is, sometimes things don't work out the way you thought they would. _
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES While there have been a few missteps in Collier history, this year's nominees all appear to be sure bets. The nominees run the gamut from remotely controlled helicopters to deep space probes billions of miles away from Earth. Without further ado, here are the finalists for this year's prestigious Collier Trophy. And don't forget to vote for your favorite!
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES Lockheed Martin Cargo Unmanned Aerial Systems: Lockheed Martin won a nomination for its Cargo Unmanned Aerial Systems, the first time (at least that we're aware of) that the NAA has nominated an atmospheric unmanned craft for the award. It's a worthy nomination, if only to give a nod to the rapidly expanding role of UAS in nearly every sector. Lockheed Martin produces every conceivable kind of unmanned system, from "optionally piloted" helicopters to models no bigger than large model airplanes. Click here to vote for the Lockheed Martin Cargo Unmanned Aerial System.
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES Dawn Asteroid Probe: NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratories were nominated for their joint Dawn Project, in which a sophisticated probe, the Dawn Spacecraft, explores asteroids. The resultant images and heat maps have been nothing short of eye-opening. Click here to vote for the NASA/JPL Dawn Project Team.
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES The USAF MC-12 Project Liberty Team: Drones have changed the game in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in order to attack, there needs to be good intelligence. The answer was the MC-12 Liberty, specially outfitted Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350 and King Air 350 ER aircraft designed to gather intelligence and report it back to controllers. Click here to vote for the United States Air Force MC-12 Project Liberty Team.
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES Mars Curiosity Rover: The team from NASA and JPL got another nod when they were nominated for their Mars Curiosity rover and their shared Mars laboratory. The rover continues to explore the Martian surface. Click here to vote for the NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Project Team.
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES The NASA/JPL Voyager Interstellar Mission Project Team: Space programs were solidly represented in this year's Collier's nominees, and again NASA and JPL were honored with a third finalist recognition for their Voyager spacecraft. Recognition might seem late in coming -- the Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched in 1977. The year Voyager 1 crossed over into a new part of the solar system, the most distant part, and is now approximately 11 billion miles from the Sun, making it the most distant man-made object in the universe. Click here to vote for the NASA/JPL Voyager Interstellar Mission Project Team.
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES The Gulfstream G650: Gulfstream's category-busting ultra-long-range bizjet goes beyond the "intercontinental" category with its ability to skip one or two big land masses altogether and land on a third. With unprecedented range and speed in a purpose-built bizjet, the high-subsonic G650 sets a whole new standard in personal and business travel. Click here to vote for the Gulfstream G650.
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team: A year ago who knew this guy's name? After watching him do his thing on live TV, jumping from the edge of space and going supersonic in the process, who doesn't. These days the worst kept secret in the world is that Baumgartner didn't do it himself, and the NAA appropriately recognizes his entire Red Bull support team. Click here to vote for Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team.
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COLLIER TROPHY 2012 NOMINEES Vote for your favorite! Click here to vote for the Lockheed Martin Cargo Unmanned Aerial System. Click here to vote for the NASA/JPL Dawn Project Team. Click here to vote for the United States Air Force MC-12 Project Liberty Team. Click here to vote for the NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Project Team. Click here to vote for the NASA/JPL Voyager Interstellar Mission Project Team. Click here to vote for the Gulfstream G650. Click here to vote for Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team.