Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Actor and pilot John Travolta will host the 12th annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards ceremony Friday, honoring luminaries in aviation and featuring a special presentation to the daughter of World War II hero Louis Zamperini.

The awards are designed to recognize “significant contributions and achievements during aviation’s second hundred years.”

Bruce Whitman, chairman and CEO of FlightSafety; Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines; and retired Army Maj. Gen. Carl McNair, considered the “Father of Modern Army Aviation,” will be honored as aviation legends during the event at the Beverly Hilton.

Kelleher will also receive the Legends Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award. Elling Halvorson, founder of Papillon Helicopters, will be presented with the Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award, while Michimasa Fujino, founder and CEO of Honda Aircraft Co., will receive the Aviation Industry Leader of the Year Award.

Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, will be presented with the Harrison Ford Aviation Legacy Award, with the honor bestowed by Ford.

A special presentation will be made in honor of Zamperini, a USC and Olympic track star who served as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps during World War II. His plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean in 1943, and he was stranded on a life raft for 47 days before being captured. He was a prisoner of war for 2 1/2 years, enduring hunger and torture from his Japanese captors.

Suffering from post traumatic disorder, Zamperini found solace in 1949 when he became a born-again Christian after attending a Los Angeles crusade led by evangelist Billy Graham. He eventually became an inspirational speaker preaching the power of forgiveness.

He died July 2, 2014, at age 97, just two months after he was named the grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade. His story is told in the Angelina Jolie- directed film “Unbroken.”

Zamperini’s daughter, Cynthia Zamperini-Garris, is scheduled to attend the Aviation Awards ceremony.

The event will be followed by an after-party celebrating astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s 85th birthday.

City News Service

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