Billy J. Barton

Billy J. Barton

Inducted November 7, 2015

Bill Barton’s first flight instructor was the late Bob Bomar. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in November 1961. A couple of years later he became a Commercial Pilot while enrolled at Middle Tennessee State College and shortly thereafter became a Certified Flight Instructor. Bill towed gliders for Garland Pack while attending college and for the next year or so flew charters and flight instructed at Tennessee Airmotive in Chattanooga while completing his Instrument and Multi-Engine ratings.

Hired by Braniff International Airways in 1965, Barton spent the next 17 years as a Flight Engineer, First Officer and Captain for the airline. He earned his Airline Transport Pilot Certificate in 1973 and was one of the youngest International airline Captains in the world at that time.

After the Braniff Airways bankruptcy in May of 1982, Bill Barton worked as an Engineering Associate at Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma with the T2 Test Cell where an advanced engine was being tested for the F-16 fighter aircraft. He was hired by the University of Tennessee Space Institute – Department of Artificial Intelligence under an FAA/NASA Grant to develop the “airliner cockpit of the next generation” incorporating as much automation as possible.

Mr. Barton worked at International Flight Center in Murfreesboro from 1984 until 1992 where he was Chief Flight Instructor. IFC was the primary flight training contractor for MTSU’s Aerospace Department and in 1988 flew 22,000 student instructional hours with no major accidents.

Bill Barton became an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner in November 1990 and between that time and March of 2012 he administered over 5,000 pilot certifications referring to each as a “license to learn”. He has earned a stellar reputation as a widely respected, consummate aviation professional and a tireless “Aviation Ambassador”. Bill Barton’s legacy is the many young pilots he has mentored who are now living their dream.

For extraordinary achievement and service to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, Billy J. Barton is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 7th day of November 2015.

Astronaut Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson

Astronaut Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson

Inducted November 7, 2015

Robert Lee Gibson was born October 30, 1946 in Cooperstown, NY and grew up in Lakewood , California. His love of flying developed early because his Father was a test pilot for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and later, an Inspector for the FAA. He frequently accompanied his Dad on business and his Father was also his Flight Instructor. Gibson soloed on his 16th birthday and got his pilot’s license the next year.

Robert L. Gibson graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering in 1969 and joined the Navy earning his Wings of Gold. He flew combat missions in the F-4 Phantom off the USS Coral Sea and USS Enterprise in Southeast Asia.

In 1972 he graduated from Navy Fighter Weapons TOP GUN School with the call sign “Hoot”. During three deployments in Southeast Asia the last of which was flying the new F-14, Gibson made over 300 carrier landings. In 1975 he returned to Miramar as an F-14A instructor and then attended U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. After graduation in 1977 he was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center’s Strike Aircraft Test Directorate, testing and evaluating improvements to the F-14. In 1978, Hoot was selected for the astronaut program, joining NASA’s eighth astronaut group, where he met fellow astronaut, Dr. Rhea Seddon. They were married in May 1981.

Astronaut Gibson’s first trip into space was as pilot on STS-41B, launched February 3, 1984. Its return to earth was the first shuttle runway landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Hoot commanded four of the five space shuttle missions he flew and carried satellites, DOD payloads and science laboratories aboard Space Shuttles Challenger, Columbia, Atlantis and Endeavor. After 18 years he left NASA in November 1996.

The next 10 years were spent flying as a Captain for Southwest Airlines, forced at age 60 to retire in October 2006.

Air & Space Magazine characterized Hoot Gibson as “The Man Who’s Flown Everything” and his log book with more than 14,000 hours of flying time just keeps climbing. Hoot’s insatiable need for speed in September 2015 earned him the “Gold” at The Reno Air Races piloting the P-51D Mustang “Strega” that covered the course at a speed of 488.983 mph.

For extraordinary achievement and service to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, Robert Lee “Hoot” Gibson is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 7th day of November 2015.

Capt. Curtis L. “Griz” Watson

Capt. Curtis L. “Griz” Watson

Inducted November 7, 2015

Curtis L. Watson was born in Winchester, Tennessee. His family moved to Crossville when he was 9-months old where his father practiced Optometry. His Dad was a partner in a Piper Tri-Pacer with five other Doctors but his college sweetheart’s father, Donald W. McKibbin, a Pan Am Captain, became the key influence behind Curt’s later interest in and entry into aviation.

Curt played football at Cumberland County High School and made a lasting name for himself as a University of Tennessee football star in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Known as “The Crossville Comet”, he ended his college career with a school-record of 2,364 yards on 529 rushes, 22 touchdowns and a 5.4 yard per carry average. He still ranks among Tennessee’s all-time rushing leaders. Watson was a 6th round NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints and was cut by the Green Bay Packers following a training camp injury.

Curt joined the Navy and was accepted into flight school at Pensacola Naval Air Station in September 1975. He acquired the call sign “Griz” while in flight training at Kingsville, TX and it stuck with him ever since. Griz earned his “Wings of Gold” June 10, 1977. Watson carrier qualed aboard the USS Lexington CV-16 and served two West Pacific Deployments aboard the USS Constellation CV-64. He made 303 carrier landings as a Naval Aviator. During his eleven years in the United States Navy Curt became a member of the elite “Blue Angels” precision flight team.

In 1987 Watson joined his sister, also a former Naval Aviator, and brother-in-law at Federal Express and spent 8 of his 28 years there in flight management. He flew 9,522 accident-free hours until retiring in 2015 as an international Captain on the McDonald-Douglas MD-11 and Boeing 777.

Motivated by his son, Dustin’s Down Syndrome, Curt Watson founded the Memphis Mid South Air Show in 1999 to raise money for the Madonna Learning Center. The first year donation was $213,000 and this event has donated over $1,600,000 to children’s charities in Memphis that now include the Boy Scouts of America Chickasaw Council, Madonna Learning Center and Memphis Oral School for the Deaf. He continues to volunteer for two other charity events that benefit Cystic Fibrosis and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

For extraordinary achievement and service to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, Curtis L. Watson is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 7th day of November 2015.

Dr. Joseph Clyde White, Sr.

Dr. Joseph Clyde White, Sr.

(1921-2007) Inducted November 7, 2015

Joseph White grew up in Chattanooga and his love for aviation originated from building model airplanes and flying them in competitions. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and attended the first Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington, DC in 1937 where he met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Following high school, Joseph entered aviation as a cadet and college detachment student at The Tuskegee Institute where he studied under Dr. George Washington Carver. Soon after his freshman year began, Joseph was selected for the new U.S. Army Air Corps segregated unit of black cadet pilots at Tuskegee. After completing his training, Joseph C. White was commissioned in the United States Air Force as a fighter pilot and assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, better known as the “Red Tails “. He flew missions in Europe and West Africa during World War II. The “Black Air Force”, a cohesive and dedicated group, struggled with racial discrimination at home and a fearsome enemy abroad. However, White wrote “The Red Tails flew many missions taking bombers to their destinations and bringing them back. Out of the 200 planes we escorted, we never lost a bomber and that is one of the things that makes me feel real good.”

At the conclusion of his service in the Air Force, he returned to The Tuskegee Institute as a faculty member and flight instructor. He also taught radar and electronics at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. While a physicist and Director of Environmental Testing at Remington Rand UNIVAC in St. Paul Minnesota, he engaged in testing of hardware and associated parts that would be utilized in rocketry and sent into space in the 1960’s.

White studied at Fisk University, the University of Tennessee, Walden University, George Peabody College and the University of Minnesota earning a bachelor of science degree, two master’s degrees and a doctor of philosophy degree during his lifetime. He taught physics, mathematics, electronics, general science and chemistry in public schools of Tennessee. In 1959, he established the first high school electronics program in the state at Pearl Senior School in Nashville.

In 1996, Dr. White was inducted into the Education Hall of Fame of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority National Education Fund. He was a lifetime member of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., the Tennessee State University Alumni Association, the Tennessee Academy of Science and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

For extraordinary achievement and service to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, Dr. Joseph Clyde White, Sr. is posthumously honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 7th day of November 2015.