Inducted: October 28, 2017
Sarah Arnold was born in Wisconsin and raised on a farm near Lumby, British Columbia. A special family friend, “Uncle” LeRoy, taught her to fly ultralights at age 13. She earned her Canadian private pilot certificate on her 17th birthday. Working in a bakery throughout her teen years, Sarah earned enough to buy her first car, pay for flying lessons, and purchase her share in a 1948 Piper Vagabond.
She moved to Tennessee in 2001, bought the Chilhowee glider business in Benton, Tennessee in 2004, and at age 24, became the youngest commercial gliderport operator in the country. At that time, the Chilhowee runway was in rough condition. Sarah applied for a TDOT grant which was used to grade, install a drainage system, and sprig new Bermuda grass.
As of 2017, Sarah has logged around 6,400 hours of flight time, including 3,700 hours in gliders. She holds a Commercial Pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, instrument, and glider ratings. She is a Certified Flight Instructor with airplane single engine land and glider ratings; a Ground Instructor with advanced and instrument ratings, and an Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic with Inspection Authorization. She maintains the gliderport’s aircraft, including overhauling engines for the towplanes. Students from across the country travel to Chilhowee Gliderport for training, and Sarah has endorsed more than 180 students for their FAA glider checkrides.
Sarah has brought many soaring events to Tennessee, including the first FAI Pan American Gliding Championship, a world class biennial competition for pilots from North and South America.
Sarah has received global recognition for her competitive soaring achievements. She has won six regional soaring competitions and one U.S. national competition. During one flight in 2011 she set three U.S. records and 11 Tennessee state gliding records. In January 2013, Sarah became the first woman glider pilot to represent the U.S., when she competed at the 32nd World Gliding Championships in Argentina. That summer, she won a bronze medal at the 7th FAI Women’s World Gliding Championships in France. In 2017, at the 9th FAI Women’s World Gliding Championships in Czechoslovakia, Sarah won a silver medal for team USA; the first since 1987.
Inducted: October 28, 2017
The Aircraft Electronics Association, at its International Convention in 2009, recognized Robert L. “Bob” Carpenter for his consistent excellence in the avionics industry and awarded him its highest honor, the AEA Lifetime Achievement Award. Readers of Professional Pilot Magazine voted Carpenter Avionics one of the top seven avionics shops in the nation for 20 years.
Mr. Carpenter received the Federal Aviation Administration’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award in 2006. The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award is named in honor of Mr. Charles Taylor, the first aviation mechanic in powered flight. The award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics with 50 or more years of experience. Mr. Taylor served as the Wright brothers’ mechanic and is credited with designing and building the engine for their first successful aircraft.
Carpenter Avionics was established in Nashville in 1981. It began business as the avionics affiliate of Nashville Jet Center and moved to the Smyrna Rutherford County Regional Airport in 1993. Bob Carpenter’s impeccable integrity, his lifelong commitment to the highest quality workmanship and to customer satisfaction, along with his talented and dedicated staff, grew Carpenter Avionics to the largest avionics service center in the Mid-South.
Mr. Carpenter was born in Graniteville, South Carolina on January 2, 1934. He graduated from high school as class Valedictorian in 1952 and attended Clemson College and Amarillo College. Bob served four years in the US Air Force as an instructor. He married Fran Togneri in 1963 and they had two children.
Inducted: October 28, 2017
Kenneth R. Franks got his first airplane ride at age 10. When he was 15 he and a friend bought a 1941 Piper J-4 without their parents permission. The secret lasted five months; then they were forced to return it to the seller.
Franks joined the U. S. Navy in early 1963 and trained as an Aviation Electronics Technician. He worked on Radar and Electronic Counter Measure equipment. Ken obtained a Top Secret Security Clearance and flew missions as an ECM operator from Spain, Libya, Turkey, Cuba, Greece, Italy and the U.S. His final assignment was to RVAH-11 Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron Eleven at Sanford, Florida where he found time to earn his Private Pilot License.
After serving in the Navy, Ken returned to college at Columbia State Community College and later transferred to MTSU to study aviation where he earned his Commercial Pilot Certificate. He was employed by the FAA as an Air Traffic Controller at Memphis ARTCC subsequently transferring to the Nashville ATCT. Franks was selected to go to Oklahoma City to train as a programmer on the ATC computer system and after requesting a return to Controlling was terminated along with 11,000 controllers for observing a strike in 1981.
In 1983, Ken joined the IRS and worked his way up to a position at the National Office in Washington, DC. Gail worked for the IRS for 35 years as a computer programmer and Database Administrator. They were married in September of 1988.
The newlyweds bought a Cessna 172, Gail learned to fly and they began searching for property to build their own airfield. 3½ years later they bought property in Bedford County that 9½ years later became T-Top Airfield. Ken and Gail began sharing T-Top Airfield hosting fly-ins and camp-outs with MTSU students, Boy Scout Troops, EAA Chapters and church groups in 1997.
As Founding Members of the Airfield Owners Association, The Franks understood the extraordinary liability exposure of privately owned airfields and they sought to change it. They began lobbying the General Assembly in 2002. Success finally came in 2009 after shepherding legislation limiting airfield owner’s liability benefitting an estimated 200 privately owned airfields across the state.
Ken and Gail Franks tirelessly and unselfishly share their beloved T-Top Airfield to promote general aviation and the freedom to fly.
Inducted: October 28, 2917
Sumner County native Jerry Kirby received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2016 commemorating 50 years of professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise. He soloed at Palm Beach International Airport on October 13, 1962 where he became an agent for Eastern Airlines. He later served with the US Army’s 75th Field Hospital, with the USAF on the C-141 and as a crew member on the C-124 with the 118th Aero-Med, Tennessee Air Guard.
Kirby holds a Commercial Certificate, with Instrument privileges, single-engine land & sea, multi-engine, and glider ratings. He is FAA FAAST program recognized and Low-Level Aerobatic and Formation Lead and Wingman qualified. Jerry’s more than 9,000 hours of flight time were logged in part as an owner or co-owner of over 35 aircraft. He once flew a Legend Cub from his private airfield (38TN) near Westmoreland, Tennessee to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Mr. Kirby has performed at air shows as a former member of Williams Aerobatic Shows; at EAA’s Oshkosh AirVenture, Lakeland’s Sun N Fun, at Tennessee Aviation Days and this year he flew a Swift at La Bourget, France in The Paris Air Show. He’s a former member of the International Council of Air Shows.
Jerry Kirby is a staunch and tireless advocate for aviation. He began a life of exemplary service and achievement as Student Body President at Westmoreland High School and earned the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout designation. He is a Lifetime Member of EAA and The Wright Brothers Museum. Jerry serves on the Board of Directors and is a Lifetime Member of The Swift Museum Foundation. He is a 50-year member of AOPA, a member of Warbirds of America, Past President of Nashville EAA Chapter 162 and member of EAA Chapters 863 and 1363. Jerry Kirby has introduced more than 425 youngsters to flying through EAA’s Young Eagles Program.
In addition to his many aviation activities, Jerry continues a lifetime of leadership and service to his local community. The Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce recognized him as their “Citizen of the Year” in 2014.