SCOTT M. NISWONGER
Inducted November 2, 2019
Scott Niswonger learned to fly as a teenager, soloing on his sixteenth birthday. During his aviation career, he has flown many aircraft, ranging from a Piper J-3 Cub to the Boeing 747.
Scott graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Aviation Technology and was awarded a Doctorate of Technology Degree in 2004. He also earned a BSBA from Tusculum University in 1986 and was subsequently honored with a Doctorate of Human Letters in 2006. He also holds a Doctorate of Human Letters from both East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee.
After graduating from Purdue, he was employed as a corporate pilot with the Magnavox Company in Greeneville, Tennessee. In 1973, Niswonger started a successful Part 121 cargo airline, General Aviation, Inc. which operated 38 freighters on nightly scheduled service. After selling General Aviation, he became Vice- President of Operations for Flying Tiger Lines – a military contractor and global cargo airline. He later co-founded Landair Services which was taken public in 1993, and in 1990 he formed Forward Air Corporation(FWRD), which remains a publicly traded company. He serves as a member of the Purdue University President’s Council, Dean’s Council for Purdue University Polytechnic Institute, is a Board Member for the Purdue Research Foundation and Chairman of Purdue Aviation, LLC.
In 2001 he founded the Niswonger Educational Foundation to create opportunities for individual and regional growth through educational programs, scholarships, and other charitable activities. This educational foundation currently has 20 scholars in college and 71 alumni. The Foundation has an annual budget of more than $5 million and has invested more than $70 million in rural East Tennessee’s Pre-K through 12 public education system.
Scott is also the lead benefactor for the Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City which is home to one of only eight St. Jude Affiliate Clinics in the world.
Mr. Niswonger is a distinguished and successful businessman, aviator, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is a staunch advocate and supporter for aviation. Scott’s current aviation interest consists of a charter operation with worldwide authority, an FBO, a Part 141 flight school Part 145 maintenance center and a combination of 16 single engine, 2 multi engine and 4 jet aircraft.
For extraordinary achievement and service to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, Scott M. Niswonger is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 2nd day of November 2019.
COLONEL BEN J. “BENJO” WELCH
Inducted November 2, 2019
Born in 1934 in Bon Air, Tennessee, Ben Welch grew up determined to be a pilot. His first flight in 1946 in an Aeronca Champ at Crossville, Tennessee cost $2.00. Completing two years at Tennessee Tech, he was employed by McDonnell Aircraft as an Engineering Draftsman, leaving the company in 1956 to join the USAF Aviation Cadet program. Flying the T-34, T-28 and T-33 he graduated in December 1957, earning his pilot wings and a 2nd Lieutenant Commission.
During his 38-year career as a USAF and Tennessee Air National Guard officer and pilot, he would pilot a multitude of aircraft, including the RF-101, EC-47, C-124, C-130A, C-130H and KC-135.
Returning from Misawa, Japan where he flew the RF-101, “Benjo” was assigned to SAC as a non-flying Minuteman Missile Launch Officer. In 1966 he was returned to flying duty and volunteered for Vietnam. Flying the EC-47, he was tasked with locating, identifying and targeting enemy operations and command locations, including during the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968.
Returning from Vietnam in 1969, he left Air Force active duty and joined the Tennessee Air National Guard. ANG assignments included – Flying Safety Officer, Wing Chief of Safety, Wing Training Officer, Squadron Operations Officer, Squadron Commander and Wing Director of Operations. Flying with the ANG, “Benjo” amassed over 5,000 flight hours in the C-130A and C-130H. Promoted to Colonel in 1989, he returned to Active Duty as the Air Guard Advisor to the Commander of 21st Air Force.
Assigned as the 21st Air Force Crisis Action Team Commander, Col Welch was responsible for command and control of airlift in support of Operation Desert Shield. Additional assignments while at 21st Air Force included Egypt (Operation Restore Hope, Somalia) and Antarctica (Operation Deep Freeze).
Col Welch’s awards and commendations include – Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with Five Oak Leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.
Col Welch retired from the US Air Force in July 1994. At the time of his retirement, he was the oldest active duty officer on flying status in the US Air Force. He continues to fly, and is a pilot with the Civil Air Patrol.
For extraordinary achievement and service in aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, Col. Ben Welch is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 2nd day of November 2019.
JAMES STEPHEN FOSSETT (1944-2007)
Inducted November 2, 2019
An Entrepreneur & Adventurer, Steve Fossett was born in Jackson, Tennessee in April 1944 and grew up in Garden Grove, California. He was educated at Stanford University, where he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree, and received his Master’s Degree from Washington University in St. Louis. He made his fortune in the field of investment and commodities trading.
As a young man, he was very active in Boy Scouts of America and attained the Rank of Eagle Scout. He was often quoted as saying Boy Scouts had a profound impact on him as a young man and guided him thru adulthood.
After attaining great financial success in business, Steve began engaging in his passion of setting various records through adventures and aviation. In 2002, he was the first person to complete a solo, nonstop, circumnavigation of the world in a hot air balloon, a feat for which he is most famous. In 2005, he was the first person to fly an airplane solo around the world non-stop and non-refueled, covering 23,000 miles in 67 hours. He also set a World record for the highest altitude attained in a glider (57,671 feet) and three World records for the longest distance traveled by a glider.
During his life, he completed more than 116 adventure-records in five different sports (fixed-wing aviation, balloons, airships, cross-country snow skiing and sailing). Steve Fossett has to his name 91 world records in aviation, and 36 still remain unbeaten to date. He also successfully climbed the highest peaks on 6 of the 7 continents of the World, missing only Mt. Everest due to an asthma attack.
Fossett was known to say that he did not like risks – and he knew that would sound strange coming from him. However, he said what he tried to do was reduce risk with careful planning, technological development and the help of the best scientists and experts. He also said he did not do extreme sports because of the excitement, but for the personal success.
He died in September 2007, when the Super Decathlon he was piloting vanished while flying over the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
In July 2007, Fossett was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2010, he was posthumously inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.
For extraordinary achievements in aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, James Stephen Fossett is posthumously honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 2nd day of November 2019.
Inducted November 2, 2019
Deborah Baugh, a staunch aviation and Warbirds enthusiast holds Commercial, Instrument, and Multi-engine Ratings and is also Formation Qualified. She and husband John own a matching pair of Beechcraft T34 Mentors that they have frequently flown in formations together for veteran memorials, airshows, and many other events.
Deborah and John have been volunteers for EAA both nationally and locally for many years. Deborah has served in numerous roles at AirVenture from 1988 to 1995. In 1992, she was appointed the State of Tennessee Representative of the Young Eagles program. Mrs. Baugh has personally flown over 900 Young Eagles and has received the Young Eagles Award from National Warbirds and EAA Chapter 863. She received the coveted Spirit Award in 1996 from Paul and Audrey Poberezny for her work with the Young Eagles program and the prestigious National EAA Major Achievement Award in 2000.
Deborah has volunteered at the Women in Aviation, International conferences for many years and is the first Life Time Member of WAI. She is also a lifetime member of EAA, EAA Warbirds and a member of The 99’s International Organization of Women Pilots, the T34 Association, AOPA, a Lifetime Member of the American Legion Auxiliary, EAA Chapter 863, and the EAA Tennessee “First Squadron” Warbirds Chapter.
Deborah serves as Treasurer and Board Member of Women in Aviation International and is Past President and Treasurer of the Music City Chapter of WAI. She is a founding member of the Music City Chapter of Women in Aviation International.
She serves on the Board of Directors for EAA Chapter 863 and is a former officer and newsletter editor for both EAA Chapter 863 and the Tennessee First Squadron. Deborah Baugh has served on the Lebanon Airport Commission.
For extraordinary achievement and service to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, Deborah Baugh is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 2nd day of November 2019.