It takes a lot of dedication, hours and sweat to bring something almost 50 years old back to life. Take an aircraft from days gone by-perhaps a military fighter, a large transport, a classic or antique, even a medi-vac helicopter sitting in a barn or hangar.
Someone comes along and wants to revitalize it, study its history, whether it’s destined for static display or to take to the skies.
This is where the National Aviation Heritage Invitational (NAHI) comes in.
This prestigious competition features aircraft that are in original flying condition on static display on the ramp at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev.
Established in 1998, the annual competition encourages the preservation of aviation history through the restoration and are judged by the strict standards set forth by representatives from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Restoration team. From the outset, the NAHI team set the restoration bar extremely high.
Awards are given in seven specific categories, Military, Classic, Contemporary, Antique and Large aircraft. The overall Grand Champion is awarded the Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy. When not at the competition the trophy resides at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum-Steven F. Udar Hazy Center in Virginia. The general public votes for their favorite in the People’s Choice category.
“We bring together some of the finest examples of restored vintage aircraft in North America to compete for the Grand Champion Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy,” stated co-founder and Executive Director, Ken Perich.
One such owner/restorer is David Bole of Buckley, WA. Bole, an aircraft maintenance inspector for Alaska Airlines is bringing his beautiful 1943 Howard DGA- 15P to Reno this year where it will sit with many other historical flying treasures.
Bole purchased the plane in August, 2011. “It was a ‘flying’ restoration when I got it,” he said. From then on, he worked diligently to complete the restoration. “It took about two years to get it in presentable condition.”
Bole looks forward to bringing his plane to NAHI once again. “Always a lot of fun and great seeing everyone. “I enjoy talking with the other participants and educating the public about my plane’s history.”
Chief Judge Colin Powers is no stranger to NAHI. He and his wife June won the 2003 Best Military aircraft in Reno with their 1943 Piper L-4H and then Grand Champion in 2005 at Dayton, Ohio. He explains, in order to be invited to the Invitational, applicants must initially meet certain criteria. “The aircraft must be 45 years or older and provide documentation and photos for the judging team to examine,” said Powers.
The judges look to see how original it is to when it came out of the factory or how it was 45 years ago. “The event has something for everyone interested in aviation and history,” said Powers. “People love to see these aircraft as they were in the past- They like to hear the stories behind them and it’s a tribute to the restorers who invest their time and money to bring these wonderful aircraft for the public to admire.”
NAHI is still accepting applications. Please visit www.heritagetrophy.org for more information.