National Aviation Day is this Friday. The date coincides with Orville Wright’s birthday. He piloted his first successful flight at age 32 in 1903. Orville and his brother Wilbur proved air travel was possible. Icon Amelia Earhart opened the skies for women in aviation.

The Blue Angels, the legendary U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, have selected the first woman pilot in their 76-year history. Lt. Amanda Lee piloted a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at the Pensacola Beach Air Show.

Another ground-breaking female in the field of aerobatics is Dr. Kathy Hirtz. A one-time Harbor Hills resident, Dr. Hirtz became interested in aerobatics with her husband and air show pilot Steve Wolf. She holds a 500-foot clearance designation, performing aerobatics at an altitude as low as 500 feet. She started WingOver Aerobatics for rides and aerobatic instruction.

Neighbor and Air Force pilot Steve Hritz flew C-130 Hercules transports out of Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. Other assignments included command of the 375th Flying Training Squadron at Scott Air Force Base. Harbor Hills aviators include private pilot Joe Dietrich who has logged many hours in the cockpit. Neighbor Rich Yoder is a Naval Academy grad, ex-carrier pilot and a former captain for Pan Am.

Two Harbor Hills aviators have sadly passed away. In World War II, Air Force Brig. Gen. Bill Wilcox flew 75 combat missions and received the distinguished Flying Cross. Bill McKillop, U.S. Marine Corps Aviation, served as a squadron pilot in Korea. In later years, he flew his old WW II Stearman, bi-wing, open cockpit plane, circa 1940-45. We honor all these brave aviators on this special day.

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