ATW Editor's Blog

A Great and Gracious Aviator

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A truly sad day for aviation with the announcement that Neil Armstrong has died, aged 82.

Armstrong was that rare hero for whom the endeavor, never the fame, was paramount. He lived up to the principles and legacies of his own personal heroes, Charles Lindbergh, Orville and Wilbur Wright; a band of great and gracious aviators.

He described himself as a "nerdy engineer" and at his heart, that was what defined this pragmatic aeronautical engineer and test pilot.

At the 2001 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy dinner in Washington DC, when Armstrong was the recipient, he gave a compelling speech -- more a lovingly told favorite story -- that was completely devoted to detailing how Orville and Wilbur accomplished man's first powered flight. He used no notes, he poked a little gentle fun as one "nerdy" aeronautical engineer to another, and he made clear his utter respect and total admiration for those quiet heroes of aviation.

Armstrong never mentioned himself. He never mentioned rockets or lunar modules. He never mentioned the Moon.

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