Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos has racked up another round of recognition for his role on the space frontier: Next week he’ll be inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation, alongside aerospace executives, pioneering skydiver Joe Kittinger and musician Kenny G.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who passed away in October, will receive a posthumous tribute as a “Flown West Legend” during the Living Legends of Aviation Awards ceremony, scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The star-studded event, produced as a fundraiser for the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, honors those who have made significant contributions to aviation. Bezos is among this year’s inductees by virtue of his role in founding the Blue Origin space venture and supporting it to the tune of $1 billion a year.
Blue Origin is conducting uncrewed flight tests of its suborbital New Shepard spaceship, with an eye toward putting passengers on board later this year. The company is gearing up to build orbital-class New Glenn rockets in Florida, with the first launch currently set for 2021, and has laid out plans to build a Blue Moon lander for delivering payloads to the lunar surface.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders will present Bezos with a Freedom’s Wings Award to recognize his efforts to advance the principles of freedom in business and in his personal endeavors.
During a 2017 conference in Los Angeles, Bezos said one of his motivations in founding Blue Origin was to ensure that humanity keeps pushing out into frontiers rather than turning into “a civilization of stasis.”
“Personally, I do not like the idea of stasis,” Bezos said at the time. “In real stasis, somebody is going to have to tell you how many kids you can have, how much energy you can use. There’ll be all kinds of things that just aren’t consistent with liberty and freedom.”
Bezos will also receive the Kenn Ricci Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award.
Although Bezos is better-known as Amazon’s founder and the world’s richest individual, he and his Blue Origin teammates have earned enough space awards to fill a trophy case, including the Heinlein Prize, the Goddard Memorial Trophy, the Collier Trophy, the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award and the Museum of Flight’s Pathfinder Award.
In addition to Kenny G — a licensed airplane pilot as well as a Grammy-winning saxophonist who was born and raised in Seattle — Bezos’ fellow Living Legends of Aviation inductees include:
- Brian Barents, retired executive chairman and CEO at Aerion, who will also receive the Aviation Industry Leader of the Year Award.
- Rick Fiddler, director of Amway Aviation.
- Joe Kittinger, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who became famous for his record-setting, 19-mile-high parachute jump in 1960.
- John Leahy, retired Airbus sales chief.
- Kenn Ricci, founder and CEO of Directional Aviation Capital.
Other honorees include:
- Jean Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet, who’ll receive the Lifetime Aviation Award.
- Harrison Ford, Oscar-winning actor and licensed pilot, who’ll present his Harrison Ford Aviation Legacy Award.
- Richard DeVos, who’ll be honored for founding the West Michigan Aviation Academy. DeVos is the husband of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
- Jim Payne, who’ll be honored for his role as chief pilot of the Perlan 2 Glider, a research aircraft that flies to 90,000 feet.
- Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss psychiatrist and adventurer who’ll be honored for his round-the-world flight in the Solar Impulse aircraft.
- Stefan Aust, who’ll receive the Wings of Help Award.
- Leigh Clifford, chairman of Australia’s Qantas airline, who’ll accept an award recognizing Qantas as the “safest, longest continuous operating airline.”
Paul Allen will be recognized for his philanthropic efforts as well as for projects aimed at preserving aviation history (at the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Wash.) and advancing the space frontier (through his support for the SpaceShipOne private spaceflight project as well as his Stratolaunch space venture).
Bruce Whitman, a former Air Force pilot who devoted much of his life to FlightSafety International, will also receive posthumous honors as a Flown West Legend at next week’s Beverly Hills ceremony.
The host for the ceremony will be John Travolta, an actor and pilot who owns several airplanes. NBC News correspondent Tom Costello will moderate a fireside chat with the Living Legends of Aviation inductees.