MINNEAPOLIS, MN. (Jan. 19, 2012) - Today, The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation announced the recipients of two prominent awards, which will be presented at a celebration at the Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida on March 29, during the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In.
Legendary inventor Forrest Bird has been selected to receive the 2012 Lindbergh Award and businessman-philanthropist James C. Ray has been named recipient of the Spirit Award.
"2012 is a significant year since we are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Lindbergh Foundation as well as the 85th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's New York-to-Paris flight," said Lindbergh Foundation Chairman and CEO Larry Williams. "We are particularly pleased and honored to be recognizing such exceptional aviators as Dr. Forrest Bird and James C. Ray with Lindbergh Awards during this historic year. I speak for our Board, Staff and supporters when I offer my heartfelt congratulations to these accomplished gentlemen in joining a long and distinguished list of Lindbergh awardees."
Dr. Forrest Bird
Dr. Bird will receive the Lindbergh Award, which is bestowed annually upon an individual whose life's work demonstrates a balance between technology, our environment and the quality of all life on earth.
Meeting Orville Wright, along with encouragement from his father who was a WWI pilot, led Bird to his first solo flight at age 14. He soon began working on multiple pilot certifications, which eventually led to service in the U.S. Army Air Corps beginning in 1941. During WWII, he piloted nearly every aircraft in service, including early jet aircraft and helicopters.
Noting similarities between air flowing over the wings of an airplane and air moving through the lungs, Bird created the earliest versions of the now-prolific "Bird Respirator" for high-altitude flight and hospitals. Bird respirators freed polio victims from the confinement of the iron lung and were the first mass-produced respirators in the world. Physicians of the time claimed: "A machine is never going to breathe for you!" Bird proved them wrong and the start of the respiratory industry was created.
As the pioneer of the industry, Dr. Bird created his "Babybird," a ventilator made specifically for premature infants and small children. This invention is credited with reducing the rate of breathing-related infant mortality from 70 percent to 10 percent worldwide. Heart, lung and kidney transplants could not happen without the use of a respirator. Bird has created more than 40 different respirators that continue to be the predominant choice of hospitals, aviators, firefighters and others.
"It is a great honor to receive the Lindbergh Award," said Bird. "I remember meeting Mr. Lindbergh when I was a child. He was an amazing individual who has made great contributions to society in aviation and innovation. When I was a child, Mr. Lindbergh was a role model. I was fascinated by his, as well as his wife's, accomplishments. Mr. Lindbergh planted a seed in my mind. That seed has been cultivated."
In addition to being inducted into of the Inventor's Hall of Fame, Dr. Bird received the 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal from President George Bush. In 2009, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Techology and Innovation for his "outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental or social well-being of the United States."
"Dr. Bird's pioneering and life-saving medical inventions make him especially deserving of the Lindbergh Award. Few people realize that Charles Lindbergh also was very interested and successful in medical innovations, having helped develop the Perfusion (artificial heart) Pump with Dr. Alexis Carrell," noted Award Committee Chairman David Treinis.
Bird and his wife Pam live on Lake Pend d'Oreille in northern Idaho where they support aviation history and education through the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center. They also both fly various aircraft from their private runway.
James C. Ray
James C. Ray, pilot, businessman, and philanthropist, has been selected to receive the 2012 Lindbergh Spirit Award. This award is given every five years for pioneering achievements in an aviation career with the spirit and character that represents the best of this nation.
While working in Hawaii as a steelworker for the Navy, Ray was an eyewitness to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and flew a total of 30 B-17 missions from Rattlesden, England, including raids on German factories, and was a lead pilot on a D-Day attack on enemy headquarters in Normandy, France. Additionally, Ray served with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict.
After the war, Ray flew his Cessna 170B on business and personal trips that took him to 58 countries and every Caribbean island with a landing strip. He has accumulated more than 3,500 hours in single-pilot Citation jets flying across North America as a rancher, oil and gas explorer, and real estate developer.
A successful businessman, Ray has provided start-up funding for more than 300 businesses including Compaq Computer, Eclipse Aviation and Cirrus Design. He believes the discipline and skill he obtained during flight training helped him become successful in business and conversely applies lessons learned in business to his flying.
Ray's philanthropy is predominantly dedicated to aviation-oriented youth education programs. He made a significant contribution for the building of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy on the grounds of Sun 'n Fun. The James C. Ray Scholarship Fund was established to offer financial support for Polk County High School merit students. Ray also provides financial support to the Experimental Aircraft Association and its Young Eagles program; the University of North Dakota Aerospace programs; the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington; and the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour in Everett, Washington. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of North Dakota.
"We believe that Mr. Ray's interest in supporting both innovative education and business ventures at an early stage of development, particularly to advance solutions for air and pilot safety, is uniquely aligned with the philosophy behind the Spirit Award," noted Treinis.