Kim de Groh and Mary S. Feik to Receive 2013 Katharine Wright Award

Washington, DC, August 12, 2013 – The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced that Kim de Groh and Mary S. Feik will receive the prestigious Katharine Wright Trophy in recognition of their remarkable careers in aviation.

The trophy is presented annually to a woman who has contributed to the success of others or made a personal contribution to the advancement of the art, sport and science of aviation and space flight over an extended period of time.  The trophy was named in honor of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s sister, Katharine, who was a crucial supporter of her brothers’ timeless work in the development of the first airplane.  The trophy is administered by NAA in partnership with The Ninety-Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots.

Kim de Groh, a Senior Materials Research Engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, is being honored for her tireless efforts in mentoring young women for over two decades and for her numerous technical achievements in the advancement of materials durability in the space environment.

De Groh is an internationally renowned technical leader in areas relating to the environmental durability of spacecraft materials through experiments in space and ground-laboratory tests.  She is the principal investigator for 13 International Space Station (ISS) flight experiments, and has developed ground-to-space correlation techniques to improve the accuracy of ground-laboratory testing.  Her research has directly impacted the Hubble Space Telescope, the ISS, and has influenced spacecraft material design choices made by NASA, the Department of Defense, and our nation’s aerospace industry.  

Since 1998, in a unique project at NASA, de Groh has been the on-site mentor and team leader for young women working as part of a research group called the PEACE (Polymer Erosion and Contamination Experiment) Team.  In this collaboration, students from Hathaway Brown School for girls conduct long-term research at NASA.  The team works on a series of spaceflight experiments, flown on the exterior of the ISS as part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (which studies the durability of spacecraft materials in the space environment).  Under de Groh’s guidance, PEACE Team students have entered their NASA research in prestigious national and international fairs, including the Siemens Math Science and Technology Competition and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  The impact of de Groh’s mentoring and on young women considering entering technical fields has been impressive - over 50 percent of the PEACE Team girls have pursued degrees in science, engineering or math fields.

Mary S. Feik pioneered aviation maintenance during World War II, and for over 60 years has worked in aviation, promoted aerospace education, and inspired generations of our nation’s youth. 

After overhauling her first automobile engine for her father when she was just 12 years old, Feik turned to aircraft engines and then military aircraft maintenance.  In 1942, at the age of 18, she obtained a contract as a civilian and taught aircraft maintenance to crew chiefs and mechanics for the U.S. Army Air Corps.  At the time, there were no other women mechanics, or crew for that matter, working with the Air Corps. 

During WWII, Feik became an expert on many military aircraft and is credited with becoming the first woman engineer in research and development in the Air Technical Service Command’s Engineering Division at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.  She flew more than 6,000 hours as a pilot in fighter, attack, bomber, cargo and training aircraft.

Feik retired from the National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber Restoration Facility as a Restoration Specialist, where she taught the restoration of antique and classic aircraft and participated in aircraft refurbishment and the construction of reproduction WWI aircraft.  Since 1982, Feik has shared her experiences in aviation history with today’s youth as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, and more than 24,500 Civil Air Patrol cadets have earned the esteemed “Mary Feik Achievement Award.” At her own expense she has traveled throughout the United States speaking to countless groups on her career in aviation, and has added greatly to the process of educating young people about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

“The Katharine Wright Trophy was established 30 years ago to acknowledge the important role that women have served in aviation.  We are extremely proud to award the Katharine Wright Trophy to Ms. Feik and Ms. de Groh for their outstanding careers in aviation and aerospace,” said NAA President and CEO Jonathan Gaffney.

“The Ninety-Nines are very proud to participate in the selection of the Katharine Wright Trophy winners. The many outstanding candidates are a testament to the important contributions these women have made in aviation and aerospace. Congratulations to Ms. de Groh and Ms. Feik on their outstanding achievements,” said Ninety-Nines President Martha Phillips.

In addition to Mr. Gaffney and Ms. Phillips, members of the Selection Committee included Ninety-Nines Past President (and NAA Board Member) Pat Prentiss; Lisa Piccione, Senior Vice President for the National Business Aviation Association; and Andrew Broom, Division Director, Corporate Communications, Honda Aircraft Company.

The trophies will be presented at the NAA Fall Awards Banquet on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.

The National Aeronautic Association is a non-profit, membership organization devoted to fostering America's aerospace leadership and promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States.