Dorothy Cochrane to Receive the 2020 Katharine Wright Trophy

April 24, 2020

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is pleased to announce that Dorothy Cochrane has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Katharine Wright Trophy. The trophy was established in 1981 and is awarded annually to an individual 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.”

Cochrane is being recognized for “devoting over 40 years as a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, collecting and preserving historical aviation artifacts that educate and inspire the general public about the importance of flight.”

Cochrane joined the Smithsonian Institution in 1977 as one of the first female curators. She oversees the collections of general aviation aircraft, flight material, aerial cameras, and the history of general aviation and women in aviation. Throughout her career, Cochrane has become most notable for her acquisition of priceless aviation artifacts as well as the creation of entire galleries in the aeronautics department.

As the curator responsible for the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery as well as the General Aviation, Business Aviation, Aerobatic Aviation, and Aerial Camera exhibit stations and cases, Cochrane has acquired at least a dozen aircraft for the Smithsonian collection including a Fleet Model 2, Cirrus SR-22, Grumman AgCat, Beechcraft King Air, and Cessna 152 Aerobat. Her acquisitions also include aircraft seen by millions of air show spectators including Patty Wagstaff’s Extra 260 and Bob Hoover’s Shrike Commander.

Cochrane was also responsible for the restoration of Betty Skelton’s Pitts, “Little Stinker,” which is the first aircraft seen by visitors as they enter the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles. This restoration was made possible due to Cochrane’s efforts in finding volunteers and the exact parts necessary to complete the restoration and her vision to locate the aircraft in such a prestigious area.

Not only does Cochrane preserve aviation history through the procurement and display of aviation artifacts, she also communicates it artfully. Her encyclopedic knowledge is sought after the world over through media interviews and speaking engagements. She also serves as the aeronautics liaison for the museum’s General Electric Aviation Lecture Series as well as the Charles A. Lindbergh Memorial Lecture and is the museum’s leading scholar on Anne Morrow Lindbergh as well as Amelia Earhart’s life and disappearance. Recently, Cochrane was the primary investigator for the Military Women Aviators Oral History Initiative, which conducted and archived oral and video interviews of 15 trailblazing retired and active duty military women pilots.

Cochrane currently oversees the creation of a pair of new galleries as a part of the National Air and Space Museum’s seven-year revitalization and transformation project that will inspire a new generation of aviation and space pioneers.

“We at the National Aeronautic Association are pleased to present the 2020 Katharine Wright Trophy to Dorothy Cochrane,” said NAA President Greg Principato. “We often take the National Air and Space Museum for granted, but it wouldn’t be the national treasure it is without Dorothy. She sees her work only beginning with the collection of important artifacts, she works hard to tell the stories of the people and events behind them, and to use those stories to educate and inspire countless people around the world. To receive this award one must not only show excellence in their work, but must also have reached beyond to make others better as well. Dorothy’s whole life and career, as one of the selection committee members said, ‘embodies what this award is all about.’”

“I am deeply honored to receive this trophy,” said Cochrane. “Working at the National Air and Space Museum has been amazing and has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people in aerospace and in general.”

Members of the 2020 Katharine Wright Trophy Selection Committee included: Darby Becker, GE Aviation; Denise Jennings, The Ninety-Nines; Major Chrystina Jones, 2017 Katharine Wright Trophy Recipient; Pat Prentiss, The Ninety-Nines and NAA Board Member; Barbara Walters-Phillips, 2019 Katharine Wright Trophy Recipient; and Clyde Woltman, Leonardo Helicopters USA and NAA Board Member.

The Katharine Wright Trophy will be presented on a date and location to be determined. For more information or to view a complete list of previous recipients, please visit