Written by Dr. Cynthia Paulis Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
On a chilly November evening, 542 people gathered at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City for the ninth annual air and space gala saluting 100 years of naval aviation. Among the honorees were Mark Kelly, space shuttle commander (who was not present); Martin Benante, chairman and CEO of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, and David Sterling, chairman and CEO of Sterling& Sterling.
Guests weaved their way past life-size exhibits chronicling Long Island’s contribution to air and space travel, from Lindberg’s historic flight across the Atlantic starting at Roosevelt Field to actual lunar moon rocks from the first landing on the moon. Sushi and pasta stations, along with open bars, were nestled among some of Long Island’s most famous pieces of aviation history while jet fighter planes hovered above some the island’s most prestigious guests, one of those being Congressman Peter King.
A frequent visitor to the museum for the past five years with his 7-year-old grandson, Jack, King is an enthusiastic supporter of the museum. “Long Island is the cradle of aviation. We are the heritage, the history of aviation. It’s phenomenal. Too often in life, we forget what the previous generation did and we think the world began yesterday or today, and to have all that history preserved here is not only a great remembrance of all we have done, but also hopefully it will encourage people to go out in the future, to inspire young people, inspire all of us. We see these great achievements and realize what we can do in the future,” King said.
King regrets the end of the space program for America but recognizes that these are hard financial times. He said he always felt that the space programs were not only, “a tremendous scientific achievement, but what it also did for the morale of the country.” King remembers in 1957 when he was just out of high school, Sputnik went up and he was thinking, ‘The Russians are beating us into space. At night we could actually see Sputnik flying overhead and to think that the Russians were there and we weren’t that really hurt the morale of the U.S. and it did inspire us. But for the first six months it was tough to be second to the Russians, but then when the moon landing came in 1969 it turned it all around.’
Todd Richman, the chairman of the board of trustees for the past five years at the Cradle of Aviation, shared how the museum came into existence. “This facility was created 10 years ago. The purpose of it was originally to celebrate all that Long Island contributed to the aviation and aerospace industry. All of the memorabilia here was collected over decades. There was always a cradle of aviation but there was never a home. This was built by the county to create a home for some of the most important aviation aerospace artifacts in the world,” he said.
After the cocktail hour, guests dined on steak and salmon and chocolate mousse cake and danced the night away to a jazz band. Lucky winners of the silent auction Steve and Sandy R. won the original poster from Oscar Winning Film Apollo 13, signed by one of the original astronauts who was in it, Fred Hayes. The capsule had an oxygen leak and the crew had to abort the mission. They were lucky to be alive. They both felt this museum is important because as Sandy said, “It is a little gem on Long Island which reflects the history of aviation on LI. It is a great resource for young people to learn about aviation physics and what LI has contributed to aviation.”
Her husband, Steve, also commented, “They use this as an educational facility for many of the children on LI, and who knows you might have the next Steve Jobs here. By getting them interested in technology it’s really important. We can’t predict how many of these kids are going to spark an interest in them to go into technology. When you read so many negative things that happen in the United States, for example we are 33rd in math and science in the Western nation, maybe this museum will help counteract that.”
Garden City resident and New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille featured the Cradle of Aviation in his spine-chilling thriller The Lion’s Gate. Regarding the Museum he commented, “I think it is a world class facility and whenever I have out-of-town guests, I always take them to the Museum, and everyone loves it, even if they don’t think they’re going to be interested in aviation.”
The Cradle of Aviation Museum is a must-see exhibit. For more information on upcoming events and times of their award-winning IMAX theater go to the website.
The museum is located at 1 Davis Ave., Garden City. For more information, call 516-572-4111.