Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton, the current chairman of the NBAA board of directors who made history as an African American military aviator, was selected as this year’s recipient of the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy. One of the highest honors in all of aviation, the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) awards the trophy annually to a living American for “significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the U.S.” NAA called the recognition “one of the most important, historic, and visible aerospace awards,” saying it honors innovative inventors, explorers, industrialists, and public servants in aeronautics and astronautics.
Newton, who will receive his award at the annual Aero Club of Washington’s Wright Memorial Dinner on December 14, spent nearly three decades as a military aviator, logging more than 4,000 flying hours, commanding three wings and an air division, and holding numerous senior posts. He flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam and became the first African American to join the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Thunderbirds demonstration team, in 1974.
During his USAF service, he was a congressional liaison officer to the U.S. House and led the Air Education and Training Command that encompassed 13 bases, 43,000 active-duty personnel, and 14,000 civilians. Newton retired from the USAF in 2000 as a four-star general.
On the civilian side, he has served as executive v-p of international military programs and business development for Pratt & Whitney and is on the boards of directors for L3 Technologies, Torchmark Corp., and the National Defense University, in addition to NBAA. Newton is a founding member and strong supporter of Polaris Tech Charter School, a South Carolina institution that will offer six career pathways, including one in aerospace, and further has been a supporter of the Tuskegee Airmen.
In addition to the Wright Trophy, he is a 2018 inductee of the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.
Newton was selected for this year’s Wright Trophy in recognition of “his extraordinary achievements as a history-making, African American military aviator and his continuing contributions to the advancement of aviation education and advocacy,” NAA said.
“General Newton served his country with great energy, commitment, and distinction,” added NAA president and CEO Greg Principato. “His passion for the promotion of STEM education in the years since his retirement from the Air Force ensures that his legacy of service will endure for a long time to come.”
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen further lauded the selection. “As General Newton’s numerous accomplishments and exemplary life indicate, he has dedicated himself to aviation in a manner truly worthy of this accolade,” Bolen said. “We, along with the entire aviation community, are pleased that he is being recognized for his life-long dedication to the industry, and especially to aviation education.”
Newton joins a slate of Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy recipients that range from Charles Lindbergh and Jimmy Doolittle to John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, “a virtual who’s who of aviation legends,” NBAA noted.
Other recipients with general and business aviation ties have included Olive Ann Beech, Harry Combs, Harrison Ford, Bob Hoover, Russ Meyer, Allen Paulson, Burt Rutan, Edward Stimpson, A.L. Ueltschi, and Dwane Wallace.
“It is a very humbling experience to join the extraordinary recipients of this award such as Neil Armstrong, Bob Hoover, Harrison Ford, and a host of other great Americans,” Newton said. “Aerospace continues to drive significant and positive changes around the globe and has been the nucleus of the success of my career. I am delighted and deeply honored to receive this most prestigious award.”