Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, 65, who died Monday after complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, left his mark as an aviation philanthropist. Allen became a billionaire at the age of 37 and devoted funding to aviation initiatives that aid in preserving the past and advancing the future of the industry. Allen’s aviation support included curation of aircraft in his Flying Heritage collection, funding of a commercial UAS venture called Zipline, and direct involvement with space ventures including Stratolaunch and SpaceShipOne.
Allen’s life, “reflected his myriad interests in technology, music and the arts, biosciences and artificial intelligence, conservation and in the power of shared experience, in a stadium or a neighborhood, to transform individual lives and whole communities,” said Bill Hilf, CEO of Vulcan, Allen's umbrella company. As part of his support for embracing shared experiences, Allen began collecting and preserving warbirds in 1998 and ultimately shared the collection in 2008 with the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum.
Allen served as an investor in Zipline, an aerial delivery venture designed to deliver products such as medical supplies via commercial drones to remote communities. “He possessed a remarkable intellect and a passion to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems, with the conviction that creative thinking and new approaches could make profound and lasting impact,” said Hilf.
He retained a commitment to space exploration with the founding of Stratolaunch to develop the world’s largest aircraft as a mobile satellite launch platform. Earlier this year, Stratolaunch said it expects its new family of launch vehicles to enter regular service in 2020.
Allen also funded SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for achieving spaceflight twice in five days. Richard Branson eventually licensed the SpaceShipOne technology and, upon Allen’s passing, he tweeted, “So sad to hear about the passing of Paul Allen. Among many other things he was a pioneer of commercial space travel. We shared a belief that by exploring space in new ways we can improve life on Earth.”