Walter Boyne, the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) enshrinee and U.S. Air Force aviator who has written more than 50 books and served as chairman of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), died on January 9 in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was 90.
NAHF called Boyne a “skilled pilot, impactful leader, and prolific writer,” and added that the nation has lost a “remarkable aviation legend.”
“Few people take the time to share their wealth of knowledge like Walt Boyne did,” said NAHF president and CEO Amy Spowart. “Fortunately for all of us, he had an insatiable need to share it through his writing. His legacy is that his knowledge will remain a gift to future generations.”
Born Feb. 2, 1929, Boyne grew up in East Saint Louis and joined the Air Force in 1951. During his time with the USAF, he became a B-50 and B-47 combat crew member and later was a nuclear test pilot, flying both the B-47 and B-52, according to the NAHF.
After serving in Vietnam, he became assistant curator of the National Air and Space Museum in 1974 and later was appointed director. Expanding the museum’s reach into television, he co-founded “Wingspan–the Air & Space Channel” in 1988. He later stepped in as chair of NAA from 2006 to 2014, steering the association through a difficult time.
He also made a significant mark with his research and writing career, selling his first article, which was about the P-36 Curtiss Hawk, in 1962 for $29. He went on to write more than 1,000 articles, 44 non-fiction books, and seven novels focused on aviation. Several made the New York Times Bestseller List. The NAHF inducted Boyne in 2007.
“Whether as a test pilot, as director of the National Air & Space Museum, or as one of the best and most prolific aviation writers who ever lived, Walter left his stamp on American aviation,” said NAA president and CEO Greg Principato. “In each of these roles, he inspired future generations to even greater heights. “