Rich Vanatta, left, commander of Knox County AMVETS Post 8, presents the 2018 Bill Adams Memorial Foundation Award to Pete Jones, right, Cleveland, MS, for his career in restoring Stearman aircraft.
The Bill Adams Memorial Foundation Award is presented each year during the National Steaman Fly-In at Galesburg, IL, Municipal Airport.
Adams (1925-1966) became a well-known professional air show pilot, and was known for his aerobatic routines in a 450-horsepower Stearman. His signature maneuver was a triple snap roll.
Following is the text of 2018’s presentation by Mike Rutledge, a member of the National Stearman Fly-In Board of Directors:
“Over the last 47 years, the NSFI has earned a reputation for being the vintage airplane destination where there is no status among attendees; Stearman owner or not, everyone here tonight is family.
“The gathering we’ve enjoyed this week couldn’t have been possible without the strong and loyal support of the people of Galesburg and surrounding communities. Unbeknownst to Stearman pilots, it apparently takes more than flying airplanes to make the Fly-In successful and a cherished part of Galesburg.
“The Stearman survives in its current strength of numbers because of a very few and dwindling number of craftsman who disproportionately bear the burden of resurrecting, rebuilding, and restoring these magnificent machines. We all have our talents, but most of us can’t turn a pile of Stearman parts into an award winner. As custodians we are all indebted to those that can.
“Frankly, I’m not sure why it’s taken us this long to formally recognize this year’s recipient’s contribution. I usually try to leave some suspense in the narrative, but this year it’s difficult to not give it away in the first sentence.
“Tonight’s Bill Adams award winner built his first Stearman in his back yard, and has been involved in the Stearman community professionally since 1978. He’s been a recognized expert in Stearman restorations and responsible for 145 Stearman rebuilds — to include 14 on the field this year. He’s also touched approximately 1,090 of the current Stearmans flying around the world.
“His innovative approach to rebuilds and the standards of quality he set has forever changed how pilots view Stearman restorations. He pioneered the implementation of dozens of STC and improvements that allowed the Stearman to, in his words, “to modernize the Stearman to be a user-friendly airplane that could be utilized anywhere in the world.”
“This true southern gentleman from Mississippi always has time to answer questions or stop what he’s doing to help a stranded Stearman pilot anywhere in the country. He’s a large reason our grandchildren will get to fly Stearmans.
“I’m proud to present the 2018 Bill Adams Memorial Award to Mr. Pete Jones.”