Criteria for the Spirit of Flight Award

  • Awarded annually to an organization that has made a substantial contribution to aviation in Illinois.

  • The organization's activities must be Illinois based and continuous over a long period of time.

  • The organization's member activities must be above and beyond that of normal paid employment and exhibit a high degree of excellence in their accomplishment.
2018 Spirit of Flight Inductees:

Greater Midwest Rotorcraft Club

The Greater Midwest Rotorcraft Club, Popular Rotorcraft Association Chapter 18, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. It was founded by seven gyroplane enthusiasts who had been meeting monthly since 1962. The founding members had been drawn to rotorcraft because of Dr. Igor Bensen's revolutionary version of the autogiro, which he marketed as the gyrocopter. Bensen's ads selling plans and later kits in Popular Mechanics in the mid-50's, created a renaissance in home-built aircraft.

The Popular Rotorcraft Association, which Bensen founded in 1962, provided a forum for discussion of manufacturing methods, training, and safety issues. The founders of the Greater Midwest Rotorcraft Club wanted to create a regional resource where flying enthusiasts could find others with experience and engineering expertise to guide them as they built their own aircraft.

The club also found individuals with flying experience to help them safely into the air. Until 1972, gyro enthusiasts had to teach themselves how to fly, since there were no two-place trainers or Certified Flight Instructors for gyros. The club's first trainer was a two-seat towed gyro glider. In the 50 years since its founding, the vision and purpose of the organization has not changed. Virtually all gyroplanes are experimental aircraft and the focus of the Club has always been on encouraging sound engineering, quality workmanship, and flight safety.

Over the years, the Club has provided a gateway where hundreds of members got their start in rotorcraft. Some members have moved on to other aviation platforms in General and Commercial Aviation. Over half of the Club's current members are also fixed wing rated. Locally, the club participates in airport events, hosting pancake breakfasts and cookouts on its own or jointly with the local EAA chapter. They have also partnered in charity air shows and the Lansing Good Neighbor Parade and Cruise Night.

We salute the Greater Midwest Rotorcraft Club for its efforts to enhance safety and education in the experimental and gyroplane industry and for its efforts on behalf of aviation in Illinois.