HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The Aero Club of Pittsburgh was founded in 1909 to promote aerial demonstrations and was dormant until 1920 or so, when it was restricted to WWI pilots and observers. It was not until a decade later that non-military pilots were accepted.
Clifford Ball (November 29, 1891 - June 2, 1972) graduated from McKeesport High School in 1910 and continued his education by taking evening courses at Duquesne University and business courses at Duffs Iron City College. He was an American farmer, soldier, bookkeeper, clerk, automobile dealer, airplane dealer, airline owner, airline operator, airline executive, radio manufacturer, Civil Air Patrol officer and chaplain, and aviation pioneer. He joined the club when he was 18 years old and eventually became the President of the ACP for 30 years.
In 1996, the Aero Club of Pittsburgh actively hosted monthly meetings with a great speaker series and an amazing, well-attended annual Christmas party. The ACP wanted to establish a 501c3, and The Aviation Foundation emerged.
In 1997, The Aviation Foundation began with aspirations to save the Art Deco Greater Pittsburgh International Airport Terminal from demolition as well as raffle a brand-new Cessna-172. Arnold Palmer even agreed to draw the winning ticket! After many meetings and much planning, the hurdles became insurmountable when Pennsylvania declared the raffle illegal due to the prize valuation. Both worthy projects were totally scrapped. Interest in the Aero Club of Pittsburgh and The Aviation Foundation waned.
HERE WE GROW
Don Rhodes, (nuclear physicist, ATP), and Karl Voigt, (engineer, pilot), were the two men running the foundation during the lean years. In 2019, they advised former TAF president, Linda Benning, (airline transport pilot, entrepreneur.), the foundation was being shut down due to negitive momentum. Linda requested time to reignite itrest and they both agreed.
Enter aviation-enthusiast, Myles Lilley, (Dollar Bank, pilot). He discovered Pennsylvania escheated the remaining monies from the Aero Club of Pittsburgh and contacted the president listed in an old Aero Club directory, Linda Benning. (Money was eventually restored, but it took lots of patience, paperwork and more than two years).
Myles was added to the foundation board. Then came Ralph Beatty, (airline transport pilot, businessman). "Sleuth" Myles was searching to find a home for a Luscombe aircraft donated to the foundation in the late '90's. The clothcovered hull had been in storage in East Pittsburgh but in 2020 was reunited with THE man who restores clothcovered Luscombe aircraft and makes them air vorthy. What were the odds!
TAF began a steady series of matching scholarships in partnership with Pittsburgh Institute of aeronautics. All the PIA recipients are gainfully employed in their field.
The board then acquired PNC aviation support and graphic artist, Sandy Levandowsky, so our posters improved! Next, The Aviation Foundation began a partnership with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL aimed at five-day intensive training for 9-18-year-olds during summer Space Camp of various levels.
Recently, we added ATP pilot and entrepreneur, George Polachek, educator and entertainer, Mark Milovats, and engineer and educator for foundation law at the University of Pittsburgh, Gary Antonella, to complete our board.
From 2021 through the year end 2023, The Aviation Foundation will have awarded $29,500.00 in scholarships to twelve deserving applicants, and we are just beginning. The aeronautical community is facing an acute shortage in all areas of aviation. Your support helps our mission. Donate at aviationfoundation501c3.org.