Propeller innovator Frank W. Caldwell to be inducted into First Flight Shrine

Frank W. Caldwell (left) is congratulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the award of the Collier Trophy (visible in the background) in 1933 for his work with Hamilton Standard on the controllable-pitch propeller. [photo courtesy Smithsonian Air and Space Museum]

The First Flight Society announced Monday that Frank W. Caldwell has been named the 2020 Honoree to be inducted into the Dr. Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Caldwell’s many contributions to aviation in propeller technology is highlighted by his winning with Hamilton Standard the 1933 Collier Trophy for design of the controllable-pitch propeller.

His design innovations led to the Hydromatic constant-speed propeller used by virtually every frontline U.S. aircraft in World War II, and his pioneering whirl test procedures were indispensable to the development of all modern high-performance propellers during the 20th Century.

“Frank Caldwell’s achievements in aviation and aviation education – and a ‘first’ in many areas of aviation is extraordinary and outstanding. The First Flight Society is honored to have Frank Caldwell as the 2020 Dr. Paul E. Garber Shrine Inductee,” said First Flight Society President Mike Fonseca.

This honor is selected annually by a high-level panel appointed by the First Flight Society, from among numerous nominations submitted from around the world as well as compiled lists of qualified candidates.

The shrine is located within the visitors center at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The induction ceremony will be held on the 117th anniversary of man’s first power flight on December 17, 2020, with a celebration banquet held on December 16 in Kitty Hawk.

A portrait of Frank Caldwell will be unveiled and presented at the ceremony.

William Douglas, Chairman of the First Flight Society’s National Advisory Committee, served as Chair of the Dr. Paul E. Garber Shrine Selection Panel and managed the selection process.

FFS also welcomes Colonel Gail Halverson, aka “The Candy Bomber”, and Brigadier General Charles McGee as honorary members. Colonel Halvorsen was inducted in 2019 and General McGee as a Tuskegee Airman in 2004.

Without the First Flight Society there would not be a Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

Originally known as The Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association, the society began as a group of local businessmen who successfully petitioned the US Congress to fund and build a monument to the Wright Brothers’ 1903 achievement.

The First Flight Society plans an annual celebration at the Wright Brothers National Memorial on December 17, mandated by their bylaws to memorialize the work of the Wright Brothers.

They created the Paul E Garber Shrine in 1966 to honor individuals and groups for achieving significant “firsts” in aviation development since 1903. Charles Lindbergh, Tuskegee Airmen, Mary Feik, John Glenn, and Katherine Johnson among others

First Flight Society promotes aviation education through an Aviation Education Committee to expand the knowledge of the Wright Brothers’ legacy by bringing aviation education programs to students in Dare County.

They also offer an annual FFS Scholarship through Outer Banks Community Foundation for students pursuing aviation education in North Carolina.

More information about the First Flight Society can be found at