The National Aviation Hall of Fame has not ruled out Dayton among four finalists to host the 2018 enshrinement ceremony of aerospace legends following this year’s snub that upset local officials.
Dubbed the “Oscar’s Night in Aviation,” the glittering, black-tie event was hosted in Dayton since it began in 1962 until this year – when it was moved to the Fort Worth Alliance Air Show in Texas last month for one year.
“It expanded the brand and gave notoriety to the National Aviation Hall of Fame and to Dayton itself,” said NAHF President Michael J. Quiello. “Most people did not realize the (Hall of Fame) was located in Dayton.”
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Hall of Fame leaders plan to announce the next induction class of enshrinees Nov. 29, and is expected to decide the next city to host the enshrinement ceremony in 2018, according to NAHF Executive Director Amy Spowart.
Dayton is among those under consideration, she said.
Wherever the next enshrinement ceremony happens, NAHF leaders told this newspaper the nonprofit is committed to keeping the Hall of Fame in Dayton.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, had added language in the pending fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that the hall must remain in Ohio. In July, he said he was responding to “threats” over the years that the hall would leave the region. But an NAHF attorney and organization officials have said they did not plan to move the Hall of Fame itself.
The NAHF has a $5 million fund-raising drive underway to create a more modern and interactive learning center at its home inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
“We have zero intention of moving out of Dayton,” Queillo said. “We feel Dayton is our roots. We feel there’s a lot of synergies in Dayton.”
Scott’s Miracle Grow recently contributed $250,000 to the project, the largest corporate donation thus far, according to organization officials. The organization is also seeing state and federal funding.
“We wouldn’t be going to all this effort to improve the facility if we didn’t intend on staying,” Spowart said.
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National Aviation Heritage Alliance Executive Director Tony Sculimbrene said he was “pleased” the NAHF had pledged to keep the hall in Dayton.
“That was always one of our concerns,” he said. “If they took the enshrinement away from Dayton, was that the first step in seeing the organization leave the region?”
Next city to host enshrinement?
This year’s enshrinement attracted nearly 600 people in Fort Worth, and doubled the amount of revenue it usually collects. Specific figures were not disclosed. The Hall of Fame had the use of two hangars for the glittering event without charge at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, according to the NAHF.
The NAHF has not disclosed the cities under consideration for the 2018 event, other than acknowledging Dayton is among those in the running.
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Phil Parker was actively involved in past efforts to raise money to keep the enshrinement ceremony in Dayton. He said he had not heard anything from NAHF leaders about a possible interest to return the ceremony to the region.
“I think we would love to have it back here in town,” he said. “This is the home of aviation; this is where it belongs.”
After the Hall’s December 2016 decision to move the enshrinement to Texas for one year, Turner announced he would launch a probe of the organization’s finances.
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In a Jan. 25 letter to the NAHF, he wrote his office had received “complaints of financial mismanagement and misappropriation of NAHF resources and assets.” The Hall of Fame has denied the claims and an attorney representing the group had asked Turner for a public apology and a “retraction of allegations.” The congressman’s letter did not elaborate on specific allegations, but made a broad request for documents. The hall supplied more than a decade of audited financial statements, an NAHF attorney has said.
In March, Turner appointed a five-member “blue ribbon panel” of local leaders to review the nonprofit’s finances and make recommendations to keep it financially viable, he has said.
The nonprofit had lost money for years, financial records show.
Since then, the blue-ribbon panel has met, but no final report has been issued, according to a panel member said.
The panel “is still undertaking its due diligence,” chairman Kevin DeWine, a former state lawmaker, said in a recent email. “As a result, we have no information to provide at this time.”