The Cradle of Aviation held its’ 11th Annual Air & Space Hall of Fame luncheon on June 29, 2021, honoring aerobatic pilot David Windmiller, founder of GSE Dynamics Daniel J. Shybunko and test pilot Robert Smyth, recognized for their achievements in aeronautics and technology and their passion for aviation.
Cradle President Andrew Parton welcomed the sizable group, smiling while remarking “You don’t know how happy we are to be here today,” a sentiment met with thunderous applause from all present. And promised a new experience “Lunch!” -referring to the first of in-person events held.
Now a little about the Class of 2021 inductees:
- David Windmiller began flying at 14. Intensely interested in aerobatics, he earned a spot on the US Aerobatics team in 1999 and became a finalist at the World Championships in 2000. Now retired from professional competition, David still performs at the annual Jones Beach Airshow and is a FAA designated pilot examiner for both airplanes and helicopter. He spoke of being fortunate to watch and be involved in the evolution of aviation, from wartime to the present day technology.
- Daniel J. Shybunko worked as a structural engineer with Grumman for 25 years and while still working there founded his own firm, GSE Dynamics to produce better quality parts for aerospace companies. Daniel steadily developed GSE into a major aerospace and defense firm on Long Island and then nationally, working with his daughter Anne Sybunko-Moore, who has taken over the business after his death in October 2019.
- Robert Smyth was a naval fighter pilot who then graduated in 1952 as a Navy test pilot. His wife Sally Smyth remarked “he flew everything the Navy ever created.” Joining Grumman as a test pilot in 1955, he became their Chief Test Pilot by 1967, and in 1990 he performed the first flight of Long Island built F-14A tomcat! After leaving Grumman in the early 1980”s Robert became the director of flight operations for Gulfstream Aerospace and served as the pilot on most of the world-circling record-setting flights of the Gulfstream III and IV in the late 1980’s. Sally Smyth, widow of Robert Smyth, accepted his award posthumously and spoke of his long and successful career, and how he modestly attributed it to being in the right place at the right time.