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Documentary filmmaker wins Combs Gates Award

Oct. 14, 2011, Las Vegas, Nv. - The National Aviation Hall of Fame yesterday presented its 9th Annual Combs Gates Award to independent documentary filmmaker Heather Taylor during the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) 64th Annual Meeting & Convention (NBAA2011) in Las Vegas, NV.


October 14, 2011
By Carey Fredericks

Phil Roberts, president of the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF), presented Taylor with the $20,000 cash award for directing and producing Breaking Through The Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby, which documents the First Women’s National Air Derby, a grueling nine-day air race from Santa Monica, CA to Cleveland, OH that was held in the summer of 1929.

During the ceremony, Taylor accepted a ceremonial check and had her photo taken with a group of distinguished pilots, including legendary aerobatic pilots Bob Hoover and Sean D. Tucker, astronaut Gene Cernan, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, actor and pilot Harrison Ford, and retired U.S. Air Force general Lloyd "Fig" Newton.

NBAA and the NAHF have a long history with the award, which is named after two business aviation legends – Harry Combs and Charles Gates – and the award has been presented at the NBAA Convention for years.

Following the awards ceremony, Taylor screened clips from her documentary and signed DVD copies of the production.

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Taylor – who spent 13 years researching, writing, directing and producing the film – said the project fulfilled her personal quest to see that these courageous pioneering women aviators receive the recognition and appreciation they deserve for an event that has largely been lost to history, despite the now legendary status of many of its 20 competing pilots, such as Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes and Louise Thaden. The film utilizes actual footage of the derby, much of it never before seen, as well as re-creations using the same aircraft types of the original participants.