The Collier Trophy
The Nobel Prize of AviationThe Collier Trophy is without doubt one of the longest running awards in aviation. It was started in 1911 by Robert J Collier who was the publisher of Collier’s Weekly. The award had been stipulated to be presented to those who make the “greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year”. It is notable that as far back as 1911, Robert Collier was able to envisage advances in space vehicles and there have been several occasions when the award has indeed been awarded for advances in space exploration. A list of awardees reads like a ‘who is who’ of aviation and aerospace and conjures images of risk taking, research, exploration and technology. Robert Collier had named the trophy the Aero Club of America Trophy. However, after his death in 1918 soon after the end of the First World War, the trophy was renamed the Collier Trophy in 1922. The award has been taken over by the National Aeronautic Association and has been awarded annually except during the War years. The first and second awards went to Glen Curtiss for his work related to hydro airplanes. Orville Wright won it in 1913, Wilbur Wright never won an award. The first few awards went to individuals, perhaps because individuals dominated the aviation scene. The first corporation to be awarded the trophy was Pan American Airways for establishing a transpacific airline and techniques of extended overwater navigation. Since then there have been several corporations that have gone on to win, possibly reflecting the complexity of aviation as it grew. For example, the 1992 award went to the Naval Research Labs, the US Air Force, Aerospace Corporation, IBM and Rockwell for a device that has truly lived up to its potential. It spawned a multi-billion dollar industry, developed uses in hundreds of non aviation areas and has made at least two other countries copy the concept. What was the device? We’ll tell you right in the end of this page. The Collier Awards have in recent years been dominated by the military. Programs such as the C-17, F-16, F 117 and the F22 have been recipients. In fact the largest group of researchers to get the award is the F22 Raptor team. This team consisted of the US Air Force, Lockheed Martin, BAE systems, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, P&W and 1000 other suppliers who contributed to the project (42 States) The last award to be given was in 2010. This went to Sikorsky for their experimental X2 technology demonstrator helicopter program. Anyone can nominate a potential award winner. Citations cannot exceed three pages and the jury is secret till the results are announced. The great thing about the Collier Trophy is the fact that the awards have continued from 1911 till the present day (with the occasional break due to war etc). A compilation of award winning citations would make interesting reading indeed. And who won the 1992 award? I thought you would have guessed, it went to the Global Positioning System. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!