Weekend event honors Valley pilot who flew with Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong


He flew with the Wright Brothers, gave Neil Armstrong his very first airplane ride and trained military pilots for both World Wars.

And as of today, local aviation icon Ernie Hall has a museum to honor his life and accomplishments.

A fly-in and cruise is this weekend at SLOAS Airfield on North River Road to mark the opening of the museum. It began today and continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for visitors 13 and older, with proceeds going toward museum operation.

Bill Griffin, airport owner, said some 100 airplanes are expected to fly in to the airfield Sunday, a fitting tribute to Hall, who is considered an aviation pioneer and was a longtime flight instructor.

“Ernie died in 1972,” Griffin said. “It’s been so long that a lot of people have started to forget about him.”

Griffin, 50, is a pilot and said he remembers growing up next door to Hall’s airplane hangar in Warren. The museum is designed to look like that old hangar.

“I used to walk over and ask him all the time for an airplane ride, and he always said ‘no,’” Griffin said, laughing. “I was only about 10 years old, so when I knew him, he was a crabby old man.”

But he said Hall’s contributions to aviation are important and deserve to be honored. He said Hall served as a flight instructor for military pilots in World War I and World War II, even though he never actually served in the military himself.

“I don’t think anyone else ever did that,” he said.

At one time, Hall was the oldest living pilot and the longest-tenured flight instructor in the United States, and he gave Neil Armstrong his first airplane ride. Armstrong, of course, is famous for being the first astronaut to walk on the moon.

Bill Hunter of Howland, 76, is museum director and has fond, vivid memories of the museum’s namesake.

Read more about this Valley legend and this weekend's event in his honor in Sunday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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