Military Traditions

February 11, 2020 By Vern Chong

Wall of Remembrance – The Collier Trophy

The Robert J. Collier Trophy is awarded annually “for 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.”

Robert J. Collier initiated the Collier Trophy in 1910. He was an aviator, humanitarian and sportsman. His family created the popular Collier Weekly magazine. His intent was to encourage the American aviation community to strive for excellence and achievement in aeronautic development. The trophy was originally named the Aero Club Trophy but renamed the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1944 and is displayed in the National Air and Space Museum. Robert Collier was a veteran of World War I.

In 1910, Collier was the first person to purchase an airplane from the Wright Brothers. He soon loaned the airplane to the U.S. Army for flight evaluations at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Benjamin Foulois, who had to teach himself how to fly the airplane, flew it.

The Collier Trophy is awarded annually to an individual, a group, corporations or groups of agencies or corporations. Those awarded the trophy have included: Glenn Curtis, Orville Wright, the U.S. Army Mail Service, the U.S. Army Air Service, Donald Douglas, Pan American Airways, Charles Yeager, Carl Spaatz, Hap Arnold, Nathan Twining, Frank Borman, James Lovell, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, Curtis LeMay, the Army Air Corps, the U.S. Air Force, NASA and many more notable individuals and groups over the more than 100 years of the trophy’s existence,

A Collier Trophy plaque awarded to John Weigelt, a PVE resident, is on display on The Club’s Wall of Remembrance. John served in the Air Force for 26 years as an avionics technician working mainly on navigation systems in aircraft. He achieved the grade of Chief Master Sergeant.

After retirement from the Air Force, he was a contractor for the Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He was on a team that developed the F-16 Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS). It was this team along with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Flight Test Squadrons 416 and 461, and the Defense Oversight Committee that were awarded the Collier Trophy. John Weigelt was the flight test engineer on the program, manning the control room for dive angle. He developed the flight test matrix and test cards that pilots follow.

Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance. Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin via


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