Walter J. Boyne


Walter J. Boyne (February 2, 1929 – January 9, 2020) was a United States Air Force officer, Command Pilot, combat veteran, aviation historian, and author of more than 50 books and over 1,000 magazine articles. He was a director of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and a Chairman of the National Aeronautic Association.

Walter J. Boyne
Walter Boyne B47 Pilot.jpg
Pilot Walter Boyne in the 1950s
Born(1929-02-02)February 2, 1929
East St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJanuary 9, 2020(2020-01-09) (aged 90)
Calverton, Maryland, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchSeal of the US Air Force.svg United States Air Force
Years of service1951–1974 (23 years)
RankUS-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Commands held635th Services Squadron
Other workMuseum Director

Early lifeEdit

Walter Boyne was born in East Saint Louis, Illinois and grew up the son of a poor family during the time of the Great Depression.[1] He attended Holy Angels grade school where he first discovered an interest in writing.[2][3] His love of flying was encouraged by dime novels of the day such as Robert J. Hogan's G-8 and His Battle Aces that depicted "America's World War I Flying Spy" engaged in air-to-air combat.[2] He decided at this young age that he would become a pilot for the Air Force and focused his efforts to achieve that goal.[1] Boyne earned a number of scholarships that enabled him to attend Washington University in St. Louis.[2]

Military careerEdit

4925th Test Group. Boyne is in the back row, fourth from the left

In May 1951, after two years at the university, Boyne entered the U.S. Air Force's Aviation Cadet program, where he learned a profound respect for the enlisted grades of the military.[1] Boyne started flight school in November 1951[1] and became the first of his class to solo.[2] On December 19, 1952 he was awarded his wings as an Air Force Pilot and a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force.[2]

While stationed at Castle Air Force Base in central California, Boyne flew the B-50 Superfortress as a member of the 330th Bomb Squadron of the 93rd Bomb Wing.[2] Although Boyne had relatively few hours in bombers, he received orders in May 1954 to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas for training in the B-47 Stratojet, which he flew for several years.[4] In 1957, he returned to college and graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in business administration.[1] Boyne continued his education and later earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh.[2]

Boyne returned to active flying as a nuclear test pilot with the 4925th Nuclear Test Group at Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico.[5] While at Kirtland, he became an aircraft commander in both the B-47 and B-52 Stratofortress.[2] Boyne served during the Vietnam War as commander of the 635th Services Squadron at U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Base where he flew 120 combat hours as a C-47 Skytrain instructor pilot.[2] Colonel Boyne retired from the Air Force on June 1, 1974 with more than 5,000 hours in various military aircraft.[6]

Author and historianEdit

Boyne began his writing career in 1962 while still in the Air Force. Tired of the repetitive aviation articles of the time, he chose to write about lesser-known people and airplanes starting with an article on the Curtiss P-36. Boyne's article was accepted by a magazine in Britain which paid him $29 — a moment of special pride for the new author.[1] The P-36 aircraft now resides in the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio. A very prolific writer, Boyne was the author of over fifty books and over one thousand magazine articles.[6]


  • (1979) The Jet Age: Forty Years of Jet Aviation[7]
  • (1980) Messerschmitt Me 262: Arrow to the Future[8]
  • (1980) Flying, an introduction to flight, airplanes, and aviation careers[9]
  • (1981) Boeing B-52: A Documentary History
  • (1982) The Aircraft Treasures of Silver Hill
  • (1983) Vertical Flight: The Age of the Helicopter
  • (1984) De Havilland DH-4: From Flaming Coffin to Living Legend
  • (1985) Phantom in Combat
  • (1986) The Leading Edge
  • (1987) Classics: U.S. Aircraft of World War II[10]
  • (1987) The Smithsonian Illustrated History of Flight
  • (1988) The Smithsonian Book of Flight for Young People
  • (1988) The Power Behind The Wheel
  • (1990) Flight
  • (1991) Weapons of Desert Storm (New York Times' Best Seller List)
  • (1991) Gulf War
  • (1992) Classic Aircraft
  • (1992) Art in Flight: The Sculpture of John Safer
  • (1993) Silver Wings
  • (1994) Clash of Wings: World War II in the Air
  • (1995) Clash of Titans: World War II at Sea
  • (1995) Fly Past, Fly Present
  • (1997) Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the USAF, 1947–1997
  • (1998) Beyond the Horizons:The Story of Lockheed
  • (1999) Brassey's Air Combat Reader (editor)
  • (2001) Aces in Command: Fighter Pilots as Combat Leaders
  • (2001) German Military Aircraft
  • (2001) The Best of Wings
  • (2001) Aviation 100, Volume I
  • (2001) Classic Aircraft, 2001
  • (2002) Aviation 100, Volume II
  • (2002) The Two O'Clock War
  • (2003) Aviation 100, Volume III
  • (2003) Encyclopedia of Air Warfare
  • (2003) The Influence of Air Power on History
  • (2003) Chronicle of Flight: A Year-By-Year History of Aviation
  • (2003) Rising Tide
  • (2003) Operation Iraqi Freedom, What Went Right, What Went Wrong and Why
  • (2003) The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Air Force
  • (2003) The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Navy
  • (2003) The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Army
  • (2003) The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to the U.S. Marines
  • (2003) The Yom Kippur War: And the Airlift Strike That Saved Israel
  • (2004) Today's Best Military Writing
  • (2007) Soaring to Glory: the Story of the Air Force Memorial
  • (2011) How the Helicopter Changed Modern Warfare[11]
  • (2018) The 25 Most Influential Aircraft of All Time[12]
  • (1986) The Wild Blue: The Novel of the U.S. Air Force
  • (1989) Trophy for Eagles
  • (1991) Eagles at War
  • (1992) Air Force Eagles
  • (2003) Dawn Over Kitty Hawk: The Novel of the Wright Brothers
  • (2006) Roaring Thunder: A Novel of the Jet Age
  • (2006) Supersonic Thunder: A Novel of the Jet Age
  • (2009) Hypersonic Thunder: A Novel of the Jet Age

National Air and Space Museum careerEdit

In 1974, after retiring from the Air Force, Boyne joined the National Air and Space Museum as curator of air transport.[1] Prior to the opening of the museum in 1976, he was assigned responsibility for introducing all aircraft into their exhibits.[1] Boyne was also responsible for transforming the museum's dilapidated Silver Hill facility into the world's premier restoration facility.[6] He also organized the effort to rename the facility in honor of Paul E. Garber, a curator of the National Air Museum—the predecessor to the National Air and Space Museum.[6]

Boyne was named acting director of the museum in 1982,[13] and director on February 10, 1983.[14] Boyne performed a number of notable actions during his tenure as museum director including:

He resigned as director of the museum in 1986.[13]

Later yearsEdit

In 1998, Boyne co-founded the cable television channel, Wingspan—the Air and Space Channel, that was purchased by the Discovery Channel a year later.[6] Boyne lived in Ashburn, Virginia. His first wife, the former Jeanne Quigley died in 2007. They have four children, Molly, Katie, Bill and Peggy, five grandchildren, J.D., Grace, Walter, Charlotte and Charles.[6] Boyne remarried on January 10, 2008 to Terezia Takacs.[16]

Boyne previously served as Chairman of the Board of the National Aeronautic Association, the oldest aviation organization in the United States, stepping down in 2014.[17]

Boyne died on January 9, 2020, at 90 years of age.[18] He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in May 2021.[19]


In 1984, Boyne was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Aerospace Sciences from Salem College, West Virginia.[6] In 1987, the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) awarded him the Cliff Henderson Trophy for lifetime achievement in aviation.[20] In 1998, the NAA named him a Distinguished Statesman of Aviation that honors outstanding living Americans that have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics.[21] Also in 1998, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale honored Boyne with the Paul Tissandier Diploma awarded to those who have served the cause of Aviation in general and Sporting Aviation in particular.[22] In 2005, the Aircraft Industries Association presented Boyne with the Lauren D. Lyman Award for outstanding achievement in aviation public relations.[23] In 2007, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.[2] In 2016, the Aero Club of Washington, D.C. awarded Boyne the Donald D. Engen Trophy for Aviation Excellence.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Holden, 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "NAHF Walter Boyne Biography". 2007.
  3. ^ 'Department of the Interior And Related Appropriations For 1984,' Hearings Before A Subcommittee Of The Committee On Appropriations House Of Representatives, Ninety-Eight Congress First Session, Part 8, United States Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1983, Smithsonian Institution, March 16, 1983. Witnesses-Walter J. Boyne. Biography of Walter J. Boyne, pg. 13
  4. ^ Boyne 2009, p. 63.
  5. ^ Boyne 2009, p. 69.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Aviation Pioneers: A Biography of Walter J. Boyne". 2004. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  7. ^ Boyne, Walter J., Donald S. Lopez, and Anselm Franz. The Jet Age: Forty Years of Jet Aviation. Washington: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1979. ISBN 087474248X
  8. ^ Boyne, Walter J. The Messerschmitt Me 262: Arrow to the Future. Washington, D.C.: Published for the National Air and Space Museum by the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980. ISBN 0874742765
  9. ^ Boyne, Walter J. Flying, an Introduction to Flight, Airplanes, and Aviation Careers. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980. ISBN 0133226441
  10. ^ Meyer, Mark, and Walter J. Boyne. Classics: U.S. Aircraft of World War II. Charlottesville, Va: Howell Press, 1987. ISBN 096168786X
  11. ^ Boyne, Walter J. (2011). How the Helicopter Changed Modern Warfare. Pelican Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58980-700-6.
  12. ^ Boyne, Walter J.; Handleman, Philip (2018). The 25 Most Influential Aircraft of All Time. Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-49302-630-2.
  13. ^ a b "Record Unit 338". 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  14. ^ "NASM 1983 Chronology". Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  15. ^ "United States Patent 4941125". 1990.
  16. ^ Dorr 2016, p. 32.
  17. ^ Gaffney, Jonathon (May–June 2014). "President's Message". The NAA Record. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautic Association. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  18. ^ O'Connor, Kate (January 10, 2020). "USAF Test Pilot And Aviation Writer Walter Boyne Passes Away". Aviation Publishing Group. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  19. ^ Losey 2020.
  20. ^ "Henderson Trophy Recipient Chronology". Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautic Association. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  21. ^ "McDonald Distinguished Statesman Recipients". Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautic Association. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  22. ^ "Paul Tissandier Diploma". Lausanne, Switzerland: Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  23. ^ "Walter J. Boyne Named Lyman Award Winner". Arlington, Virginia: Aerospace Industries Association. December 14, 2005. Archived from the original on January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  24. ^ "Recipients of the Donald D. Engen Aero Club Trophy for Aviation Excellence". Washington, D.C.: Aero Club. 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  • "Aviation Pioneers: A Biography of Walter J. Boyne". Wings Over Kansas. Wichita, Kansas: Chance Communications, Inc. February 1, 2004. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  • Boyne, Walter J. (June–July 2009). "The Dawn of Discipline". Air & Space/Smithsonian. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Enterprises. 24 (2): 62–69. ISSN 0886-2257. Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  • Dorr, Robert F. (February 2016). "The Man Who Knows Everything". Flight Journal. Wilton, Connecticut: Air Age Inc. 22 (1).
  • Holden, Henry M. (May 2007). "Into the Wild Blue with Walter J. Boyne". Centennial Aviation & Business Journal. Centennial, Colorado: Airport Journals. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  • Losey, Stephen (January 10, 2020). "Walter Boyne — bomber pilot, historian, novelist and Air and Space Museum director — dies at 90". Air Force Times. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  • "NAHF Walter Boyne Biography". Dayton, Ohio: National Aviation Hall of Fame. 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  • "Record Unit 338". Finding Aids to Official Records of the Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. February 15, 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  • "United States Patent 4941125: Information storage and retrieval system". USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database. Alexandria, Virginia: United States Patent and Trademark Office. July 10, 1990. Retrieved July 10, 2009.

External linksEdit

  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Boyne, Walter J. "Flying with Walter J. Boyne". Ashburn Virginia. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)