Eddie Rickenbacker

Eddie Rickenbacker, known as the Ace of Aces, had more confirmed enemy kills to his credit than any other American pilot in World War I. Before entering the war, Rickenbacker was a famous and successful race car driver. He only got his pilot’s license after he turned 27. He made up for lost time because in only two months, he reached a career total of 26 victories, flying first the Nieuport 28,and later the Spad 13. Twelve months after the war ended, Rickenbacker was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

In 1926, Rickenbacker and several others formed Florida Airways. The company didn’t succeed, and afterwards the former war ace became Vice President of General Aviation Corporation. In 1933, Rickenbacker became General Manager of Eastern Airlines. Five years later, he and several other investors purchased Eastern Airlines and Rickenbacker was made president of the company.

During World War II, Rickenbacker worked as an unpaid advisor for the U.S. military. In October of 1942, the B-17 in which he was a passenger ran out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Rickenbacker and the seven other survivors floated in rafts for twenty-two days before being rescued. Several of his recommendations for mandatory survival equipment were adopted both for aircraft life rafts and lifeboats.