Space program legend Gene Kranz donated the flight helmet he wore during his time as an F-86 Sabre pilot in the Korean War to the EAA AirVenture Museum at Friday night’s Wright Brothers Memorial Dinner.
Kranz, who is well-known for his role as NASA’s mission control lead flight director for Apollo 13, spoke to a full house of 445 people before concluding the evening with his donation.
No other air museum has a flight helmet from Kranz, and EAA plans to display the helmet alongside its F-86 Sabre, which bears the markings of the Sabre Kranz flew and named for his wife, My Darling Marta.
“Hanging on the wall in my office has been my helmet from when I flew this aircraft … over in Korea,” Kranz said. “I feel it’s fitting to be here at the EAA museum with an F-86 aircraft rather than decorating my hall, my room, capturing the dust. … I think that it has a home here in Oshkosh.”
After presenting the helmet he added with a laugh, “I’ll even let them take my helmet bag because I don’t need that anymore.”
During Friday night’s presentation, Kranz spoke of his time as a fighter pilot and test pilot before joining NASA’s space program, and gave his personal recollection of the events that took place during the Apollo 13 mission.
He largely credited the safe return of Apollo 13’s crew to the space program’s excellent leadership and to the mutual trust shared between the crew and mission control.
Afterward, EAA Museum Programs Rep Chris Henry presented Kranz with a commemorative plaque and special EAA vest — a nod to Kranz’s signature apparel.
This is the first time EAA has sold out of tickets for its Wright Brothers Memorial Dinner.