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European Living Legends Library

The "Living Legends of Aviation" are remarkable people of extraordinary accomplishment in aviation including: entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders, astronauts, record breakers, pilots who have become celebrities and celebrities who have become pilots. The Legends meet yearly to recognize and honor individuals that have made significant contributions in aviation.

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"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."

~Leonardo da Vinci

Founding Living Legends of Aviation Europe

Sir Richard Branson

Branson expressed his desire to become an entrepreneur at a young age. His first business venture, at the age of 16, was a magazine called Student. In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business. He opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records—later known as Virgin Megastores—in 1972. Branson's Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he set up Virgin Atlantic airline and expanded the Virgin Records music label.

In March 2000, Branson was knighted at Buckingham Palace for "services to entrepreneurship".[6] For his work in retail, music and transport (with interests in land, air, sea and space travel), his taste for adventure, and for his humanitarian work, he became a prominent figure.In 2002, he was named in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.In 2004, he founded spaceflight corporation Virgin Galactic, based at Mojave Air and Space Port, noted for the SpaceShipOne and SpaceShip Two projects.

Dr. Thomas Enders

Dr. Thomas "Tom" Enders is a German business executive. He currently serves as the chief executive of Airbus.

Enders served as Chairman of BDLI, the German aerospace industry association, from 2005 to 2012. He also served as the chairman of Carl Zeiss Optronics prior to Cassidian acquiring the optronics division from Carl Zeiss in 2012.

As CEO of the commercial aircraft division, he is responsible for the A320neo launch in 2010, a massive sales success that forced Boeing to launch the 737 MAX. As the Airbus CEO since 2012, he pursued a failed merger with BAE Systems, merged the group with the commercial aircraft division and took control of the CSeries, pending regulatory review. On 15 December 2017, the Airbus board confirmed Enders will not stay beyond April 2019 amid corruption allegations in sales campaigns. He was named for 2017 Aviation Week’s Person of the Year, for having reshaped Airbus and altered the aircraft industry’s competitive landscape.

Felix Baumgartner

Felix Baumgartner is an Austrian skydiver, daredevil, and BASE jumper. He is best known for jumping to Earth from a helium balloon in the stratosphere on 14 October 2012. Doing so, he set world records for skydiving an estimated 39 km (24 mi), reaching an estimated top speed of 1,357.64 km/h (843.6 mph), or Mach 1.25.[a][b] He became the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power relative to the surface on his descent.[12][13] He broke skydiving records for exit altitude, vertical freefall distance without drogue, and vertical speed without drogue.

Baumgartner is also renowned for the particularly dangerous nature of the stunts he has performed during his career. Baumgartner spent time in the Austrian military where he practiced parachute jumping, including training to land on small target zones.

Dr. Ulf Merbold

Dr. Ulf Dietrich Merbold (born June 20, 1941) is the first West German citizen and second German native to have flown in space. He is also the first member of the European Space Agency Astronaut Corps to participate in a spaceflight mission and the first non-US citizen to reach orbit in a US spacecraft. In 1983, he and Byron Lichtenberg became the first Payload Specialists to fly on the shuttle.

n 1986, he transferred to the European Space Technology Center (ESTEC) to work on the European Columbus module for the International Space Station. Also in 1986, he became head of the Astronaut Office of the German spaceflight organization DLR. In 1988, NASA nominated Ulf Merbold as payload specialist on the IML-1 mission, which launched on STS-42 in January 1992. The following year he was Science Coordinator for the second German Spacelab mission, D-2 (STS-55).

In 1993, he also started training to fly the first of two joint European-Russian missions to the space station Mir, called Euromir 94. In 1994. During his three spaceflights he spent a total of 49 days, 21 hours and 38 minutes in space.

Bruno Gantenbrink

Gantenbrink played an important role for aviation calling for more safety and awareness regarding the dangers of gliding.  In 1993, in a speech at the 51st German Gliding Day in Gersfeld, he disagreed with the common opinion that gliding is generally regarded as a safe and harmless sport activity.  He reported that he had lost 30 friends while gliding and none to traffic accidents.  

In 1984, he received the Hilton Cup trophy at Barron Hilton’s 3M Ranch.  Gantenbrink crossed the Atlantic with his single turbine TBM 700, and because Airbus was co-sponsoring the Hilton Cup, he ended his flight at the ranch.  

As chief balloon pilot, Gantenbrink entertained Hilton’s guests with glider rides and balloon flights and organized the competitions. Barron Hilton and he became good friends, and both won the Hilton Cup trophy several times.  At the Ranch, Gantenbrink met another of Hilton’s good friends, Tom Schrade; together they organized and completed the first Trans-Atlantic flight with the S-38, 1927 Sikorsky.  

"It's only when you're flying above it, that you realize how incredible the Earth really is."

~ Phillippe Perrin

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