Congratulations to Martin Withers
On Saturday 20th July, Hollywood star and aviation enthusiast, John Travolta led this year’s Living Legends of Aviation Awards Europe. The event was held at Scalaria Event Resort on the shores of Lake Wolfgang just outside Salzberg.
Martin Withers, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his part in Operation Black Buck during the Falklands Conflict, was honoured at the event by being included in the circle of “Living Legends of Aviation”.
Martin was in esteemed company in receiving an award. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were recognised at a previous event in America for their outstanding achievement in being the first and second men on the moon. Niki Lauda was given a minute’s silence at the beginning of the evening and honoured posthumously. Although maybe best known for his motor racing career, Lauda spent almost four decades in the aviation industry. He started three different airlines, all of which carried his name.
Living Legends of Europe – Saturday 20th July 2019
Martin Withers recalls the event in an email to Robert Pleming:
We flew out to Salzburg early on the Friday getting there at 10:45. We had been expecting something to be taking place on the Friday night at the “Flying Bulls” hangar 7, the most futuristic hangar anywhere, full of shiny old aircraft and F1 cars (Red Bull), however it all started at around 12:00.
We were met by a chauffeur driving a brand new BMW 7 series “VIP Transport” and whisked over to the hangar. A couple of hours later we were flying at low level over the lakes and through the mountains in an immaculate old DC6. The route would have been a delight to fly in a Vulcan and we were well below 500 feet over the lakes. Not a bad way to start!
After canapés and drinks (Red Bull not beer!!), we travelled in a luxury coach (with the other VIP’s) to Lake Wolfgansee. The venue, a large hotel and conference centre built around what was once a lakeside castle, was on the other side of the lake, so we were transported across the lake in an old paddle-steamer to arrive in style on a red carpet at this very impressive building simply called “Scalaria”.
Only then did we get a picture of what the next day was going to be like!
By this time we had met a number of people, a mix of those already ‘Legends’, a couple of others who were also to be ‘Inductees’. Yet, I had no idea what sort of award I was to receive, but now learned that I was to become one of the Living Legends! No-one seemed to know how many people were going to receive this honour, but last year 8 people were appointed at the first European event. I also was told that I had to make an acceptance speech!
It proved to be a very friendly environment, with an awful lot of talk about flying or other aspects of aviation. We felt we could get used to life in this luxury ‘all inclusive’ hotel; we even had a great room overlooking the lake with the mountains beyond. There was no choice of beers (my only criticism), but plenty of good wine and Champagne flowing. Everyone seemed in good spirits...
By Saturday morning we felt very much at home and came down for breakfast definitely ‘part of the crowd’. I had to be in the ‘Theatre’ at 10:00 for a briefing from the event director. At that time I learned who the other recipients of the awards were going to be, and they did number eight like last year, but even then did not meet all of them. I also had my first sight of the video about me which was going to be played before I went on stage to be given my ‘Medallion’ by John Travolta.
The hotel was definitely getting ready for a big event, the weather was very hot. The party started at 15:00 with the lawn on the lakeside full of guests in dinner jackets and long dresses drinking champagne and cocktails.
The dinner itself was not a highlight of the occasion, starting at 17:20 with a welcome address from JT who had flown in especially in his own G2 and would be flying back home straight after the dinner!
While we had our starters, he handed awards to a variety of people for exceptional deeds in their own field, all with some connection to flight, then after the main course, we all went outside to watch a flying display from the ‘the Flying Bulls’ over the lake.
They didn’t appear to have any rules! The Alpha Jets in particular were flying straight at and over the crowd at very low level, but no-one seemed upset, and I had taken earplugs, so didn’t care either.. In all other respects the displays were extremely good.
We then returned to the tables in the Theatre and one at a time the eight of us were called forward to receive our large golden medallions presented by JT (himself a Legend). Afterwards he said his farewells, and we sat and watched a fantastic stage show with a variety of first class performers, before wandering outside to watch even more displays over the Lake, finishing at about 23:00.
The party went on thereafter until about 04:00, however Laura and I did not join in, but went up to our room to watch the lightning and rain from a powerful thunderstorm beating down on the area we had just left a short time before. The timing was perfect!
An incredible evening, I still don’t understand how I was nominated to join this elite group of ‘Living Legends’ but I don’t think I am likely to regret it.
We stayed over another night in Salzburg giving us a chance to see a bit more of this lovely area. The hotel in which we stayed at our own expense was not quite as good as Scalaria!!!
The whole thing was an unreal experience, but Laura and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
All the best and many thanks for your part in making this possible.