Flight Champion

From his youth on a dairy farm in Ferndale, California, to a 20-year career in the U.S. House of Representatives and two top national aviation education awards, Don H. Clausen has seen and done a lot during his 90 years of life.

Some of those accomplishments can be traced to Clausen's training in the V5 Naval Aviation Cadet program at Saint Mary's. Clausen graduated from Saint Mary's in 1943 in one of the first of the preflight training classes. Coursework included navigation, meteorology, civil air regulations and general aircraft maintenance. "You had to be sharp in your math and sciences," he said, noting that it definitely wasn't for "wimps."

After flight training at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Livermore, California, and advanced training at Corpus Christi, Texas, Clausen flew F4U Corsair aircraft for the Navy in the Asiatic Pacific, starting with an assignment on the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga.

Clausen's squadron was one of the first to arrive on mainland Japan after the Hiroshima bombing. He and fellow servicemen went on to fly humanitarian missions dropping supplies to the Japanese people, an experience that influenced his conviction that aviation should be used for positive purposes, especially education. He devoted himself to motivating young people to excel in academics, particularly math and science, and become pilots.

Back from the war, Clausen worked to establish the Del Norte County Airport in Crescent City, California; started an aviation education program at Del Norte High School; and ran a charter, air taxi and air ambulance service. The airport terminal bears his name. Then-California Governor Ronald Reagan lauded him, saying, "You will always be one of our nation's champions of aviation."

It was in Crescent City that Clausen met his wife, Ollie, whom he calls "the love of my life." They raised two daughters.

Clausen's political career began in 1955 with the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, and in 1963 the moderate Republican was elected to Congress and served for 20 years. He was the senior ranking member of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, established the Young Astronauts Program, and represented his president and his nation at U.S. and international aviation and aerospace congresses. Upon leaving Congress in 1983, Clausen was appointed by President Reagan as director of special programs in the Federal Aviation Administration.

Dedication to aviation education and service earned Clausen two of the nation's highest aviation awards—the Frank G. Brewer Trophy for significant contribution of enduring value to aerospace education in the United States, and the National Congress on Aviation and Space Education Crown Circle for aerospace education leadership.