Local airport greeter, Betty Easley, was awarded a certificate and a challenge coin from the Western-Pacific Region Flight Standards Division for her work on an investigation at the Hawthorne Airport and for her concern with safety at that area.
Easley has been a long time supporter of the aviation world. She enjoys greeting pilots and their passengers, answering questions about Hawthorne, the ammunition base and surrounding highlights of Mineral County and lending vehicles to those who wish to support local businesses in the area by shopping.
The surprise presentation was during the Reno Air Races, where Easley thought she was on hand to watch the band, RICH-N-REVER$E, perform.
As pilots and other aviation enthusiasts began to fill the room, Easley was still unaware that she would be the highlighted guest, until John D’Alessandris, who told the crowd “Betty was here to sing for them”, pulled her on stage To which she adamantly replied, “No, I’m not!”
As D’Alessandris was distracting Easley, Mike Becker of Reno Flight Standard Division Office had followed her upon the stage and to her surprise and the delight of the crowd, Easley was presented with the certificate and Challenge Coin Award.
The Challenge Coin history reads: “ As the legend goes, during World War I, an Army air Corps Lieutenant ordered small, solid, bronze medallions (or coins) struck, which he then presented to the other pilots in his squadron as mementos of their service together. The coin was gold-plated, bore the squadron’s insignia and was quite valuable. One of the pilots in the squadron placed it in a leather pouch he wore around his neck for safekeeping. A short while later, this pilot’s aircraft was heavily damaged by ground fire, forcing him to land behind enemy lines. After being captured, the Germans confiscated the personal belongings from his pockets; however, they didn’t catch the leather pouch around his neck. On his way to a permanent prisoner-of-war facility, he was held overnight in a small German-held French village near the front. During the night, the town was bombarded by the British, creating enough confusion to allow the pilot to escape. The pilot avoided German patrols by donning civilian attire; however, all his identification had been confiscated so he had no way to prove his identity. He snaked across no-man’s land and made contact with a French patrol. The French had been on the lookout for German saboteurs dressed as civilians and mistook the American pilot for a German saboteur, and immediately prepared for his execution. Desperate to prove his allegiance, and without any identification, the pilot pulled out the coin from his leather pouch and showed it to his French captors. One of the Frenchmen recognized the unit insignia on the coin and delayed the execution long enough to confirm the pilot’s identity. Once the pilot safely returned to his squadron, it became a tradition for all members to carry their coin, at all times. To ensure compliance, the pilots would challenge each other to produce the coin.”
Because of Easley’s efforts in the safety of Hawthorne airport, the dedication on the award reads: “Ms. Betty Easley’s love for aviation is present in all she does. She is a volunteer greeter at the Hawthorne Nevada Airport. She is renowned in the aviation community for her commitment to aviation safety and her involvement with the KHTH FBO. Ms. Easley researches, writes and distributes a “Wings and Things” newsletter, not only at Hawthorne Nevada Airport, but other neighboring airports around the area.”
Nicholas Reyes, Manager of the Regional Flight Standards Division would go on to say, “I wish to recognize you [Easley} for your outstanding service by presenting you with the Western-Pacific Region, Flight Standards Division “Challenge Coin”. The significance of the coin is the beginning of a new tradition. We have designed and produced the coin to acknowledge those how have shown dedication to aviation in a superior manner.”
Easley would describe the experience as “I have never in my life been so totally (and pleasantly) surprised. It is indeed an honor they would think so highly of my efforts for safety at Hawthorne Airport.”