Ralph O’Neill

Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame
Enshrined 2012

Born in Durango, Mexico, Ralph O’Neill spent the years of his youth growing up in the Borderlands region of the American southwest and Northern Mexico, including Nogales, Arizona. Following a year of study at Lehigh University and America’s entry into the First World War, O’Neill enlisted in the Army Signal Corps in June 1917. Attaining his wings at Everman Field at Ft. Worth, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and assigned to the 147th Aero Squadron flying Nieuport 28 & SPAD 1 fighters. In July 1918, O’Neill downed as many as 6 German aircraft and was hailed as one of America’s first aces. By the war’s end, he had risen to the rank of 1st Lt., officially been credited with victories, flown 103 combat patrols and was thrice decorated for extraordinary heroism, receiving 3 Distinguished Service Crosses & the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.

In 1920, O’Neill was appointed by the Mexican Government to train and organize a modern Mexican air force. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1925, he conceived the idea of an airline & mail service connecting the east coasts of North & South America utilizing large flying boats. Following a stint in 1927 as the exclusive Latin American agent for both Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, O’Neill founded and headed the New York, Rio & Buenos Aires Line in 1929, piloting much of the maiden flight himself in a Sikorsky S-38. After NYRBA merged with Pan Am in 1930, he formed a gold mining company Bolivia. O’Neill retired to the Bay area in the late 1960’s where he lived until his death in 1980.

Donald L. Owens

Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame
Enshrined 2010

Major General Donald L. Owens was born in Phoenix on April 13, 1930 and except for his teen years has lived in Arizona his entire life. In 1952 he joined the Arizona Air National Guard as a private, to begin nearly 45 years of service. He received his Air Force Pilot’s Wings in 1953 along with his commission as an officer.

In 1956 he became Chief of Maintenance for the Phoenix Air National Guard Base at Sky Harbor International Airport, a position he would hold for the next 20 years. He was responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft of the 161st Air Refueling Group during this time.

In 1977 he became the Chief of Base Activities for the Phoenix Air National Guard Base and a year later he took over as commander of the 161st Air Refueling Group. For two years, beginning in 1983 he was commanding general of the Arizona Air National Guard. That same year he became the Adjutant General and Director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, a position he held until 1994. Since his retirement from the Air National Guard General Owens has worked as a consultant for several defense contractors and as the Director of Military Programs for Robertson Aviation.