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 Shields-Trauger Award


Year Recipient(s)
2023 Gary Heavin
2022 Gordon Schwontkowski, Sam Parks
2021 Dave Sullivan
2019 Kim Magee
2019 Andy Baird
2018 Fred Dinkler
2017 Bill Smith
2016 No Award Presented
2015 Troy Bradley, Bill Bussey, Bert and Joanie Padelt
2014 No Award Presented
2013 Cheryl Edwards White, Cindy L Petrehn
2012 Maury Sullivan
2011 No Award Presented
2010 Lou Billones, Colonel Joe Kittinger
2009 David Levin
2008 No Award Presented
2007 Jim Thompson
2006 Glen Moyer
2005 Jim and Maxine Weinman
2004 John C. Davis IV
2003 No Award Presented
2002 Rob Schantz
2001 Aerostar International
2000 Ruth Ludwig, David Rapp
1999 Tom Hamilton
1998 No Award Presented
1997 Ron Behrmann
1996 Dewey Reinhard, Tom Sheppard
1995 Steve Fossett, Jetta Schantz
1994 Bruce Comstock, Doug Lane, Mark Sullivan
1993 Richard Abruzzo,  Troy Bradley,  Bill Bussey
1992 Pat Barz
1991 Nick Saum
1990 Alan Blount
1989 Rocky Bailey, Gary Britton
1988 Bill Bird
1987 Jacques Soukup, Kirk Thomas
1986 William G. Armstrong, Michael C. Emich
1985 Nikki Caplan
1984 Debbie Spaeth, Karl Stefan
1983 Kevin Poeppelman
1982 Don Piccard
1981 No Award Presented
1980 Tucker Comstock
1979 Dick Brown & Donna Brown, Tom Sheppard, Indianola Balloons Inc.
1978 Jim Winker
1977 Tom Heinsheimer
1976 No Award Presented
1975 Deke Sonnichsen
1974 No Award Presented
1973 Tracy Barnes
1972 Ed Yost
1971 Peter Pellegrino
1970 Bob Rechs


The Shields-Trauger Award is the highest special award given by the Balloon Federation of America and second only to entrance in the Hall of Fame.  This award does not have to be awarded annually, however up to three (3) Shields-Trauger awards may be made in the same year.  BFA Shields-Trauger Award is for an active member of the BFA for special contribution to Aerostatics including:

  • Notable flight
  • Significant contribution(s) to the technology or science of ballooning
  • Important long-standing contributions to safety in ballooning
  • Exemplary long-term service to the BFA

The period of nomination is from the Annual General Meeting until August 15th of the award year.

  • Nominations for the Shields-Trauger Award must be made by members of the BFA and are solicited from the general membership via a published notice on this website.
  • Nominations in any category may be sent to the Awards Chairperson via the BFA Office. Nominations can be up to and preferably not longer than two pages.
  • Nominations must include: Name of nominee, address, years of experience in ballooning and reason why the candidate should receive the award.
  • Persons making nominations must provide their contact information to allow the selection board to follow up during the selection process. (name, email address, mailing address and telephone number)
  • The award is open to all BFA members.


  • Members making a nomination will send them, complete with supporting data, to the BFA Office.
  • The BFA Office will forward all nominations to the Awards Chair. The Chair will review all nominations for completeness. The Chair will then solicit 5 past Presidents of the BFA to serve as the selection committee.  Every effort will be made to vary the committee make-up on a year-to-year basis.
  • The final list will be sent to the President by the Awards Chair by August 15th.
  • The Awards Chairperson will work with the BFA President to present the final list of selectees to the full board for their ratification.
  • The Awards Chair will then work with the BFA Office to prepare the awards.

The Shields-Trauger Award(s) will be presented during the BFA Annual General Membership Meeting unless otherwise decided by the Board.

HISTORY: The Men Behind the Award

Francis Shields and Bob Trauger both had their ballooning careers cut tragically short, Shields after just 14 years and Trauger after only 5. Both died in ballooning accidents in 1968 a mere three months apart.

Francis Shields of Green Ridge, Pennsylvania, was a gas balloonist who earned his license in 1954. He was an early member and would serve as president of the Balloon Club of America. His peers included Don Piccard, Tony Fairbanks, Peter Pellegrino and Constance Wolfe. With Pellegrino he would serve as technical advisor for the filming of the movie Around the World in Eighty Days. He logged more than 100 gas flights and was one of the most active American pilots in international competition.

One of his more memorable flights occurred on January 9, 1968 when he and Pellegrino piloted La Coquette (the balloon used in Around the World in Eighty Days) to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the first flight of Pierre Blanchard in America. A photo of the launch of that flight was the first cover photo ever for the new Balloon Federation of America's premier issue of BALLOONING JOURNAL in Spring 1968.

Shields and two passengers would die just a few months later on June 6, 1968. Launching on a flight in Vienna, Austria for the International Airmail Exhibition, Shield's balloon struck the 850 foot Danube Tower. At an altitude of about 500 feet, the envelope slipped from its severed net and fell back to the earth, taking the lives of Shields and two passengers. Those who knew him say he would have been a formidable leader in the then blossoming sport of hot air ballooning.

Bob Trauger died just three months later on September 18, 1968 when he and a passenger struck a power line. The accident occurred just after take-off on a promotional flight from Penndel, Pennsylvania. A balloonists for only a short five years, Trauger had made scores of ascensions and parachute drops in the famous Eddie Allen smoke balloon.

Trauger was also an accomplished stunt man and wing walker with pilot Rodney Jocelyn. The two flew aerobatics together largely in the northeastern U.S. Jocelyn would be elected to the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame in 1998. Sadly, Trauger's last moments were caught on film in a dramatic photograph that shows him jumping to his death from his burning balloon. Trauger was from Keller's Church, Pennsylvania.