History and Story of ECAHF
The Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation (ECAHF) is an association of people who love aviation and respect and celebrate those men and women who developed and continue to develop the opportunities for man to break the bonds of an earth-bound existence and “soar like a bird”. ECAHF exists to protect and promote our aviation heritage and to foster aviation-related Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educational opportunities and activities. Headquartered in Havelock, NC, ECAHF was formed and exists to acknowledge and remember the evolution of aviation in Coastal Carolina and the essence of the American spirit that has grown from the symbiotic partnership of the military and civilian communities that have shaped it.
ECAHF’s mission is to ensure that eastern North Carolina’s vital roles in aviation history are, preserved, sustained, and celebrated and that aviation technological development continues to soar. It is appropriate and fortuitous that ECAHF would be formed in Havelock and Coastal North Carolina, the cradle of aviation. Beginning with the first successful manned flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, through the evolution of Marine Corps aviation, to the execution of space flight, the relationship between the military and coastal North Carolina communities has created a protector of our liberty and freedoms, as well as created a thriving social network of aviation and space-related activities and economic growth opportunities.
The ECAHF, established on June 26, 2006, is led and managed by a 16-member Board of Directors (BoD), a group of citizens representing local businesses, educators, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and Fleet Readiness Center-East, former military aviators and non-commissioned officers, and local elected leaders. Prior to ECAHF, an “Exhibit Committee” was formed in 1999 by visionary citizens, including Havelock’s first and multi-term Mayor, the honorable George Griffin, who saw the need for concerted, concentrated, and organized efforts to recognize, protect, and celebrate eastern North Carolina’s role in the development of, and progress in, aviation and to take advantage of the social and economic benefits therein.
ECAHF is teamed with the City of Havelock, providing the benefits of combining the political leadership and managerial expertise of elected and appointed city officials with the talents and experiences of prominent local citizens serving on the ECAHF BoD. Members of the ECAHF BoD are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Havelock City Commissioners. The City of Havelock, thereby, provides oversight over, and city resources for use by, the ECAHF BoD in order to accomplish its mission.
Spawned from the A. A. Cunningham Air Museum Foundation, Inc., a NC Domestic Non-Profit Corporation filed on May 2, 1986 and now dissolved, ECAHF is headquartered in the Havelock Tourist and Event Center (TEC) and Aviation Heritage Display Center (AHDC). The TEC/AHDC was first opened in 2002 by the people of Havelock as a community venue and as a scaled-down version of the eastern Carolina A. A. Cunningham aviation museum project led by retired MCAS Cherry Point Commanding General, Brigadier General “Large James” Jim Mead, a museum project that never came to fruition.
Using both local tax dollars and funds donated for the planned-but-not-implemented much larger aviation museum, the Havelock AHDC was constructed, serving as a mini-aviation museum that includes four actual USMC aircraft on display (maintained by and loaned to the City of Havelock and ECAHF by the Naval Aviation Museum, an A-4 Sky Hawk, an A-6 Intruder, an RF-4 Phantom, and a CH-46 Sea Knight) each flown at MCAS Cherry Point, as well as hundreds of aviation artifacts, aviation and veterans’ memorials, films, and educational materials on display in and around the TEC/AHDC.
Since its founding, ECAHF’s BoD has been led by three chairmen including the plank owner and first chairman Dan ''Sonny'' M. Roberts, III, businessman and entrepreneur, followed by Lieutenant General Harold W. Blot, USMC (Retired), an AV-8 Harrier pilot and former Deputy Commandant of Marine Corps Aviation, and the current chairman, Major General Thomas Braaten, USMC (Retired), a CH-46 Sea Knight pilot and former commanding general of Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point.
ECAHF was formed to carry on and bolster the vision and dream of a larger, more comprehensive aviation museum in Havelock, honoring the first Marine aviator, A. A. Cunningham, recognizing the vital role Marine aviation has played in our nation’s defense, and celebrating our rich aviation heritage and history in North Carolina, efforts that continue in earnest today.
As that original vision has expanded, ECAHF has increased the original scope of its mission and goals to lead the way in also developing, implementing, and encouraging aviation-related STEM educational programs to help our region, our State, and our Nation to maintain its technological lead. ECAHF’s STEM programs celebrate, though education, the deep and abiding legacy, lore, love of and respect for, aviation and aviators and the promises that aviation technologies hold for our collective futures, technologies spawned by the Wright Brothers’ First Flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.