He will be presented the Lindbergh Award during SUN ‘n FUN at the Fantasy of Flight. You are invited to be there to join the celebration.
Forrest Bird is an avid pilot. He soloed at 14. He ferried aircraft across the North Atlantic during WWII. He flew his own Howard 500 regularly back and forth to Europe. And when the Learjet became available, flew his own Lear to Europe regularly. Today he has many thousands of hours, a few dozen aircraft, his own airport, and an impressive aviation museum.
As remarkable as all of this is, many people are thankful for Forrest Bird because what he learned by flying across the North Atlantic allowed him create a device that saved thousands of lives. The device is known as the Bird Respirator.
During WWII Forrest flew the turbo-charged and super-charged aircraft that had just been developed. For the first time planes routinely flew at altitudes above 28,000 ft. Until that time those altitudes were a “no man’s land” because the reduced air pressure and lack of pressurization meant that pilots needed some system for supplemental oxygen. Dr. Bird’s work on developing systems for high altitude flight got him interested in the principles of respiration, and he obtained his M.D. in order to pursue that interest.
In the 1950’s Dr. Bird developed mechanically simple, yet remarkably effective, ventilators that began saving lives on an unprecedented basis. Until that time all that was available for patients with respiratory problems was the iron lung.
One of his most famous inventions is a ventilator for infants, nicknamed the “Babybird.” The Babybird reduced the mortality rate of infants with breathing problems from 70% to 10%. Bird respirators are still in use around the world saving lives.
Dr. Bird has been richly honored as an inventor. He was inducted into the National inventor’s Hall of Fame and received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama. He was also featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes.
But if you ask Dr. Bird what he enjoys the most, the answer will be “flying” – and his credentials certainly support that. He is an Airline Transport Pilot, rated in all classes of airplanes. He is also a helicopter and glider pilot. Plus, he is a flight instructor for single and multiengine airplanes and helicopters and gliders. Perhaps most impressive of all, he is an A and P mechanic with an Inspection Authorization.
The reason he lives on a lake in Idaho is so that he could fly seaplanes there. He celebrated his 90th birthday with a fly-in to his airport and aviation museum.
Dr. Bird was named a Living Legend of Aviation by the Kiddie Hawk Foundation, and Martha and I were deeply honored when he presented the same award to us this January.
Please join us during Sun ‘n’ Fun at the Lindbergh Foundation award ceremony as Martha and I will be able to return the honor by presenting the Lindbergh certificate and medal to the remarkable Dr. Forrest Bird.