Zoe Dell Nutter’s greatest contributions to aviation were born from her vision and dream that the aviation industry should have its own hall of fame and an annual gathering of aviation legends.” She has spent more than 80 years promoting aviation and the airline industry. Her insistence and drive helped create the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, where she has lived since 1965.
Nutter is also a Charter Member of the “Living Legends of Aviation” and has been a consistent supporter since day one of the work that Kiddie Hawk Air Academy is doing in teaching children to fly. In January 2009, at the 6th annual “Living Legends of Aviation Awards,” Zoe Dell was presented the prestigious “Bob Hoover Freedom of Flight Award” in recognition for her lifelong dedication to the success of both commercial and general aviation, and was also named the “First Lady of Aviation” by the Legends committee. “I believe it was also important for the Living Legends of Aviation to meet together, to recognize significant contributions to aviation as they happened.”
She loved dancing on stage, and was the principal dance for the San Francisco Ballet, when she was approached from someone from Treasure Island to promote the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition as its “Pirate” girl. She travelled all over the country by plane, which some people perceived in the 30s and 40s to be very dangerous, to promote the Fair and air travel in general. Her reply was that she never got sick and never had any safety concerns through rough air and turbulent weather. “I’ve never lost my lunch or my luggage,” she replied. She was photographed and promoted aviation in Life Magazine’s feature in its Feb 7, 1938 issue, as the“Most Photographed Girl in the World.”
Right after Pearl Harbor was attacked, due to a leg injury which required surgery, Zoe Dell earned her pilots license. In 1958 Standard Oil asked Zoe Dell to be the official representative to the World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium. She visited countries around the world meeting and inviting world leaders to the Fair and promoting commercial air travel.
In the early 60s, Zoe Dell was promoting general aviation; William Piper offered her a position at Monarch Aviation in Monterey, California. Aviation was growing, and she was sent to Dayton to put a deposit down on the BedeI for student instruction aircraft. It was there she met her future husband, Ervin “Erv” Nutter. He was CEO and president of Elano Corporation. He headed an important aviation research and development laboratory operated by the U.S. Government. He tested military aircraft and was a member of “The Manhattan Project” building and testing the trigger mechanism for the atomic bomb.
Erv and Zoe Dell flew together many times and became involved with members of the Wright Brothers family. The National Aviation Hall of Fame was chartered shortly thereafter by congress. Although Erv Nutter flew west, Zoe Dell still lives in Dayton Ohio and recently celebrated her one hundred and one birthday. She still actively promotes aviation both at the NAHF and the Living Legends of Aviation.