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Cdr. Michael R. Erard, USN, Retired

Michael Rene Erard


Cdr. Michael R. Erard was born on October 5, 1908 near Argyle, Michigan. He was a member of four military air forces, logging more than 14,000 accident-free hours of flight time in 53 years.

Erard was only 16 years old when he saw a squadron of P-1s fly over his parents' farm, deciding then that flying was going to be his life. He obtained his pilot's license in 1926 and operated his own flying school until 1929 when the Depression forced him to close it. He joined the Michigan Air National Guard the next year as a private and was soon a pilot and a second lieutenant. He resigned in 1933 when he received his letter of acceptance into the French Air Force. Erard was the only American who served actively as a military pilot in the French Air Force since WW I.

He returned to the U.S. in December 1937, and then joined Lockheed Aircraft Corporation on the production flight test staff. In 1940 he was accepted into the U.S. Air Force as a flight instructor. In January 1943, Erard transferred to the U.S. Naval Air Force to take charge of the entire Free French Navy Primary Pilot Training Program. He remained in the U.S. Navy until his retirement in June, 1963.

Erard was decorated with the Aeronautical Medal by the French government in 1983 and was inducted into the Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame in 1986. He was also selected as "Airman of the Year" by the Yankee Air Force in 1986.

Erard was enshrined on October 26, 1991 for his dedication to flying and the advancement of aviation. His love of aviation and dedicated military service serve as an example and inspiration to all. He passed away January 19, 2002.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program