Colorado Springs aviation artist Rick Broome will never forget the first time he rode in an airplane. When he was 7 years old, sitting in the front right seat with a pillow underneath him, he watched the tire roll down the runway. The tire stopped, the shadow fell away and Broome fell in love with flight.
"I remember that like it was 10 minutes ago," Broome said.
Broome, 70, has been painting his entire life, creating thousands of paintings aiming to capture the spirit of flight. Now Broome is nominated as one of the Living Legends of Aviation, which he calls the "Academy Awards of aviation."
The award honors significant contributions to the field of aviation. A few honorees include astronaut Buzz Aldrin,the second person to walk on the moon, and inventor and engineer Elon Musk, who co-founded SpaceX. The award ceremony held in Beverly Hills, Calif., each year in January is produced by the nonprofit Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, which aims to inspire youth toward aviation. The process begins with a nomination by a legend, then they take a vote to decide the new inductees. Jerry Lips, founder of the living legends, isn't sure if Broome will get inducted, but said he is worthy.
"He's very talented," Lips said "He's contributed a lot to aviation."
There are 96 living legends. Every time a legend dies, a spot opens. Lips said the legends are very quiet and like being off the radar. They don't want to be called and lobbied.
For Broome, the award would be recognition for his dedication to the art of painting airplanes.
"It's a big deal," Broome said. "But to go in as an artist, oh my gosh. It opens up some huge career opportunities."
If you ask Broome's wife, Billie, how much he loves airplanes, she will ask: "Have you seen the house?" Attached like a spare room, Broome has a Boeing 727 fuselage as his studio.
When he was 7 years old, he won a Better Home and Gardens coloring contest. In high school, he created 200 paintings, which he sold for $25 each.
He started taking commissions for custom art when he was 15. While getting a degree in aircraft maintenance engineering at Northrop Institute of Technology in California, he worked as an airline mechanic and was accepted as a flight officer candidate in 1971, but the class was canceled. He decided to do what he always knew how to do for a living: art.
While he sells his lithographs for $15, some of his original paintings sell for hundreds to thousands. He was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. For the past four decades, he has painted a portrait for each graduating class at the Air Force Academy. The academy has around 50 of his paintings, Broome said.
Broome pays extreme attention to details. In his starlight art, paintings that depict nighttime settings and glow under black light, all of the stars are in their exact positions. He also hides details in his paintings, which he said is inspired from looking around while flying.
"You see things when you're flying if you pay attention," Broome said.
His paintings can take 2,000 hours to finish. Broome usually watches TV or listens to music while painting and said the hours fly by.
Every image starts to the same music: Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."
Being inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation would be like graduating, he said. For him, it is an opportunity to be taken seriously and gain recognition on a national level.
"A lot of people, because I do aviation art, they don't treat it serious," Broome said. "They treat it more like commercial art or like I'm an illustrator."
Alongside, recognition, Broome said he wouldn't mind hanging out with some of the honorees of the Hall of Fame, including the actor Harrison Ford. Getting inducted will also give him something to inspire people with.
"It will gives us the ability to talk about it, what the importance is of creativity, the importance of the ability to think ahead and merge that with aviation and flying, and give kids something to look forward to," Broome said.
Contact Seth Bodine: 636-0275