On July 2, 1926, the United States Congress authorized the Distinguished Flying Cross for "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight". From the article:
"On July 2, 1926, the Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized by Congress.
In the past eight years only five DFCs have been awarded four of them were to astronauts (and one of those astronauts, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, received it twice).
Sadly, one of those Distinguished Flying Crosses was presented posthumously to the family of Lt. Miroslav Steven Zilberman, of Columbus, Ohio, who was killed March 31, 2010 after staying at the controls of his crippled E-2C Hawkeye allowing his crew to escape unharmed before the plane crashed.
The first was awarded to an Army Reserve Captain named Charles A. Lindberg recognizing his historic transatlantic flight. It is the oldest military aviation award. The Distinguished Flying Cross Society says it’s impossible to know how many of the medals have been awarded, but it claims to have more than “6,200 recipient members with possibly thousands more eligible to join our prestigious and elite Society.”
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to individuals who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or the Marine Corps, distinguish themselves by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight. To justify this decoration for heroism, an act in the face of danger, well above those actions performed by others engaged in similar flight operations, is required; for achievement, the results accomplished must be so exceptional as to render them conspicuous among those accomplished by others involved in similar circumstances."