• Opportunities for Flying and Hangar Flying Abound

    Posted on April 4th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments

    While winter weather continues in Wisconsin – snow is forecast for the northern half of the state, spring is definitely in the air. More and more activities, either about flying or involving flying, are appearing on the calendar. Over the next few weeks you have numerous opportunities to hear some interesting flying stories, attend two fly-in breakfasts (one with educational seminars), participate in a spot landing contest where proceeds go to charity and attend the 59th annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference. The only question is which events will you take advantage of?

    S.J. Wittman Birthday Fly-in Breakfast
    Saturday, April 12
    Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH), Oshkosh
    The Steve Wittman Chapter (Chapter 252) of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) will be holding its annual S.J. Wittman birthday breakfast celebration. The event is held in the airport’s terminal building located at 525 West 20th Avenue. For those flying in you’ll park at the terminal ramp on the NE corner of the airport.

    In addition to the a eggs, sausage and all you can eat pancake breakfast, a special focus on the Wittman Tailwind aircraft will be conducted. A Young Eagles event will be held in conjunction with the event. Women in Aviation, Oshkosh Chapter will be selling cupcakes as a scholarship fundraiser. The event runs from 7:30 until 11:00 a.m. Steve Wittman was born April 5, 1904; the event celebrates the famous air racer’s 110th birthday. For more information contact Dennis Moehn at 920-810-1046.

    Oshkosh Chapter, Women in Aviation
    Tuesday, April 15
    EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh
    Sergeant John Jones of the Wisconsin State Patrol will explain aircraft types used and modifications to make them suitable for law enforcement purposes. He’ll cover training requirements, how the specialized technology in the aircraft operates, as well as communication and coordination systems with ground support troopers. John’s presentation includes numerous stories and photos of real world events highlighting the range of activities in which flying troopers are involved. The program begins at 7:00 PM and is open to the public. The Women in Aviation, Oshkosh Chapter meets monthly and membership is open to all pilots and aviation supporters.

    Fox Valley Technical College
    Saturday, April 26
    Spanbauer Aviation
    Center, Oshkosh
    FVTC’s Aviation Center’s Seventh Annual French Toast Breakfast Fly-in includes breakfast and two educational seminars. Breakfast begins at 8:00 a.m. and runs until noon. The French toast breakfast with yummy sides is an amazing $5. Local flight instructors Tim Lemke and Keith Myers will each present a safety seminar. Tim will address “The Art of Trim Control” and Keith’s presentation is “FARs Every Pilot Should Know.” The FVTC Spanbauer Aviation Center is located at 3601 Oregon Street in Oshkosh. The school’s ramp is on the east end of Delta taxiway.

    59th Annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference
    Monday – Wednesday, May 5 – 7
    Patriot Center, Rothschild
    Wisconsin Aviation Conference 2014 logoThe 2014 Wisconsin Aviation Conference begins with two networking events, golf and sporting clays, during the day. A welcome reception and dinner on Monday evening provides attendees a chance to meet and catch up with friends and associates. Tuesday morning the conference program begins with topics designed to be of interest to everyone in the aviation community. Sessions and presenters include: industry updates by the FAA and Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, Wildlife Hazard Management, Strategic Planning, the Wisconsin Aerospace Consortium, NEXTGEN, General Aviation Hangar Construction Trends, and more. Visit www.wiama.org for more information.

    EAA Speakers Series
    Thursday, May 15
    EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh
    Tom ThomasTom Thomas will present “Landing a C-97 at Dodgeville” as the final presenter in this year’s Speaker Series. Many of you have seen the C-97 parked outside the Don Q Inn on Hwy. 23 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Tom will share his story of the role he played in landing that huge airplane on the short runway that once graced the Don Quinn property. Tom will discuss this experience, which took place in 1977, with explanations of preflight and runway preparations, aircraft operations, and other facts about the flight. The program begins at 7:00 PM, is open to the public and is free of charge. FMI: 920-426-6108.

    Landings for Lunches
    Entire month of May
    Wausau Downtown Airport (KAUW)
     A charity flying challenge, giving airplane pilots an opportunity to compete in a spot landing contest. Proceeds from the 2nd annual event benefit The Neighbors’ Place. During the entire month of May, pilots will attempt to land with their main wheels on or as close as possible to a box marked on the runway. Pilots will donate one dollar and a non-perishable food item (or an additional dollar) each time they compete. Donations will be split between prize money and contributions to The Neighbors’ Place. Contact John at Wausau Flying Service for more information, 715-845-3400 or visit www.WausauFlyingService.com.

    Plenty of opportunities for you to “get back in the air” this spring. Bring a friend to any, or better yet all, of these events.

  • Aviation students your time is running out!

    Posted on March 20th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments

    Are you a full-time aviation/aerospace student from Wisconsin? Would you benefit from a scholarship? If so, we have great news for you, but you must hurry!

    The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) and its foundation partner Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin recently announced an extension of its scholarship application deadline. You now have until March 31, 2014 to complete the online application package. Visit the foundation’s website and scroll down to Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame Scholarships. There you will find links to the scholarship’s guidelines as well as the online application. Past recipients are eligible for repeat awards.

    WAHF has been providing scholarships to aviation students since 2001. Last year WAHF expanded its program to include full-time aviation and aerospace students attending either  two or four year programs anywhere in the country. That program expansion added a Wisconsin residency requirement. Today, the organization provides nearly $3,000 annually through five individual awards in support of aviation/aerospace education.

    Contact Sue Nelson, the Community Foundation’s program manager, with any questions. Sue can be reached at 715-845-9555 or by email.

    Community Foundation logo


  • Exciting news from the National Aviation Hall of Fame

    Posted on December 19th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF), based appropriately in Dayton, Ohio, announced its “Enshrinee Class of 2014″ during a Wright Brothers Anniversary dinner on December 17. Three of next year’s enshrinees have direct ties to Wisconsin and one is an inductee of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF). The six individuals who will be inducted next year are: Bertrand B. Acosta, Alan and Dale Klapmeier, BGen James McDivitt, Emily Howell Warner and Sylvester “Steve” Wittman.

    Alan and Dale Klapmeier were born in Illinois but have spent most of their lives in Wisconsin. They grew up, learned to fly and went to college here. Their early aircraft design and construction work, with friend Jeff Viken, took place at the Baraboo-Dells Airport, in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Their first design, the VK-30, was a five-seat, kit airplane with a piston-engine and pusher prop. A turbo-prop powered version, the ST-50, first flew on December 7, 1994. Moving to Duluth, Minnesota, Cirrus Design stopped working on those early designs to concentrate on their SR20 airplane. Certified by the FAA in 1998, deliveries of the SR20 began in July 1999. Today, Dale Klapmeier is the CEO of Cirrus Aircraft located in Duluth. Located just over the Richard Bong Memorial Bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, is Kestrel Aircraft, where Alan Klapmeier is CEO. The brothers continue to leave an idelible mark on aviation. Our congratulations to Alan and Dale Klapmeier.

    Steve Wittman was born in Byron, Wisconsin, (3 miles south of Fond du Lac) in 1904. A childhood illness cost the young, want-to-be aviator most of his vision in one eye. He soloed in 1924 and flew an airplane of his design that he built the same year. He operated a flying service in Fond du Lac for two years beginning in 1925. About this same time, Steve discovered air racing, competing in his first race at Milwaukee in 1926. He competed in air races throughout the country for an amazing 53 years. In 1931, the owners of the Oshkosh airport invited him to manage the airport. He managed the airport, that today bears his name, for 28 years. He also operated Wittman Flying Service until 1957. Steve was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame as a member of its first class of inductees, in 1986.

    These gentlemen will join nine other Wisconsin aviation notables, each of whom are enshrinees in both the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame. This august group includes: Richard “Dick” Bong, James Lovell, Billy Mitchell, Mark Mitscher, Paul Poberezny, Robert Reeve, Deke Slayton, Nathan Twining and Hoyt Vandenberg. There are more than 35 state-based aviation halls of fame. We hope the NAHF selection committee looks to these “local” organizations and who they have enshrined as possible candidates for NAHF enshrinement.

  • Aviation Scholarship

    Posted on October 18th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    The future of aviation is alive and well. We see it every summer during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Exhibits of new aircraft designs, some consisting of new materials, others powered by new engines, all brighten our future. I spent every day of AirVenture 2013 volunteering with an exhibitor in the new Education and Interactive Zone. Located northwest of the control tower, the area was created to highlight aviation education programs and provided numerous interactive exhibits. The indoor College Park facility was constantly abuzz with activity. It was exciting to meet literally hundreds of students, teachers, and professors. Yes, the future of aviation, the future of aviation scholarship, is getting brighter everyday.

    The future of aviation scholarship is bright here, at WAHF, too. The WAHF scholarship program began in 2002 with a single $1000 annual award. Through the generosity of Jerome Thiessen, and friends and family of Jerome Ripp, two additional awards were added to the program. Late last year the program was revised and expanded to include Wisconsin students attending schools outside of Wisconsin. Today, Wisconsin residents who are continuing students in an aviation/aerospace program at any 2- or 4-year school in the country are eligible for these scholarships. Earlier this year, EAA Chapter 640 in Wausau, Wisconsin, provided funds to endow a fourth WAHF scholarship award. That scholarship will begin next year. The Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin (CFoNCW), located in Wausau, administers WAHF’s scholarship program.

    This year, the WAHF scholarship program is presenting its 12th annual awards. To date the program has awarded $20,000 to 28 aviation students from Wisconsin. The 2013 recipients will be recognized at the organization’s annual induction ceremony and banquet on Saturday, October 26 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

    Alex Adduci, 2013 Carl Guell Memorial Scholarship recipient

    Alex Adduci, 2013 Carl Guell Memorial Scholarship recipient

    Carl Guell Memorial Scholarship
    Alex Adduci has been selected as the 2013 Carl Guell Memorial scholarship recipient. Alex, from Eagle, Wisconsin, is an aeronautical engineering major at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

    Before attending college, Alex learned to fly, soloing at 16 and earning his private pilot certificate and instrument rating at 17. Alex added a commercial pilot certificate at 18, about the time he was finishing high school. Alex has participated in a number of extracurricular activities and community service projects. Currently he is serving an internship with Gulfstream in Savannah, Georgia.

    “I would not be the person I am today without the wonderful support of those vested in the history and adventure of general aviation in Wisconsin,” said Alex, upon receiving word of his selection. “This scholarship that the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame has so generously offered comes as a wonderful surprise, but also makes me so very glad that we have such a dedicated group of people supporting and keeping general aviation at its finest. Thank you WAHF,” Alex added. “You have my deepest gratitude.”

    Rich Conrad, 2013 Thiessen Field Scholarship recipient

    Rich Conrad, 2013 Thiessen Field Scholarship recipient

    Thiessen Field Scholarship
    Rich Conrad, of Kiel, Wisconsin, will receive the $500 Thiessen Field award. Rich has been a private pilot for 5 years. After being laid off from a yacht manufacturer 2 years ago, he decided to pursue a career as an aircraft maintenance technician. He is an Airframe and Powerplant/Aircraft Avionics student at Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh.

    “I have recently completed my two-year Airframe and Powerplant training course at FVTC and earned my FAA mechanic certificate with Airframe and Powerplant ratings,” said Rich. “This scholarship is a great help and wonderful gift to continuing my education in the aviation field. I hope to continue on in aviation to help others realize how exciting and enjoyable this field is; the variety, age, and technology of aircraft is endless. Thank you for your support of aviation right here in Wisconsin!”

    Heather Behrent, 2013 Jerome Ripp Memorial Scholarship recipient

    Heather Behrent, 2013 Jerome Ripp Memorial Scholarship recipient

    Rich plans to continue his education, pursuing an associate degree in avionics. In addition to becoming a commercial pilot, Rich’s goal is to manage a repair facility and potentially become a flight instructor.

    Jerome Ripp Memorial Scholarship
    Heather Behrent, Appleton, is the recipient of the $500 Jerome Ripp Memorial scholarship. Heather is also an Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics/Aircraft Avionics student at FVTC in Oshkosh. “I believe I will enjoy being in an environment where detail and quality are of utmost importance,” Heather explained when asked why she chose this field. “I express my sincere gratitude to all of the individuals involved in selecting me for this scholarship. Without foundations such as the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame, I would not be able to fulfill my dream of finishing the Airframe and Powerplant program at Fox Valley Technical College. This scholarship has given me the wonderful opportunity of being able to be a successful leader in my field of study.”

    News regarding WAHF’s scholarship program will be made at the October 26 event. Establishing an award as part of the WAHF scholarship program is welcomed. You can begin the process by sending an email. Donations to the scholarship program are easily accomplished using your credit card at the CFoNCW’s secure website. One tenet of WAHF’s mission is the support of aviation education, and through our scholarship program, WAHF is “preserving the past and fostering the future of flight.”





  • Governors Kohler Conference Room

    Posted on October 16th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments
    Conference room dedication reception

    Conference room dedication reception

    It was a gloomy fall day in much of Wisconsin yesterday with low hanging clouds and intermittent rain. Not so in Sheboygan where a group of aviation minded folks gathered at the Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin (AHCW). By midafternoon, as if by plan, the rain stopped and the cloud bases rose and the sun was shining, if only above the overcast. About 125 people had come to dedicate the facility’s Governors Kohler Conference Room.

    The Kohler family has been engaged in aviation for generations, beginning with Walter J. Kohler, then continuing with his son Walter J. Kohler, Jr. and grandson Terry J. Kohler. Each generation has used and championed for aviation. That effort continues today through support of the AHCW. John Helminiak, Executive Director, serving as emcee of the event, asked those present to remember four words, four common threads, among each of the Kohlers – Duty, Honor, Passion and Integrity. Reflecting as the program ended, it was obvious those traits were indeed prevalent in each Kohler generation.

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

    The dedication ceremony included a presentation by Governor Scott Walker who spoke of the passion for public service that both Governors Kohler had in full measure. He then related how Terry Kohler, and his wife Mary, share that same that passion for public service while using aviation through their efforts with the International Whooping Crane Foundation and the Trumpeter Swan Recovery project.

    Wisconsin and Sheboygan County each has a rich aviation history and the heritage center provides an excellent venue to share that history while providing a place for education, research and outreach. The conference room dedication is among the final entries of the heritage center’s first decade. Founded in 2004, the heritage center has grown to a first-class facility housing history displays, an aviation library, a flight school and meeting facilities. The future of AHCW looks bright as plans for a building expansion and additional aircraft displays begin to take shape and while needed funds are collected.

    Governors Kohler Conference Room

    Governors Kohler Conference Room

    Many of those present at the dedication will meet again in Oshkosh, on Saturday, October 26, as Walter J. Kohler Sr. is inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame. Walter Sr. was the first politician to use an aircraft while campaigning. While campaigning for governor in 1928 he used his Ryan Brougham airplane to crisscross the state. During one two-week period, Kohler flew more than 7,800 miles. During the campaign, and later as governor, he pushed for more airports, better airports and an increased aviation emphasis in Wisconsin’s national guard.

  • An Old and Yes, a Bold Pilot

    Posted on October 12th, 2013 John Dorcey 4 comments
    Central County Airport (68C)

    Central County Airport (68C), photo courtesy WisDOT Aero

    Yesterday was a great day for flying – the morning air was like glass, the fall colors were dramatic in the glittering sunlight, and there was a birthday celebration to attend.  Even better, a birthday party at an airport. This wasn’t just any birthday and Iola’s Central County Airport (68C) isn’t just any airport. You might assume that this little gem of a landing facility is in the central part of Wisconsin. Actually located east of the state’s geographic center, it is however in the center of Waupaca County.

    Each of the airport’s three turf runways provide a challenge for pilots. There are trees, wires or farm buildings providing distractions during the approach. Then there are the relatively short runways – average length is barely 2000 feet. Almost every Friday throughout the year, the Central County Flyers Association hosts a lunch that draws a crowd. Yesterday, it was an exceptional crowd. Early reports put the unconfirmed number of aircraft that flew in at just over 50, including a pretty Beech 18 from Manitowoc (KMTW). The auto parking lot was overflowing with an estimated 75 vehicles.

    You could assume that it was the food or the beautiful fall weather that attracted the crowd. While it is true those things helped, everyone was there to celebrate the 100th birthday of local pilot Paul Johns. Paul was born in Indiana on October 11, 1913, raised in Illinois, and spent his adult life in Wisconsin. Well he lived in Wisconsin when he wasn’t flying somewhere else in the world. Paul soloed a glider at the tender age of 15 in 1929. Two years later he soloed a Curtiss Pusher and another year later, at age 18, he held a limited commercial pilot certificate. Joining the Naval Reserve during the Depression, Paul acquired a radio repair certificate and his A&E aircraft mechanic certificate. He then began instructing naval cadets in the Link Trainer. He was hired by Pan Am Airlines in 1939 to develop their instrument training program.

    Air race legend Bill Brennand (left) and Paul Johns (right) elder statesmen of Wisconsin aviation

    Air race legend Bill Brennand (left) and Paul Johns (right) elder statesmen of Wisconsin aviation

    Paul achieved his ultimate goal when he was named a line pilot for the carrier, first flying DC-3s throughout the Caribbean and South America. Then, in 1944, Paul was transferred to the carrier’s Pacific fleet where he flew the PB2Y3 and the fabled Boeing 314 Clipper. Captain Johns completed 220 trans-Pacific flights. His growing family pulled him away from those long flights and Pan Am and he hired on as a corporate pilot in Racine, Wisconsin. He flew Beech 18s for J.I. Case and a DC-3 for Walker Engineering. Reaching retirement age Paul transferred into the Walker’s engineering department.

    Just part of the crowd celebrating Paul John's 100th Birthday at Iola's Central County Airport

    Just part of the crowd celebrating Paul John’s 100th Birthday at Iola’s Central County Airport

    He may have retired from corporate flying but he never lost his love of flying and maintaining aircraft. At the tender age of 75, Paul ordered plans and materials for a Kitfox homebuilt airplane. One year after construction began, the aircraft made its first flight. He flew the airplane for seven years before selling it. After 66 years of flying Paul hung up his goggles. Paul remains active in the electronics and computer fields. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009. He’s attended every annual event since.

    Paul still drives himself out to the Central County Airport every Friday for lunch. You will find him seated at the end of a picnic table where he shares his many flying stories with anyone who asks. The twinkle in his eye seems to get brighter as he moves along each story. His reliving those history making flights must keep him young. Happy Birthday Paul! Captain Johns, you are amazing, for at 100, you are indeed an old pilot and a bold pilot.

  • New inductees to join Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame

    Posted on September 4th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) has been recognizing Wisconsin’s aviation heroes for 27 years. In that time, 113 individuals have been inducted into the hall of fame. From those whose names are familiar to many, like Billy Mitchell, Steve Wittman, and Jim Lovell, to those known only by aviators, or those who know their story, such as A.P. Warner, John Kaminski, or Libby Parod. These men and women are Wisconsin’s aviation heroes all. This year, the 28th year, WAHF will induct five aviation notables. Make plans now to join in the celebration held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on Saturday, October 26, 2013. This year’s WAHF inductees  are Bill Adams, Jeff Baum, Arnold Ebneter, Walter J. Kohler, and Ron Scott.

    Bill Adams

    William “Bill” Adams, Watertown, WI

    Born in Watertown, Wisconsin, Bill Adams was working as a machinist in Milwaukee when he began flight training. After earning his Private, then Commercial Pilot Certificate, he began work as a crop duster. In 1948 he saw a Cole Brothers Air Show and everything changed. By 1952, Bill had become a fixture with the Cole Brothers show. Then in 1960 he struck out on his own forming Bill Adams Airshow. A savvy businessman, Bill was among the first to acquire a national sponsor and develop his own brand. In 1966 an equipment failure at low altitude resulted in a fatal crash, ending Bill’s life.

    Jeff Baum

    Jeff Baum, Watertown, WI

    Jeff Baum lectured in business at UW-Whitewater to underwrite his business startup – Watertown Aviation in 1978. Several years later the fledgling business would take off and become Wisconsin Aviation with facilities at Dodge County Airport, Dane County Regional Airport, and Watertown Municipal Airport. Another branch opened its doors in Milledgeville (near Atlanta), Georgia. The company also has an affiliate Wisconsin Aviation – Europe in Germany. Baum is recognized as a leader in state and national aviation organizations serving on the boards of several. Jeff is also active in his home community of Watertown. He also somehow finds time to fly having logged over 17,000 hours.

    Arnold Ebneter took his first airplane ride at the age of seven when a barnstormer landed near his Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, home in 1936. He began his flying lessons in 1943 while in high school in Portage, Wisconsin. Arnold continued his training earning his commercial, flight instructor and A&P mechanic certificates while a student at the University of Minnesota. Leaving Minnesota, Ebneter became an aviation cadet in the US Air Force. After earning his wings and a commission in 1953, he flew North American’s F-86 Sabre and later, their F-100, Super Sabre. The USAF then sent Arnold to Texas A&M to earn a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Tours in Vietnam would provide him plenty of flying experience, logging 325 combat missions. After leaving the Air Force, Arnold worked for Boeing and on his personal life-long project, the E-1. Just last year, in that aircraft, Ebneter completed a record-setting flight of more than 2,300 miles in a C-1a class airplane.

    Gov Walter J. Kohler

    Gov Walter J. Kohler

    Walter J. Kohler was 25 years old when he took over the plumbing equipment company his father founded decades earlier. The Kohler Company expanded its product lines under young Walter, building gas-powered engines and generators. Together those two pieces of equipment became “Automatic Electric Plants” and powered the navigation system of lighted airway beacons. By 1932 there were more than 1,200 Kohler units lighting the US airways. Kohler also recognized the benefits of air travel for business and purchased a Ryan B-1 Bourgham aircraft. In 1928, while running for governor of Wisconsin, Kohler logged more than 7,200 flying miles, landing in 42 of the state’s 72 counties. He used the opportunity to urge local governments to work with businesses and expand their airport facilities. Winning the election, he became known as “The Flying Governor”. As governor, Kohler expanded the number of aviation aides in the Wisconsin National Guard.

    Ronn Scott

    Ron Scott, East Troy WI

    Ron Scott was born in Tomah, Wisconsin, spending hours of his youth designing and building model airplanes. In 1953, he enlisted in the US Air Force and served three years a crew chief/loadmaster on Douglas C-54 Skymaster and C-124 Globemaster aircraft. He left the Air Force in 1956, moved to the Milwaukee area, bought a 1941 Taylorcraft, took flying lessons at the Capitol Drive Airport and met Paul Poberezny. That meeting changed Scott’s life. Poberezny encouraged Ron to build an airplane, the idea of building it from fiberglass was all Ron’s idea. Old Ironsides is recognized as the first airplane to use fiberglass structurally in a stressed skin application. Ron has donated more than 50 years of his life to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) working on the communications systems, serving on the organization’s board of directors and various committees.

    Join us as we celebrate the lives, the careers, the accomplishments of these aviation heroes. The induction ceremony will be held in the Founder’s Wing of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh on Saturday, October 26, 2013. Additional event details are available here.  Online registration process, using your credit card, begins here. A press release with additional information on the inductees is also available.

  • Alexander Field Celebrates its 85th Anniversary with Link to its Past

    Posted on August 29th, 2013 Rose Dorcey No comments

    Ford Tri-Motor is central to the airport’s roots

    Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport (KISW) is celebrating its 85th anniversary this weekend, and an airplane like one that’s forever linked to the airport’s history will be there all weekend. EAA’s 1929 Ford Tri-Motor arrived in Wisconsin Rapids today. Airport Manager Howard Joling encourages community members to come out to celebrate the airport’s rich heritage.

    “It’s not just an airport anniversary, but for the whole community, the airport is something that started when the mills were in their infancy, and things were beginning to grow and take off,” said Joling, explaining the airport’s longstanding significance to the city. “When the airport started, Nekoosa Papers had their Ford Tri-Motor here, which they purchased in 1928, and used it as promotion for its company.”

    And while the Nekoosa Papers’ Tri-Motor didn’t survive the decades, it was destroyed by a tornado in Iowa long ago, EAA’s Tri-Motor Model 4-AT is very similar.

    EAA's Ford AT-4 Tri-Motor

    EAA’s Ford AT-4 Tri-Motor

    “Our aircraft was built in 1929,” explains Ed Rusch, of Coldwater, Michigan, captain of EAA’s Ford Tri-Motor. “There was a Ford Tri-Motor brought here by an industrialist who had operations in this area in 1928. It was an earlier version of this aircraft, but basically the same.”

    Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company purchased the plane in 1928 for $48,000, according to Joling. The industrialist Rusch spoke of, John Alexander, then the paper company’s manager, purchased 330 acres to be used for a new airport. It’s been in operation since. At one time, it was served by Midstate Airlines. Today, it’s an important economic agent for the community, says Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink. Hear Mayor Vruwink’s comments here.

    Today’s arrival of EAA’s Ford, NC8407, was highly anticipated by area news representatives, who eagerly stepped on board for a 20-minute flight over Wisconsin Rapids. It was an opportunity to link to the city’s past, and imagine what the area looked like in the late ’20s, with its rivers, lakes, forests, and paper mills. Dozens of men and women gathered to take pictures and see the plane up close, and view the numerous historic airport photos on display.

    Ruth Johnson, Wisconsin Rapids pilot

    Ruth Johnson, Wisconsin Rapids pilot

    One woman stood out. Ruth Johnson, nee Blount, shared her personal history with the Wisconsin Rapids airport. “A gentleman named Jim Johnson had spray painted an old hangar at the airport in 1957,” Ruth recalled. “Several of us then formed a local Civil Air Patrol branch to practice searching for downed planes.”

    Ruth Blount was 19 years old in 1958. She and Jim became friends. “Jim bought an Ercoupe in 1958,” Ruth continued. “He told me I could take lessons in his plane. I did, and after seven hours, I soloed.” Ruth paused, then smiled and added, “Some of the guys had nine hours.” Ruth was told that she was the first woman who had soloed an airplane at the airport.

    Ruth and Jim got along well, and were married in 1961. They flew for many years together, creating many warm memories. “We would fly to Green Bay for a hamburger and a malt, and fly back without a flight plan,” she recalled. “Many happy hours were spent in the air.”

    Jim and Ruth Johnson made a home in Biron, a village just east of Wisconsin Rapids. When Jim died in 1990, Ruth got out of flying.

    “It just wasn’t fun anymore,” she said.

    But being back at the airport, running into old friends and making new ones with her effervescent smile, brought back good times for Ruth. “Oh, it’s good to be back at the airport,” she said. “You meet such nice people through aviation.”

    As if taking a ride in a rare, historic airplane to view the beautiful Wisconsin Rapids area isn’t reason enough to stop at the airport this weekend, Ruth may have just convinced you.

    Tri-Motor flights  are available from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday through Monday, for $75, or $50 for kids 17 and under. EAA Chapter 706, based at Alexander Field, is offering breakfast from 8 – 10:30 on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Lunch is by the American Legion throughout the weekend from 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. A hangar dance, with ’20s and ’30s music by the Swaneee River Oriole Orchestra (Ruth’s son, Johnny, is a member) takes place Saturday night from 7 – 10. We hope to see you there!


  • Cumberland Airport Has New Name

    Posted on August 29th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    Four years ago, nearly to the day, we wrote regarding a suggestion to rename the Waukesha Airport. The suggestion came from the editorial staff of the Waukesha Freeman newspaper. Our article, What’s In a Name, discussed Wisconsin’s airports, their names, and how or why that name was chosen. We disagreed with the suggestion to change Waukesha’s and the change didn’t come about.

    Fast forward to late August 2013 when WAHF member/supporter Brad Volker, Rice Lake, shared an article from the Cumberland Advocate. The article details the histories of two airport benefactors whose work will be acknowledged as the City of Cumberland changes the airport’s name from Cumberland Municipal Airport (KUBE) to Toftness/Erickson Field. We thank the Cumberland Advocate for providing permission to reprint their article. We also recognize the article’s author John Ostrem, a member of the Cumberland Airport Commission.

    Commission to name Airfield after local aviators

    Toftness / Erickson Field
    Aviation pioneers Irving Nordeen “IN” Toftness and Willard “Bud” Erickson will have the Cumberland Airfield named in their honor at the Fly-In pancake breakfast held during the Rutabaga Festival, Sunday August 25 at 10:30 AM. Mayor Tom Mysicka will officiate at the ceremony honoring each of these pilots that started the Cumberland Airport in June of 1946. Today the Airport with its 4,000’ hard surface runway, arrival and departure building, 17 hangars with 21 aircraft represents a nearly $10 million replacement cost and serves 11,000 landings/takeoffs each year.


    Local chiropractor “IN” Toftness moved to Cumberland in 1932 fresh from Chiropractic College in Davenport, Iowa. He became interested in aviation taking flying lessons in 1939. His wife Louise followed earning her pilots license which was extremely unusual for a woman in those early years of aviation. They had no children and flying became their “only hobby“ according to Dr. Tom Toftness of Cumberland. IN and Louise flew their small planes to the four corners of the United States whenever they had time off from the clinical practice.


    Toftness saw the need for an airport and in 1946, together with CJ and Linda Burton purchased 40 acres of farm land at the current airport site to create their own field. The original airport had several small “T-Hangars,” where airplanes were kept and serviced. Records indicate mechanic Ray Peterson had several small training planes operating on the field. Peterson is the uncle of current Airport Manager Al Seierstad.


    Throughout his flying career IN Toftness owned five different Cessna airplanes and gave rides to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and residents of Cumberland. Many tell of their first rides and citizens remember Toftness flying low over town late at night to signal people to take cars to the airport to light the runway.


    In addition to the original 40 acres of land, Toftness and Louise made a significant gift in excess of $200,000 for constructing a hard surface runway. Federal funds were available but without the generous gift from their Living Trust, the Cumberland Airport would have remained a grass cow pasture.


    Our second aviation pioneer is Willard “Bud” Erickson who also dedicated his life to the Cumberland Airport. Erickson was a highly decorated Navy fighter pilot with service in WWII and the Korean War. Following the 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing, Erickson declined a deferment for farming and went to Navy Flight School to follow his dream of flight. Erickson flew 14,400 hours in Navy airplanes and achieved the rank of Lt. Commander. Erickson and wife Doris returned to Cumberland following the Korean War and Bud flew for the Department of Natural Resources as a fire watch spotter and enforced game laws.


    Erickson spent countless hours working with Federal officials to get navigation beacons and lights at the airport and could always be found on the mower and snow blower taking care of the runway. Erickson saw the need to build a longer hard-surface runway to accommodate larger planes so he and Doris generously traded land from their home farm with a local farmer to create the runway.


    The longer runway allowed the State of Wisconsin to designate Cumberland as the loading site for aircraft taking hearing impaired school-age children to a residential school in Delevan. State planes would load students every Sunday afternoon and return on Friday evenings throughout the school year.


    Over the years there have been many businesses at the airport including a travel agency, charter flight service, aircraft and instrument repair facilities, and Romeo Aviation Flight Training School. The airport is used by local businesses including 3M, Seneca Foods, engineering companies, SW Bell Communications, and when the weather is below minimums helicopters from the hospital use the radio beacons to land.


    Both Toftness and Erickson families had aviation as part of their heritage. Mark Erickson is a pilot, Max Erickson is a commercial pilot for UPS flying an AirBus 300 and several of the Toftness relatives are pilots and commercial pilots.


    We have come long way from the early years of Cumberland’s grass strip in a “cow pasture” to the high tech airport with GPS navigation, weather forecasting, and communications systems.


    IN Toftness, whose passion for aviation was matched by his world class respected chiropractic procedures and responsible for starting the airport. Lt Commander “Bud” Erickson, a frightfully young patriotic farm boy launched from aircraft carriers in two wars defending American freedoms, whose leadership and dedication to safety was responsible for so many improvements that we take for granted today. Mayor Mysicka said, “We are very lucky to have such an excellent airport as a community asset and we have these pioneers to thank. It is a great honor for our City to name our field after them.

    Changing an airport’s name to recognize the passion and dedication of two local aviators and sharing their history makes sense. It is a change we can support. Congratulations Cumberland on your “new” airport.

  • Flying for a Cause

    Posted on June 26th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments
    Presentation of cash and food to Wausau's The Neighbors Place (TNP). (L/R) Tom Rau, Exec Dir, TNP, Bob Mohr, contest winner, Aidyn Laurynz, Director of Community Support and John Chmiel, Wausau Flying Service

    Presentation to The Neighbors Place (TNP). (L/R) Tom Rau (TNP), Bob Mohr, Aidyn Laurynz (TNP) and John Chmiel, Wausau Flying Service

    Pilots, and those studying to be pilots, fly for many different reasons. We fly to go somewhere, take someone somewhere, or take someone’s stuff somewhere. We fly for fun, for work and sometimes we fly just because we can. We also fly for training and proficiency. A dozen Wausau-area pilots took the training and proficiency reason for flying and added a cause. They flew to help a Wausau food pantry.

    Several pilots had gathered at the Wausau Downtown Airport (KAUW) and were talking about flying, as pilots are oft to do. The discussion drifted to flying proficiency and landing practice. Soon the discussion had become a brainstorming session on ways to combine fundraising and flying. Before long it was decided, a precision landing competition, “Landings for Lunches”, would be held. Competitors would pay a small entry fee and donate a food item for each spot landing attempt.

    Reaching out to local businesses, the pilots were able to multiply the collected funds and food stuffs. The following businesses sponsored the contest and contributed matching funds: Christian Family Medical Clinic, Kocourek Automotive Group, Philips 66, Wausau Flying Service, the City of Wausau, Security Realty, Mohr’s Automotive, First Impressions, Jones Cabinetry and Aircraft Maintenance of Wausau.

    Landings 4 Lunches contest winner Bob Mohr stands in front of his Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser

    Landings 4 Lunches contest winner Bob Mohr stands in front of his Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser

    The “Landings for Lunches” event was a precision landing competition, also known as spot landing contest. The pilot is challenged to have their main wheels touch down on, or as close as possible beyond a line across the runway. Landings short of the line, or more than 100 feet past the line, do not qualify. Wausau pilot Bob Mohr won the contest in his Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser. His landing was a scant 6 inches beyond the line.

    Held in May, more than $1000 in cash and food stuffs was presented to The Neighbors Place following the month-long contest. Plans are for another contest to be held next year. That means we pilots have a whole year to practice our landing skills before we too, can fly for a cause.