• Dick Bong writes home

    Posted on May 17th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments

    In the nearly 12 months since Dick Bong had been away from home he had written home about twice a week. He had written additional letters to his siblings, friends and other Bong relatives. In his letter of May 17, 1942 he provides more of his impressions of the P-38 Lightning and we get a glimpse of the 21-year-old’s ties with home.

    5/17/1942
    Dear Mom:
    Well I now have 7 hours in the P-38. It certainly is quite an airplane. It’s the fastest I have ever flown and is the easiest plane to fly that I have yet flown. However, it is nothing to get careless with. One boy was killed out here yesterday.

    P-38E lands at Hamilton AAF, California; USAAF photo

    P-38E lands at Hamilton AAF, California
    USAAF photo

    Dick continued his letter with comments about cookies in a care package…”I guess I told you that (the) cookies arrived and were promptly did away with in the proper manner.” Other comments regarded relatives living in California and acquaintances from home entering the military. Like most in the service, Bong wanted to ensure everyone had his correct mailing address. “Be sure when you write to me”, he wrote, “you address the letters to the 49th Pursuit Squadron here at the field.” He continued with a question that implies he missed his parents.

    How about that deal of coming out here? … Dad ought to be able to get away for two weeks right after the seeding is done. Let me know about it anyway. I have no expenses here to amount to anything so I could send you a $100 now and another hundred the first of the month. After that, I won’t have any use for money at all, I suppose. I’ll have to send my radio home before I leave too, I suppose.

    I guess that is all for now.

    Love, Dick

    It will be 29 days before Dick’s next letter home. An unusual event with a valid reason. Maybe it was the P-38’s speed, maybe it was the ease with which Bong found it flew, maybe it was his youthful exuberance. What ever the cause, a few weeks after writing this letter young 2nd Lieutenant Bong found himself in hot water. So much so that he would soon be standing at attention in front of the 4th Air Force Commander, Major General George C. Kenney. It would prove to be a meeting that would extend far beyond the office walls.

    70th Anniverssary MOH logoThe Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame is celebrating the 70th anniversary of Richard Bong being awarded the Medal of Honor on December 12, 1944. Touring Wisconsin with the Bong Anniversary Tour is just part of this educational effort. Learn more about the tour, where you can experience the story through a multimedia presentation, and other Bong information at the website.

     

  • Lt. Bong, meet the Lockheed P-38

    Posted on May 12th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments
    Hamilton AAF main gate

    Hamilton AAF main gate
    Photo courtesy the California State Military Museum

    It was 74 years ago today, May 12, 1942, that 2nd Lt Richard Bong first flew the Lockheed P-38 Lighting. In the book, Dear Mom – So We Have a War, his letters home set the stage for the big day in this young pilot’s life.

    2nd Lt. R.I. Bong
    49th Sqdn, 14th Group
    Hamilton Field, Cal.
    5/7/42

    Dear Mom:
    Well, I’m here and settled in my new barracks. This is an old post and it is pretty complete and also pretty nice. I got my assignment today. I’m assigned to the 49th Pursuit Squadron of the 14th Pursuit Group stationed here at Hamilton. We start training tomorrow. Start out in ships like the airlines and then get shipped into P-38s. That is all they have here and so that is all we can fly.

    Richard Ira Bong entered the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) on May 29, 1941 at Wausau, Wisconsin. He had earned his Private Pilot Certificate through the Civilian Pilot Training program (CPTP) conducted at Superior State Teachers College (UW-Superior) in Superior, Wisconsin.

    Flight Cadet Bong went immediately to the Rankin Aeronautical Academy in Tulare, California, for primary training and became a member of Class 42A. He soloed the Stearman PT-17 “Kaydet” less than a month later on June 25, 1941. Next was basic training at Gardner Army Air Field (AAF), arriving on August 20. Here Cadet Bong flew the Vultee BT-13A “Valiant” and soloed this airplane on September 3, 1941. He then went to Luke AAF for advanced training in the North American AT-6A “Texan” arriving on November 4. Graduating from flight school on January 9, 1942 Bong received his wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.

    Lockheed C-40, image courtesy National Museum of the USAF

    Lockheed C-40
    Image courtesy National Museum of the USAF

    2nd Lt Bong stayed at Luke as an instructor, building his skills as a pilot and adding one more aircraft type, the P-36, and flight time to his logbook. He arrived at Hamilton with 501 hours of military flight time, all of it in single engine aircraft. The “ships like the airlines” Dick wrote about in his letter home (above) was the Lockheed C-40, or its civilian designation, the Model 12 Electra. He received one hour of instruction in this type, his only twin engine time, and later that same day made his first flight in the P-38. This first flight would last 40 minutes.

    Here is Dick’s next letter home:

    5/12/1942

    Dear Mom:
    Well I flew a C-40, (a ship like the one that flies on the airways and comes into Duluth or Superior every day), and a P-38. WOOEY!! What an airplane. That’s all I can say, but that is enough. You know what they look like from the pictures.

    He continued a few paragraphs later,

    Our training program is supposed to finish on the 13th and we leave the states shortly afterward, I guess. I don’t know where to, but it will be a long ways from home.

    It won’t turn out quite like that, but that is another story.

    The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) kicked off its Bong Anniversary Tour at the Wisconsin Aviation Conference in Wausau on May 5-7, 2014. Learn more about the tour kickoff  or all of the tour details.

    70th Anniverssary MOH logo

  • WAHF Remembers Richard Bong

    Posted on May 7th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments

    bong_logoanniversary_logo70th Anniverssary MOH logoThe Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) announced a state-wide celebration recognizing Richard Ira Bong at the Wisconsin Aviation Conference in Wausau today.  In addition to the announcement, the organization showcased its Bong/Medal of Honor exhibit and distributed event materials. Keynote speaker for this evening’s banquet is WAHF board member John Dorcey who will provide an overview of Bong’s life. Major Richard Bong received the Congressional Medal of Honor, December 12, 1944, at Tacloban Airfield, Philippine Islands.

    Bong Veterans Historical CenterIn collaboration with the Richard I. Bong Veteran’s Historical Center, Superior, Wisconsin, the celebration of Bong’s achievements will include presentations across the state by WAHF speakers throughout the year. His accomplishments will be conveyed by a multimedia presentation, four-panel exhibit, limited edition Bong trading cards, and a model of the Lockheed P-38 aircraft he flew.

    WAHF exhibit at 2014 Wisconsin Aviation ConferenceWAHF speakers are available to travel throughout Wisconsin, giving presentations that highlight Bong’s background and the events that led to him being selected as a Medal of Honor recipient. Representatives from service clubs, historical societies, EAA chapters, flying clubs, or any interested parties are encouraged to contact WAHF about scheduling a presentation. To request a speaker, call Rose Dorcey at 920-385-1483 or send her an email. Read the WAHF press release.

  • Aviation history – it’s a small world

    Posted on January 1st, 2014 John Dorcey No comments

    While studying aviation’s roots you can’t help but discover how aviation history, and the stories of those who made it, are intertwined with one another. Aviation, a small world today, was an even smaller world then. It seems, everyone in aviation knew everyone else. Today, we talk of six degrees of separation, among early aviators we dare say it was closer to one degree.  Aviation pioneers shared knowledge, parts, successes and failures.  They worked for, or with, one another. They competed against each other. In some cases they buried one another. An article in the current issue of Forward in Flight (membership magazine of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame) provides a perfect example of these overlapping stories.

    Midwest Airways hangar at Milwaukee County Airport ca 1929

    Midwest Airways hangar at Milwaukee County Airport ca 1929

    In September, 1927, Milwaukee’s Knaup Brothers – Ray, Ed and Jim, incorporated Midwest Airways and began operations at the newly formed Milwaukee County Airport. The three brothers provided air charter, pilot services, aircraft maintenance and aviation fuel. They also sold airplanes, becoming distributors for Ryan Aircraft. The brothers placed an order for an astounding 12 Mahoney-Ryan Brougham aircraft late that year. Airplane deliveries began in the spring of 1928. One of the first deliveries of the popular Brougham aircraft went to William J. Newman from Chicago, Illinois. Newman was building a lakefront resort and residential development on his soon to be finished manmade lake at Delton, Wisconsin. He used the aircraft in promotional tours and other marketing efforts. We will return to Lake Delton soon.

    Midwest Airways (Milwaukee) Mahoney-Ryan Brougham ca 1927

    Midwest Airways (Milwaukee) Mahoney-Ryan Brougham ca 1927

    Another aircraft delivery, this one made by Midwest Airways pilot Elmer Leighton, left San Diego, California, during the last days of May, 1928. Leighton arrived at Kohler, Wisconsin, on June 4. Owner of this airplane was Walter J. Kohler, Sr., president of the Kohler Company. The airplane was a Ryan model B-1, Brougham, serial number 108, and held registration number NC-5220. The aircraft was powered by a 220 horsepower Wright J-5 Whirlwind engine.

    Six days later the airplane was westbound as Kohler, his son Walter Jr., and Kohler Advertising Director L. L. Smith flew to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend the Republican National Convention. Upon returning from Kansas City, Kohler learned that he had been nominated as Republican candidate for Wisconsin Governor. Kohler flew to Green Bay to appear before delegates of the statewide convention.  Kohler used his airplane extensively in his campaign for governor, landing in 46 counties and covering 7,200 miles. Walter J. Kohler, Sr was an aviation advocate as Governor. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013.

    The Kohler Airport spawned many pioneer aviators, two of them becoming Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame inductees. Anton Brotz worked in the Kohler engineering department and did experimental work in high-altitude flight. Melvin Thompson was an early pilot for the Kohler, maintained company aircraft and served as the Kohler Airport Manager.

    The Kohler Mahoney-Ryan airplane was purchased by Mel Thompson in 1937 who used it for charter work. He sold it to Merle Zuehlke, manager of Milwaukee’s Curtiss-Wright Airport, now Timmerman Airport (KMWC). Zuehlke used the airplane in parachute testing during World War II. Zuehlke sold the airplane sometime in late 1944 or early 1945 to Jack W. “Mac” McBoyle of Lake Delton. Mac owned two other Broughams at the time. He purchased NC-7209 from air race legend Roscoe Turner in either 1943 or 1944. This aircraft was sold in 1946. The second aircraft, NC-4940, was purchased from Johnny Livingston, another air racer. The Kohler aircraft, NC-5220, had been stored outside at McBoyle’s Lake Delton Airport. Worse for wear, it was sold for parts in 1948.

    This is just one example of how people in aviation history and their stories overlap. The magazine, Forward in Flight, is published quarterly by the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF). WAHF’s annual membership fee is $20 and includes a subscription to Forward in Flight.  Online membership to WAHF is available here.

     

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Skyroads

    Posted on July 12th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    Milwaukee native Lester Maitland added to the roar of the Roaring 20’s. Just a youngster when, in 1917, he entered the Air Service, he was a military flight instructor at age 19. Following the war, he flew in many speed competitions and military flight demonstrations. On October 14, 1922, he became the first US military pilot to fly faster than 200 MPH. Just a year later he flew at speeds barely shy of 250 MPH. Then in June 1927, Maitland, and navigator Albert Hegenberger, flew a Fokker C-2 from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. That record setting flight earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross and the MacKay Trophy for 1927.

    cover of the book Knights of the Air by Lieutenant Lester J. Maitland

    Knights of the Air by Lester J. Maitland

    While continuing his military career, Maitland added writing to his resume. His book, Knights of the Air, was published in 1928. In the preface, Maitland shares that his effort is to present a series of short stories… “a story of human beings, a compelling drama of men and events swift in action and full of unexpected turns.” He writes not as a 30-year old, first-time author unsure of his topic but as an acquaintance, a friend, a contemporary of those whose stories he shares.

    Skyroads, the comic, begins

    Skyroads, the comic, begins

    The next year, in 1929, he began a partnership with fellow Air Service instructor and artist Dick Calkins. They collaborated on Skyroads, a daily comic strip with Maitland providing the story line and Calkins the art work.  The comic strip was subtitled, For Passenger and Pilot.

    In the very first panel Maitland shared his thoughts on aviation and its affect on humankind. “Millions upon millions of people now living will share the exaltation of air travel either as passengers or pilots and to all these comrades of the air I dedicate this work.” Each daily installment provided the strip’s protagonists Ace Ames and Buster Evans, partners in the new aviation company “Skyroads Unlimited”, an opportunity to teach readers about aviation.

    Maitland left the team in 1933. There were many spinoffs throughout the life of Skyroads and its derivatives. There were flying clubs with ranks, wings and ‘orders’. There were comic books, feature books and even a radio program. A short time after Maitland’s departure, the strip began losing its appeal, eventually fewer newspapers carried the comic and the series ended in 1942.

    Maitland’s story doesn’t end there. He was serving as base commander of Clark Field in Manila, Philippine Islands during the attack on December 8, 1941. Later, he would serve as commander of the 386th bomb group, a B-26 unit based in Boxted, England. Maitland retired from the military in November, 1943.

  • Recognizing Makers of Aviation History

    Posted on January 11th, 2013 John Dorcey 1 comment

    The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame’s (WAHF’s) mission includes recognizing individuals who have made Wisconsin aviation history. Every fall since 1986 the organization has conducted an induction ceremony as part of that recognition. So far WAHF has saluted the accomplishments of 112 individuals. Questions as to who can place names into consideration, how inductees are selected and the schedule of the process are often asked. The following will answer those questions and more.

    2012 WAHF inductees joined by past inductees

    2012 inductees joined by past inductees

    Making a nomination
    Only current WAHF members may nominate an individual for inclusion into the hall of fame. Nomination packages are accepted any time throughout the year. Nomination guidelines and a cover sheet for the nomination package are available on the WAHF website. Nominations should include as much pertinent data as is available. A more complete and detailed nomination package results in a more accurate scoring of the nominee. Photos, news clippings, videos and additional letters of support are all part of a comprehensive nomination. Nominations received before December 1 will be considered during the year it was received.

    Consideration
    A committee of WAHF member/supporters meet annually in December to consider nominations. Only information contained in the nomination package is considered. The committee uses a selection matrix that has been developed over the years. Using the matrix the committee is able to provide consistent, objective consideration of each nomination package. Additional information may be submitted to a nomination at any time. Once accepted, all nomination packages are retained and considered annually.

    The selection committee presents its list of inductees to the organization’s board during their January meeting. Following acceptance by the board and notification of the inductees, planning for the annual ceremony begins.

    Induction ceremony
    The ceremony is typically held in October of each year. Afternoon events include WAHF’s annual membership meeting, a meeting of the board of directors, and self-guided tours of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Museum. The evening’s ceremony begins with a social hour and silent auction fundraiser. Funds from which are used in educational outreach programs conducted by WAHF. Dinner is followed by the induction ceremony and program. Inductee introductions include a multimedia presentation.

    Induction ceremony dinner

    Induction ceremony dinner

    The 2013 inductees will be announced in a few weeks. More than 25 nomination packages await further consideration. They will be joined by new nominations between now and December 1. Who has made a difference in Wisconsin aviation history? Who among those folks will you nominate for induction into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame? We encourage you to begin the nomination process for that person today. The inductee pages on the WAHF website are a great place to begin.

  • Gallatins, Corbens and Baby Aces

    Posted on January 3rd, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    After publishing its first book, Forward in Flight, the History of Aviation in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) had a dilemma. Like many of us, the organization found it had too much stuff. That is, too much history to fit into one book. The solution was straight forward, publish an annual newsletter and share more of Wisconsin’s aviation history. While searching for early documents of the organization we became reacquainted with the five issues of Forward in Flight, the Newsletter of Aviation History in Wisconsin. Michael Goc wrote the following story for the Fall 2001 issue of the newsletter.

    Gallatin brothers Baby Ace under construction

    Gallatin brothers Baby Ace under construction

    Oscar and Harold Gallatin were students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in 1930 when the decided to build an airplane. They obtained plans for a Corben Baby Ace along with a set of landing gear struts from the factory in Madison and, according to Corben’s instructions, modified a Model A Ford motor to power their plane. With no workshop of their own, the young men used a shop at MSOE and the basement of the Sommerfield Methodist Church on North Case Street as assembly points. The Methodist pastor had decided that home-building was an act of love not labor, so the Galatian’s were not violating the Sabbath when they kept at it on Sunday afternoons and evenings. As a bonus, the boys could partake of the weekly Sunday dinner prepared by the ladies of the Epworth League, “at low cost.”

     

    After completing the tube framing and fabric covering, the Gallatins moved their Baby Ace to a hay loft on North Marshall Street to mount the wings and install the motor. When they completed assembling the plane, the brothers wanted to fire up the engine, but had no gasoline. Harold stuck the tip of the acetylene welder in the carburetor intake, Oscar propped the motor, “and it started on the second pull.” The brothers started flying the plane in 1932 at the Waukesha Airport. Harold later recalled that it was “the first and last Baby Ace built in Milwaukee until the EAA began in 1951.”

     

    The Gallatins built at least three airplanes in the 1930s and 40s, including an original design logically called the Gallatin. The low-wing, single-place, monoplane was powered by a two-cylinder Aeronca engine. On a test flight out of Waukesha, a wind spar bracket failed, and Oscar died when the plane crashed.

     

    Waukesha Airport, ca 1934

    Waukesha Airport, ca 1934

    After World War II Harold had a hangar where he kept building airplanes and became known for his use of the Wankel engine. He hung onto the plans for his 1930s Baby Ace and, a few years before the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) was organized, shared them with EAA founder Paul Poberezny. His well-publicized adaptation of the Corben Super Ace gave Poberezny and the EAA a boost in its early days. Gallatin himself signed on as EAA #20, an appropriate gesture for the man known as the “father of homebuilding in Milwaukee.”

    Source materials for this story include materials from the WAHF archives and the Harold Gallatin papers.

    Harold Gallatin served on EAA’s board of directors for three years. He died in Waukesha, Wisconsin on November 28, 2002. On hearing of his passing EAA President Tom Poberezny said, “Harold was a true representative of the grassroots aspect of the organization, he was there back in the beginning.”