• 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.

  • Rare Air

    Posted on June 2nd, 2012 John Dorcey 1 comment

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, a recognition award for pilots, in 2003. The award recognizes pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill, and expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 years or more. It’s an appropriate title as it was established in the centennial year after the Wright brothers accomplishment of controlled heavier than air flight. In the nearly 10 years since, 38 Wisconsin pilots have been presented the award.

    A similar award for aircraft mechanics, the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, was developed in 2008 to recognize the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics. Since its inception, 22 Wisconsin mechanics have received the award. Charles Taylor was the Wright brothers’ mechanic and is often referred to as the third Wright brother.

    FAA rep Wes Hakari (left) presents award to Lee Perrizo

    It is rare when an aviator is recognized with both awards. Yesterday, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, that is exactly what happened when Lee F. Perrizo was presented with both the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Nearly 100 family, friends, and former co-workers joined Lee for the presentation at the Fond du Lac Skyport terminal. Michael Monroe and Wes Hakari, FAA representatives from the Milwaukee Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), made the formal award presentations. Jim Szajkovics, retired FAA Aviation Safety Inspector, shared humorous anecdotes of his interactions with Perrizo.

    Lee was his typical humble self in accepting the awards. He acknowledged the help and support of his wife, Cookie, their family, his employees, and customers. An ice cream social followed the presentation.


  • Air race pilot Bill Brenannd profiled in new book

    Posted on November 30th, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    You’re in Cleveland, it is the end of August, 1947. You’re a 23-year old pilot from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. You’re competing in your first air race, in a borrowed airplane. Not just any race mind you, you are competing in the Goodyear Trophy Race. You are competing against some of the biggest names in aviation. Herman “Fish” Salmon is to your right, a little farther away is Tony LeVier. These Lockheed test pilots are flying aircraft designed and built by their co-workers.

    cover of book Bill Brennand: Air Racing and Other Aerial Adventures

    Cover of Bill Brennand book

    The white flag goes up and you along with the others start your engines. A green flag replaces the white one, just one minute to go. You ease the throttle forward and the engine responds, the aircraft strains against the brakes. Your ground crew, battling the wind behind the prop, hangs on to your tail, adding their effort to hold the airplane back. The flag drops, the crew releases their grip, and the race is on. Rounding the first pylon you are in the lead. You’ll maintain the lead for the entire race. You win, you win the race!

    Bill Brennand grew up on the family farm conveniently located next to the Oshkosh Airport. Like a lot of kids of the era he built stick and tissue model airplanes. A cold day in March, 1943, accompanied by several friends, Bill walked into the flight school operated by Steve Wittman. His life was about to change forever. The Brennand family still operates the farm adjacent to Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH). Bill still visits the airport. While his gait may have slowed, his eyes still sparkle when sharing highlights of his life story.

    Today Bill shares that story – he calls them aerial adventures – with you in the book, Bill Brennand: Air Racing and Other Aerial Adventures. Bill talks about his time with Steve Wittman, life as a corporate pilot, and his airport west of Neenah. You’ll learn about his 5-year restoration project of a Stinson tri-motor, his many fishing trips to Canada, and expeditions to Mexico and Central America. Finally, you’ll learn about Bill’s development of a swampy area along Lake Winnebago that became a seaplane base – you know it as the EAA AirVenture Seaplane Base.

    Bill told his story to writer Jim Cunningham. Jim captured both Bill’s words and his passion. Jim says, “This story is Bill’s, and he has called things as he’s seen them.” Order your copy by using this order form. You can visit the publisher, Airship International Press, at their web site or call Dave Smith at 309-827-8039.

  • Happy Birthday Steve Wittman

    Posted on April 4th, 2009 John Dorcey No comments

    Celebrating SJ “Steve” Wittman’s 105th birthday, the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame provides the following report, just as it was written by Steve.

    S.J. "Steve" Wittman, ca 1940 (WAHF archives)

    A Summary of Mr. S.J. Wittman’s Activities at the
    Winnebago County Airport, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

    “I came to Oshkosh in 1931 to manage the airport. From 1931 to 1940 I ran a Flying School, built racing ships, did a great deal of racing, and also built a conventional two-place experimental airplane.

    Between 1940 and the month of November, 1943, one hundred three War Training and Civil Pilot Training students were given 35 to 45 hours of flight test and received their pilot’s license at my flight school.

    Beginning in May, 1943, I started an Army Indoctrination Course which was given to 699 students. Each student received 10 hours of flight instruction. In addition to the C.P.T., W.T.S. and the Army Indoctrination students, the school had 103 private students, of which eleven received their Flight Instructor Rating.

    Since 1940 I have been a Flight Examiner for the Civil Aeronautics Administration. I gave flight tests to all of the C.P.T. and W.T.S. students and to all the private students that took enough flight instruction to qualify for a private or commercial license. In addition, I gave 26 Flight Tests for private pilot licenses to students who received their flight training at other airports.

    In giving this training we flew 17,365 hours, which is equivalent to 1,339,857 miles, with only four minor accidents and no personal injuries.

    During the War Training Service and Civil Pilot Training programs, I was obliged to furnish my own ships, and assume all responsibility as to maintenance and insurance. Our school had six training ships, and five instructors were employed up to the time the Army Indoctrination Course started.

    When the Army Indoctrination Course started in May, 1943, I was obliged to rent training ships from the government and was forced to dispose of my own ships to make room for the government ships, of which there were eighteen. I assumed all responsibility for the maintenance of these ships and any damage to them. In the winter of 1942, I was obliged to give up my four-passenger Cessna airplane to the government for advanced training.

    During the Army Indoctrination program I employed fourteen flight instructors, one licensed airplane & engine mechanic besides myself, five mechanics helpers and three line men. During the Army Indoctrination four hundred eighty-nine students were given 10 hours of flight instruction each. In addition, we also trained fifty-two private pilots, twelve flight instructors and eight students from other airport received their private pilot license. During this period of training we flew 5,640 hours, which is equivalent to 423,000 miles, with no accidents whatsoever. The Army Indoctrination Course closed May 1944.

    Since the war, Wittman Flying Service has gone back to a normal airport routine of Flight Instruction, Charter Work, Aircraft and Engine maintenance, Recertification of Aircraft, Racing and Air Show Work.”