• 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

  • 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.

  • WAHF Induction ceremony update

    Posted on October 1st, 2009 John Dorcey No comments

    A recently announced addition to the agenda of the 24th annual induction ceremony of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) makes the event a “must do”. The ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, October 17 at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA’s) AirVenture museum located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

    Yesterday, WAHF announced that Jeff Skiles, Wisconsin native and US Airways co-pilot, will receive the Wisconsin Airport Management Association’s Person of the Year Award during the ceremony. You may recall that Skiles and Captain Chesley Sullenberger successfully ditched their Airbus 320 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

    2008 WAHF Induction Ceremony

  • Forward in Flight – WAHF membership benefit

    Posted on August 29th, 2009 John Dorcey No comments

    The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) will turn 25 in a few months. A quarter century – how time flies! WAHF is an active, membership-based organization with a primary focus on Wisconsin aviation history. The organization’s mission statement says it all:

    Collect and preserve the history of aviation in Wisconsin,
    recognize those who made that history,
    inform others of it,
    and promote aviation education for future generations.

    Forward in Flight, cover, Fall 2009

    In addition to other benefits, WAHF members receive the quarterly magazine, Forward in Flight. The magazine is full of stories about Wisconsin’s aviation past as well as current events. Today’s happenings after all, will be history tomorrow. The magazine typically runs 32 pages.

    The upcoming issue of Forward in Flight contains stories on the Air Force Academy (yes, it was almost located in Wisconsin) and flying a DC-3 to AirVenture. It provides a report on Wisconsin’s Centennial of Flight and shares details of the organization’s upcoming induction ceremony.

    You should join WAHF today for at least four reasons:

    1. Start receiving Forward in Flight with the Fall 2009 issue
    2. Become eligible for prizes, part of the membership appreciation program
    3. Your annual membership will be good for 16 months – through the end of 2010
    4. You’ll be supporting WAHF, its goals, and its mission

    You can become a member/supporter of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame by completing the application form and mailing it along with your $20 check to the address provided. Membership in WAHF also makes a great gift.