• 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.