Greetings from The Aero Experience Team

Greetings!



The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team












Friday, November 28, 2014

F-101 Pilots Relate Their Experiences With the Voodoo During Flight Tests and Operations in Hot and Cold Wars


By Carmelo Turdo
The Missouri Aviation Historical Society hosted a 60th anniversary commemoration of the first flight of the McDonnell Aircraft F-101 Voodoo November 15 at the James J. Eagan Community Center in Florissant, Missouri.  The special event was held at the Florissant location to accommodate the larger expected audience and incorporate into the event activities the F-101F Voodoo (s/n 58-0269) on display in the adjacent Florissant Valley Park.  Florissant, a northern St. Louis County suburb known for being in close proximity to the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (later McDonnell Douglas and now Boeing) manufacturing complex located at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, experienced a population boom from 1947-1980 during the company's rapid growth period. 

The main event of the day was the gathering of some of the Voodoo team veterans for a panel discussion.  Missouri Aviation Historical Society President Dan O'Hara opened the session, and then turned over the panel moderation to local pilot, aviation historian and publisher Gary Liming.  Eight members of the panel answered questions about their involvement in the F-101 program from their manufacturing, flight testing or military service experience.  Topics ranged from flying characteristics to combat tactics to the workings of various hardware aboard the jet.  We present several video clips from the event, each addressing a different topic requested by the panel moderator or a member of the audience.   

Members of the Panel (L-R): Chuck Fulton, Dan Venverloh, Dick Moffitt,
Joe Dobronski, Gary Liming, Bob West, Bob Gould, George Andre, and William Spurgeon





Bob Gould and George Andre describe their initial flights in the Voodoo:




George Andre' talks about the role of the F-101B interceptor:



Dan Venverloh and Bob Gould discuss the RF-101C reconnaissance cameras:



Joe Dobronski gives the test pilot view of the pitch-up issues with the Voodoo:



Bob Gould, Joe Dobronski and George Andre' pay tribute to the legacy of the Voodoo:



The Aero Experience wishes to thank Missouri Aviation Historical Society President Dan O'Hara and other members for organizing this event.  Special thanks to those guests from the McDonnell Aircraft and military communities who participated in the panel discussion and added their experiences.  Also, thanks to those who attended the event and showed support for the mission of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

McDonnell F-101 Voodoo 60th Anniversary Commemoration Attracts Generations of One-O-Wonder Fans

By Carmelo Turdo
The Missouri Aviation Historical Society hosted a 60th anniversary commemoration of the first flight of the McDonnell Aircraft F-101 Voodoo Saturday at the James J. Eagan Community Center in Florissant, Missouri.  The special event was held at the Florissant location to accommodate the larger expected audience and incorporate into the event activities the F-101F Voodoo (s/n 58-0269) on display in the adjacent Florissant Valley Park.  Florissant, a northern St. Louis County suburb known for being in close proximity to the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (later McDonnell Douglas and now Boeing) manufacturing complex located at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, experienced a population boom from 1947-1980 during the company's rapid growth period.  McDonnell Aircraft and McDonnell Douglas produced the Phantom, Banshee, Demon, Voodoo, Phantom II, Eagle, Hornet and Harrier II tactical jets along with Mercury and Gemini spacecraft and many other experimental types.  Mayor James J. Eagan, for whom the Community Center was named, presided over much of the city's growth as Mayor of Florissant from 1963 until his death in 2000.


James J. Eagan Community Center, Florissant, MO

McDonnell Aircraft F-101F Voodoo (s/n 58-0269)
 
 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The first activity of the event was a photo opportunity and award presentation that took place at the site of the F-101F Voodoo on display on a hill overlooking Florissant Valley Park.  At around noon, an iconic gathering of those who built, flew and maintained the F-101 Voodoo from the McDonnell Aircraft and U.S. Air Force communities assembled for a series of photos and conversation amongst old friends and new acquaintances around the jet, which was recently cleaned and trimmed for the occasion.  An award presentation was officiated by current Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider recognizing the work of  Dwight "Red" Singleton, a Boeing employee who volunteered over 50 hours of time working to restore the Voodoo to the current excellent condition following an unfortunate occurrence of vandalism in 2012.  Since then, the jets has enjoyed two years with its new paint, decals and lighted walkway that have made the exhibit more attractive and visible to Florissant Parks and Recreation staff at night.

The F-101F Voodoo located in Florissant Valley Park

New lighted walkway surrounds the aircraft

Dedication plaque was added as part of the restoration

McDonnell test pilots (L-R) Irv Burrows, Bob Little and Joe Dobronski
with Aerodynamicist Jack Abercrombie 

Gathering of McDonnell and USAF Voodoo team

MAHS President Dan O'Hara (right) addresses the team

Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider (second from right) addresses the team 

Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider (right) recognizes
Dwight "Red" Singleton for the restoration of the Voodoo

Following the outside activities, the main event took place in a large meeting room inside the James J. Eagan Community Center.  Once in side, there was time to visit with the Voodoo team, meet other visitors and have some snacks prior to 1pm.  F-101 Voodoo exhibits were provided by the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, MAHS military demonstration team presenter Joe Gurney, and others.  As the early arrivals viewed the displays and interacted with the Voodoo team veterans, the room filled to over 70 guests just prior to the main event.

McDonnell test pilots Bob Little and Irv Burrows lead the guests through the exhibits

Historic documents, photos and models were on display to tell the
story of the development and service of the F-101 Voodoo
The main event of the day was the gathering of some of the Voodoo team veterans for a panel discussion, along the same format inaugurated by the Missouri Aviation Historical Society for the Mercury spacecraft 50th anniversary of astronaut Gordon Cooper's flight in May, 2013.  (Since then, the Mercury panel has met several more times for other programs).  Missouri Aviation Historical Society President Dan O'Hara opened the session, and then turned over the panel moderation to local pilot, aviation historian and publisher Gary Liming.  Eight members of the panel answered questions about their involvement in the F-101 program from their manufacturing, flight testing or military service experience.  Topics ranged from flying characteristics to combat tactics to the workings of various hardware aboard the jet.  A few issues were addressed by others present at the event who had insight into the issue discussed.  Throughout the panel discussion, it became more evident with each question that this was an historic assembly of aerospace giants, who, regardless of their achievements, remained humble and available to anyone who wished to visit with them.  More details of the panel discussion will be featured in future posts by The Aero Experience.
 
Members of the Panel (L-R): Chuck Fulton, Dan Venverloh, Dick Moffitt,
Joe Dobronski, Gary Liming, Bob West, Bob Gould,
George Andre, and William Spurgeon
Following the panel discussion, a cake with the Voodoo logo was served along with other refreshments.  The first cut was made by Bob Little, the McDonnell test pilot who flew the first flight of the F-101, and the remainder of the cake was cut by Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum President, Mark Nankivil.
 
F-101 themed cake from McArthur's Bakery
McDonnell Test Pilot Bob Little cuts the cake

McDonnell Test Pilots (L-R): Irv Burrows, Bob Little, Joe Dobronski

McDonnell Test Pilot Bob Little signs autographs following the program
The Aero Experience wishes to thank Missouri Aviation Historical Society President Dan O'Hara and other members for organizing this event.  Special thanks to those guests from the McDonnell Aircraft and military communities who participated in the panel discussion and added their experiences.  Also, thanks to those who attended the event and showed support for the mission of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society.  Look for further coverage of the panel discussion in upcoming posts.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stretch of Highway in Washington County, Missouri Named for Aviation Pioneer Tom Benoist

By Leo Cachat
On Saturday, November 8, a stretch of Highway U in Washington County, Missouri was named for aviation pioneer Tom Benoist, a native of Irondale.  The bill to authorize the name change was sponsored by Missouri Representative Paul Fitzwater and three others, with the expenses for signage coming from private funding.  Knowing this, the Missouri Aviation Historical Society joined the fund-raising effort, and this work was rewarded with the dedication ceremony.  House Bill No. 1337, 97th General Assembly, reads:

The portion of State Highway U from the intersection of Province Road to the intersection of State Highway 8 in Washington County shall be designated the “Thomas Wesley Benoist Memorial Highway”. The department of transportation shall erect and maintain appropriate signs designating such highway with the costs to be paid by private donations.


The Aero Experience was on hand Saturday afternoon at the childhood residence of aviation pioneer, Tom Benoist, to witness the ceremony for the renaming of 8.4 miles of highway U in Washington County, MO in his honor.  A crowd of about 40 people gathered for this his special occasion.  Members of VFW Post 6996 from Potosi, MO presented the colors.  Missouri State Representative Paul Fitzwater (R) spoke of his efforts to have the roadway renamed. Chuck Benoist, Tom's nephew, and other members of the Benoist family were on hand to honor Tom Benoist.  Author Gary Liming spoke about Tom Benoist's many aviation accomplishments in the early 1900's, and of his untimely and bizarre death in a streetcar accident.  All told, it was the culmination of the efforts of many over the last year to make this dedication possible.  Well done, Benoist Family and aviation community!  

For more information on the life and accomplishments of Tom Benoist, please read
"The Brief, Bright Aviation Career of St. Louis's Tom Benoist" by Frederick W. Roos, available through permission of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum.








Aviation Legend Carl "Chub" Wheeler Honored on 103rd Birthday at Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

By Mark Nankivil
The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport, recently hosted a 103rd birthday celebration Sunday for local aviation legend Carl "Chub" Wheeler.  Family and friends gathered to commemorate his life and an aviation career that spanned nearly 70 years.  Mark and Elaine Harter flew in their 1937 Waco YKS-7 cabin biplane especially for the occasion.  Mark Harter earned his tail-wheel endorsement from none other than "Chub" Wheeler himself in the 1980s.  Wheeler, a Founder and Life Member of the museum, took his first airplane ride in 1930 at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport (now called St. Louis Downtown Airport, where the museum is located) and soloed in a Curtiss Robin in 1935.  During his aviation career, "Chub" Wheeler instructed new flight students at Parks Air College during World War II, managed Curtiss-Steinberg Airport in 1946-1947, flew corporate DC-3s for several St. Louis businesses, and flew for the Defense Mapping Agency in the 1950s.  He continued to fly until the age of 92, and owned a number of aircraft. 





















The following biography was prepared by Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum President Mark Nankivil for "Chub" Wheeler's successful nomination to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013:
 
Carl “Chub” Elliott Wheeler

- Born October 1, 1911 in Murphysboro, IL

- Moved to East St. Louis, IL (Chub’s father was a railroad engineer with the M&O) after the 1925 Tri-State Tornado nearly destroyed all of Murphysboro, IL, killing 450 people there.

- In 1928, Parks Air College opens and construction of Curtiss-Steinberg Airport starts (full operations in 1930) in East St. Louis, IL (now Cahokia, IL)

 - On September 1, 1930, Chub takes his first airplane ride at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport.  A pilot named Giggs took Chub up for a 10 minute ride, reaching at one point an altitude of 2,000 feet in a Travel Air 2000, C9986.  Chub still has that ticket in his possession.

 - Once in high school, Chub would walk to Parks (3 miles from his home) and Curtiss Steinberg to see the aircraft and with frequent visits, came to be accepted at the airports and was able to freely roam the airports and hangars.  All the visits and time spent at the airports led to Chub being hired as a line boy at Curtiss-Steinberg, making $14/week servicing aircraft such as Union Electric’s Ford Trimotor.  His work there led to a friendship with Earl Hayden who in turn taught Chub to fly in Earl’s OX-5 powered Curtiss Robin (NC341K), soloing on September 2, 1935 and earning his pilot’s license on October 6, 1935 (Pilot Certificate #34908).  In his first year of flying, he had a total time of 81 hours.  Later, after taking a job at Mobil Oil, Chub saved enough money to buy the Curtiss Robin from Earl for $450.00.

- Chub earns his flight instructor’s certificate and teaches his first student, Roy Crouse, in an OX-5 powered Travel Air 2000, NC6085.

- Chub and partner Bill Hart set up a flying school at Curtiss-Steinberg and used the Curtiss Robin to offer flying lessons during weekends (while continuing to work at Mobil Oil during the week), putting 400 hours on the Robin before selling it in 1939 to purchase a Luscombe 8F.  In May, 1939, Chub had 555:15 hour total flying time, earned his ATP rating by 1940 and by May, 1941, had a total of 1,617:45 hours in his logbooks.

- In 1940, Chub and Bill Hart move their flying school to Lakeside Airport (near Collinsville, Illinois) when Parks Air College expanded its pilot training to Curtiss-Steinberg Airport as part of the expansion of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), which was created in response to the impending war in Europe.  Before long, Chub closed his flying school and went to work at Parks Air College as a flight instructor.  Over 37,000 cadets passed through the program at Parks operated facilities, including Curtiss-Steinberg, with 24,000 becoming commissioned pilots during the war. 

- With the declaration of war after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Chub, as a civilian instructor, was drafted into the Army Reserves.  This was done by the military to keep the civilian instructors from leaving to join the Army Air Corps and going off to the war fronts.  Their assigned rank was one rank above the students they were instructing.  Post war, their inactive reserve status kept them from receiving any of the benefits provided to active duty military personnel.

-  Chub was a primary flight instructor throughout the war and served at all four of Parks Air College flight schools during the war, at the end of the war being responsible for operating the flight school at Cape Girardeau, MO. Aircraft types he flew for training were the PT-13, PT-17, PT-19 and PT-23.  Chub was flight leader for the “Thunderbolts” which was a demonstration team showing off the capabilities of the flight trainers being used at the time.

- After the war was over, Chub came back to East St. Louis to become the Airport Manager at Curtiss-Steinberg (later called Parks-Metropolitan) Airport during 1946 and 1947.

- Chub became a corporate pilot in 1948, first with the Monsanto Company flying Douglas DC-3s and Beech D-18s for the President of the Board of Directors.  After Monsanto downsized their staffing, Chub went to work for Peabody Coal flying DC-3s and later, worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch flying the DC-3 there as well.  When the Post-Dispatch transitioned to new equipment in the late ‘50s, Chub retired from corporate flying and went to work for the Defense Mapping Agency, Aeronautical Chart and Information Service, and finished his flying career with them.      

- Chub flew until he gave up his medical at the age of 92, the last aircraft he personally owned being a 1946 Fairchild 24.  Total flying time in his career was over 15,000 hours.   

 - Aircraft Chub has owned include the Curtiss Robin, Fairchild 22, Travel Air J-5 Speedwing, BT-13s, PT-23, J-3 Cubs, Piper Pacer, Aeronca Champ, Aeronca 7AC, and his final aircraft, a 1946 Ranger powered Fairchild 24.






 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
- Associations: OX-5 Aviation Pioneers, Quiet Birdmen, Experimental Aircraft Association, Antique Airplane Association, Founding Board Member/Life Member for the St. Louis Aviation Museum (now the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum located at St. Louis-Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL)
 
 - Awards & Recognition:  FAA Wright Brothers’ “Master Pilot Award” (2009), Experimental Aircraft Association’s “Timeless Voices of Aviation”, OX5 Aviation Pioneers 2012 “Legion of Merit” Award





Gateway to Space Conference Honors McDonnell Mercury Spacecraft Pioneers at Boeing St. Louis Facility

By Carmelo Turdo
The St. Louis Space Frontier, a chapter of the National Space Society, opened the Gateway to Space Conference November 7-9 with a St. Louis Space Retrospective event at the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room located at the Boeing Company's St. Louis Defense, Space and Security Division headquarters.  The Prologue Room, an exhibit hall featuring large-scale models of aerospace vehicles from Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, North American and other businesses that have become part of the Boeing Company over the years, is located in the former headquarters building of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation across the street from the plant that manufactured the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.  Conference attendees were invited to the Prologue Room auditorium to attend a panel discussion featuring seven McDonnell Aircraft employees who participated in the design and construction of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft and special guest Lowell Grissom, brother of astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and also a McDonnell Aircraft employee working in other areas of the company.  The guests and format for the event were first introduced by the Missouri Aviation Historical Society in May of 2013, were an instant success, and were also featured on an HEC-TV special, "HEC-TV Live:  History in the First Person: Building the Mercury Capsule" later that year.  Their story will continue to captivate the imagination of current and future generations of space explorers through the rebroadcast of these forums for many years to come.

Conference attendees and organizers gathered for a reception at the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room about an hour prior to the forum.  Along with the formal exhibits, additional displays were brought by the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, The Space Museum at Bonne Terre, MO and Mac's Old Team (retired McDonnell Aircraft employees, some of which were on the forum panel). 
































Following the reception, the panel discussion was held in the auditorium located just off the lobby entrance.  The forum involving the members of the McDonnell Aircraft Mercury and Gemini spacecraft design and production team was introduced and moderated by Mr. Earl Mullins of The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO.  The eight participants were asked several open-ended questions about their first-hand experiences during the dawn of the U.S. manned space flight and their views on the current and future programs.  Video coverage of the forum will air on future posts of The Aero Experience

Earl Mullins from The Space Museum moderates 

Paul Baldwin from St. Louis Space Frontier greets attendees

Lowell Grissom, Bob Schepp and other panelists approach the stage

Panelists are introduced by Earl Mullins 

Panelists are recognized by conference organizers with a special award

Award is presented to Mac's Old Team leader Norm Beckel

The award's illumination is admired by panel recipients

Mac's Old Team panel participants: Jerry Roberts, Norm Beckel,
Lowell Grissom, Bob Schepp, Earl Robb, Dean Purdy,
Ray Tucker and Nelson Weber

Earl Mullins, Paul Baldwin, Ray Tucker, Nelson Weber, Earl Robb,
Lowell Grissom, Dean Purdy, Bob Schepp, Jerry Roberts, Norm Beckel
and Bill Alban

The Aero Experience thanks all involved with bringing the Gateway to Space Conference to St. Louis.  Check back for additional video coverage of the panel discussion soon.