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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

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.

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