Monday, February 29, 2016

Revitalization of St. Louis Area Museums Is Sign of Good Things to Come

By Carmelo Turdo
Several museums and cultural centers in the St. Louis area are receiving renewed attention and displaying high standards of excellence to their current and future visitors and investors.  Of the many museums in the St. Louis and Metro East IL area, these are only a few examples of those with aviation exhibits that we found to be both of historic value and progressive development.    

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum 

The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum is one of the great historic buildings in downtown St. Louis.  The building and grounds (including the nearby Memorial Plaza) were constructed as part of the Depression-Era Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Project No. 5098 as a tribute to the last armed conflict, World War I.  Construction began in 1935 and the museum was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt on October 14, 1936.  It officially opened to the public May 30, 1938.  The museum is closed from today forward to 2018 for significant renovations that will ensure that this historic facility will remain a St. Louis treasure for generations to come.  Until it reopens, we can enjoy these views of this magnificent museum (including the Norden bombsight):

James S. McDonnell Planetarium, St. Louis Science Center

The James S. McDonnell Planetarium of the St. Louis Science Center has been a St. Louis institution since it opened May 30, 1963 in Forest Park (later named for McDonnell Aircraft Corporation Founder James S. McDonnell in 1964).  Part of the St. Louis Science Center since 1985, the planetarium benefits from the management and expertise of the professional staff.  Currently, a special exhibit featuring the aerospace history of St. Louis, called "Liftoff," includes full-size St. Louis-made McDonnell Mercury and Gemini spacecraft, Mercury Astronaut Gordon Cooper's space suit, an award given to McDonnell Douglas aerospace engineering pioneers, and a full-size Mars rover.  Fittingly. standing guard outside the lobby is a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B Hornet once used by the famed U.S. Navy Blue Angels.


The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum marks its eleventh year at its current location in historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar at St. Louis Downtown Airport in nearby Cahokia, IL.  The museum, begun in 1982 as the St. Louis Aviation Museum by McDonnell Douglas employees and retirees at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, MO, currently maintains a collection of exhibits and aircraft that well represent the contributions of St. Louis aviation and aerospace since the 1920s.  Rare items on display include Mercury and Gemini space suits, two working Link Trainers from the 1940s-50s, a Lockheed Jetstar executive jet once owned by Howard Hughes and a Meyers OTW trainer (number 50 out of 102 made).  Several aircraft restoration projects are planned, and the museum is  in search of a sponsor for the future restoration of the historic hangar.



Thursday, February 25, 2016

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015: Exhibitors - Final Wrapup

Fred Harl and Carmelo Turdo final chapter in The Aero Experience coverage of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 exhibitors features a great mix of military service, aircraft manufacturers and component suppliers.  The names of these exhibitors should be familiar to anyone in aviation, and they are a great group to conclude this series!  

United States Air Force     

The United States Air Force brought the "Performance Lab" exhibit, featuring a large recruiting trailer and an F-16 painted in the Thunderbirds scheme.  Attendees can participate in challenging activities and see their performance ranked among others.  The F-16 comes in a semi trailer, but that does not diminish the effect of having the aircraft on display.  This and similar exhibits are managed by civilian contractors, and include military staff at the recruiting location.

Vans Aircraft

Vans Aircraft is legendary in the experimental (kit built) aircraft world.  The dream of Richard VanGrunsven, Vans Aircraft began clean with the RV-3 plans in 1972, and 8000+ kits later, the family of RVs has grown to the RV-14 and counting.  The aircraft are two-seat, except for the RV-10 (4-seat), and generally come in conventional gear (tail wheel) and tricycle gear (number + A) configurations, with a variety of powerplant and cockpit instrumentation options.  Here we feature the exhibit and several examples in the RV model family.

Viking Aircraft Engines

Viking Aircraft Engines markets Honda-based aircraft engine conversions for use in experimental (kit built) aircraft. The exhibit featured Zenith aircraft, though the engines can be used by those made by Vans, Sonex and other popular manufacturers.  Viking promises that the mass-produced Honda auto engines have superior power to weight and parts supplies compared to aircraft-specific models.

Vitatoe Aviation

Vitatoe Aviation (Vitatoe Industries) provides engine supplemental type certificate conversions for Cessna aircraft.  Updates to the engines include Hartzell propellers, cross-flow tuned induction system and turbo-normalization.  These modifications increase available horsepower and provide more efficient operation over time.

Waco Aircraft Corporation
The present Waco Aircraft Corporation is an outgrowth of the Classic Aircraft Corporation of Lansing, MI formed to remanufacture the classic Waco YMF.  The YMF Classic appeared in 1986, and the YMF-5C and -D Super have become the new standard.  The Great Lakes 2T-1A-2 is also a popular product remanufactured by Waco.  The Battle-Creek, MI-based Waco has affiliates world-wide.  

The Wipaire exhibit is always an impressive site - those aircraft sitting high on floats with their tiny wheels keeping them off the ground.  But Wipaire does more than Wipline float conversions for aircraft up to the size of the Cessna Caravan and Quest Kodiac.  Other services include interior and exterior refinishing and modifications, avionics, AirGlide Ski conversions and other maintenance and FBO services.   

Zenith Aircraft
The Mexico, MO-based Zenith Aircraft Company produces the CH650 and CH701/750 series of experimental (kit built) light sport aircraft.  The company formed in 1992 to manufacture and market the designs of Chris Heintz and has grown into a leader in light sport aircraft incorporating STOL (short takeoff and landing) performance.  The company is known for its customer focus, including regular build events and open houses at the factory.