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!
Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team
The Aero Experience visited the Aviation Cadet Museum at Silver Wings Field in Eureka Springs, AR during our Midwest Museum Tour in 2014. Along with a great air park, the museum features exhibits illustrating the journey to becoming a pilot from the childhood dream to training to trying out actual aircraft cockpits. One can sit in the cockpit of the F-105 Wild Weasel and Convair T-29 (as did Jack Nankivil), and play "AeroBall" in the airborne soccer simulator. Check it out when you are in northern Arkansas.
On a previous western tour swing through Oklahoma City, The Aero Experience stopped at the 45th Infantry Museum's Thunderbird Park. Surrounding the 45th Infantry Division Monument, on 15 acres of land, rest over 60 pieces of military equipment of all types. The monument was original dedicated in 1959 to commemorate the division's service in World War II and Korea, but was moved to the current site due to the further commercial development of the original location. This has proved to be a positive development as seen by the scale of the displays in Thunderbird Park on the museum grounds. Prominently featured here are the aircraft, including both fixed-winged and helicopters, from the Bell 47 to the F-86 and more.
The 45th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army National Guard was formed in 1923 primarily from soldiers based in Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. It was engaged in domestic operations at the call of state governors and prepared for war in 1940. During World War II, the Thunderbirds served for 511 days across European Theater of Operations. Following the war, the 45th Infantry Division was based at Fort Sill, OK and later served 429 days of combat in Korea in four campaigns. In 1969, the division was reorganized into separate units within the OK Army National Guard.
Here is just a sample of the aviation portion within Thunderbird Park:
This year for my son Jack's Spring Break road trip, we decided to make a spin through Kansas with our first day's visit to Kansas City, taking in the TWA Museum. It is located on the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, across the Missouri River just north of downtown Kansas City. The TWA Museum is located on the east side of the airport in the Signature Flight Support FBO facility which, in fact, was the Kansas City TWA maintenance hangar from before WWII. A fitting location for the Museum!
The TWA Museum is well presented with many artifacts and photos that tell the story of TWA at the very personal level of the employees that made the airline great. The docents during our visit were wonderful and friendly, and made the visit all the more enjoyable. Jack had fun flying the simulator set up for a TWA Connie at this very airport.
By Fred Harl
A most welcome site on the ramp is the TWA MD-83 Wings of Pride, N948TW. Originally paid for by TWA employees, it was painted in a scheme where the red and white of the standard TWA scheme was reversed, which made for a standout look in the air and on the apron. Thanks to TriStar History for making this great aircraft available for all to see again. Here's hoping she can make it to the Spirit Airshow at Spirit of St. Louis Airport this coming May.
The Aero Experience was again part of the celebration of vintage aircraft at the 2015 Antique Airplane Association Fly-In at Antique Airfield near Blakesburg, IA. The annual summer event attracts a wide variety of vintage aircraft, many of which carry an impressive pedigree. We saw a great mix of vintage aircraft that included the iconicSt. Louis Robin, which set endurance record of over 420 hours in 1929 through the use of primitive aerial refueling. Also present were Ryan SCW-145, Meyers OTW, Boeing Stearman, and a selection of Stinson, Piper Cub, Fairchild, Beechcraft and Cessna classics.
Here is a closer look at the beautiful Cessna, Curtiss, Fairchild, Piper, Stearman, Waco and a mix of other machines that graced Antique Airfield. Also featured are Piper Cub flights around the field by Mark and Jack Nankivil.