Monthly Archives: July 2014

Aviation Campers Experience Aviation Through Young Eagle Flights, Museum Exhibits

Middle School students visited the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Thursday on a scheduled field trip as part of their participation in the Aviation Technology Academy sponsored by Rankin Technical College.  The week-long camp program offers a series of activities that illustrate career opportunities in the aviation and aerospace industries.  Students touring the museum, located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport, learned about the development of aircraft design over the last century, including pilot training technology from 1940s Link Trainers to a restored F-4 Phantom II jet fighter cockpit.  They examined the structure of a Pietenpol aircraft under restoration, and learned about the mechanics of aircraft powerplants through the use of cutaway engine exhibits.  The highlight of the visit, though, was the opportunity for each student to receive a Young Eagle Flight arranged by EAA Chapter 64, also based at the airport.  In addition to experiencing the sheer enjoyment of flight, the students gained a practical knowledge of aircraft that no doubt will remain with them in the years to come as they make their career choices.

Special thanks to EAA Chapter 64 President Paul Voorhees, Young Eagles Coordinator Bob McDaniel, Young Eagles Ground Operations Coordinator Nick Turk, pilots Jeff Stephenson and Eve Cascella and museum staff for making this Midwest aero experience possible!

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum


Students tour a Lockheed Jetstar once owned by Howard Hughes


Students inside the Lockheed Jetstar


Students head out to their Young Eagle Flights


Pilot Bob McDaniel gets ready to taxi out for a flight


Aircraft are readied for their Young Eagle Flights


Pilot Eve Cascella leads students to the aircraft


Pilot Eve Cascella briefs the students before their flight


Pilot Jeff Stephenson briefs students before their flight


Pilot Jeff Stephenson demonstrates the pre-flight inspection


Pilot Jeff Stephenson points out the rudder on the tail


Students are shown the airport’s fire apparatus


Students pose with the F-4 Phantom II jet fighter cockpit


Pietenpol under restoration shows aircraft structure and engine


Pietenpol cockpit


R3350 cutaway under restoration shows working parts


1940s Link Trainers show how pilots learned instrument flight

Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour Will Visit the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum July 25-27

The Wings of Freedom Tour of the WWII Vintage Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator and North American P-51 Mustang Announce Unique Display in Cahokia at St Louis Downtown Airport from July 25 to July 27.  The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour Brings Extremely Rare Bomber and Fighter Aircraft for Local Living History Display as Part of 110-city Tour.

WHAT:  Participating in the Collings Foundation’s WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine” WWII Heavy Bomber, Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” WWII Heavy Bomber and P-51 Mustang fighter, will fly into St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL for a visit from July 25 to July 27. This is a rare opportunity to visit, explore, and learn more about these unique and rare treasures of aviation history. The B-17 is one of only 8 in flying condition in the United States, the B-24J and Full Dual Control P-51C Mustang are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the World. Visitors are invited to explore the aircraft inside and out – $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for access to up-close viewing and tours through the inside of the aircraft. WWII Veterans can tour through the aircraft at no cost. Discounted rates for school groups. Visitors may also experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually take a 30-minute flight aboard these rare aircraft. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person. Get some “stick time” in the world’s greatest fighter! P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour. For reservations and information on flight experiences call 800-568-8924.

WHERE: The WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR will be on display at St Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, located at Greater St. Louis air and Space Museum, 2300 Vector Drive.  

WHEN: The WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR will arrive at St Louis Downtown Airport at 2:00 PM on July 25 and will be on display at Greater St. Louis air and Space Museum at St Louis Downtown Airport until the aircraft departs July 27 after 5:00 PM. Hours of ground tours and display are: 2:00 PM through 5:00 PM on Friday, July 25; 9:00 AM through 5:00 PM on Saturday, July 26; 9:00 AM through 5:00 PM on Sunday, July 27. The 30-minute flight experiences are normally scheduled before and after the ground tour times above.

WHO: The Collings Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit educational foundation devoted to organizing “living history” events that allows people to learn more about their heritage and history through direct participation. The Nationwide WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR is celebrating its 25th year and visits an average of 110 cities in over 35 states annually. Since its start, tens of millions of people have seen the B-17, B-24 & P-51 display at locations everywhere. The WINGS OF FREEDOM tour is one of the most extraordinary and unique interactive traveling historical displays of its kind.

WHY: The WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR travels the nation a flying tribute to the flight crews who flew them, the ground crews who maintained them, the workers who built them, the soldiers, sailors and airmen they helped protect; and the citizens and families that share the freedom that they helped preserve. The B-17 & B-24 were the backbone of the American effort during the war from 1942 to 1945 and were famous for their ability to sustain damage and still accomplish the mission. Despite the risks of anti-aircraft fire, attacking enemy fighters, and the harrowing environment of sub-zero temperatures, many B-17s and B-24s safely brought their crews home. The P-51 Mustang was affectionately known as the bombers “Little Friend” – saving countless crews from attacking axis fighters. After the war, many aircraft were scrapped for their raw aluminum to rebuild a nation in post-war prosperity and therefore very few were spared. The rarity of the B-17, B-24 & P-51 – and their importance to telling the story of WWII is why the Collings Foundation continues to fly and display the aircraft nationwide. At each location we encourage local veterans and their families to visit and share their experiences and stories with the public. For aviation enthusiasts, the tour provides opportunity for the museum to come to the visitor and not the other way around! Visitors can find out more by visiting our website at

McDonnell Banshee Pilot Addreses McDonnell Aircraft Retiree Group

The weekly luncheon of a local McDonnell Aircraft/McDonnell Douglas retiree group included a special guest speaker this week – Mr. Bill Hunsicker.  Mr. Hunsicker served as a U.S. Naval Aviator during the mid 1950s, flying the McDonnell-built F2H-3 Banshee fighter/bomber during the critical years after the end of the Korean War fighting and the emergence of China as the Pacific threat to the U.S. The attendees this week were eager to hear a first-hand account from a Banshee pilot on what it was like to fly an aircraft that some of them designed and built.
They were not disappointed with what they heard.
Bill Hunsicker enlisted in the U.S. Navy NAVCAD program in 1953.  The Naval Aviation Cadet Program was used in various forms from 1935-1968 to train enlisted candidates with some college credit as Naval Aviators to increase the number of air crews during times of crisis.  The NAVCAD program from the 1950-1955 period was replaced by the Aviation Officer Candidate School at NAS Pensacola for college graduates.  Mr. Hunsicker was commissioned in May 1955 and assigned to the VF-213, an “All Weather Night Fighter Squadron.”  He was deployed in August 1956 aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard CVA-31, newly re-commissioned for the second time in September 1955 after receiving a major conversion to accept jet aircraft. He later transitioned to fly the Douglas F-4D Skyray for a short time before returning to the United States in March 1957 and leaving active duty in August of 1957 to complete his Engineering degree at Washington University in St. Louis.
Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Collection
Mr. Hunsicker was very complimentary of the Banshee, describing it as a stable weapons platform and overall very reliable and easy to maintain aircraft.  Although it was not by then considered a “high performance” jet fighter due to its subsonic speed and less sophisticated avionics, the Banshee was still a valuable asset for night fleet defense, ground attack and “special weapons delivery” missions through the 1950s.  About half of his squadron’s aircraft were specially outfitted with taller landing gear, special bomb rack, bomb delivery avionics and aerial refueling probes to accommodate the potential delivery of atomic weapons.  Following the transition to the Skyray, the squadron’s Banshees were sold to Canada, where they served from land bases and the HMCS Bonaventure aircraft carrier until 1962.
Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Collection
Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Collection
The typical night fighter mission involved several Banshees, armed with four 20mm cannon, establishing an orbit fanning out at about 200 miles from the carrier.  For the ground attack mission, the Banshee carried 500 pound bombs and/or 5-inch HVAR rocket packs.  In order to fly the nuclear mission, specially-trained crews carried the 1800 pound Mk 7 tactical weapon delivered in the climbing toss method.  During the toss maneuver, the approach was made at high speed and very low altitude.  Pressing the weapons delivery button engaged the computer that then prompted the pilot to begin the 2-G pull-up and automatic weapon release at the top of the arc.  The pilot then reversed course and retreated at high speed to avoid the gamma ray and nuclear blast effects that soon followed.  It is no secret that China was the new Pacific threat at that time, especially on the heels of the hot war in Korea, and the crews practiced nuclear attack missions during their cruises in the region.  Following each cruise, the carrier returned to its home base, NAS Moffett Field, near San Francisco, CA.

It was indeed an honor to visit with Bill Hunsicker and the McDonnell Aircraft/McDonnell Douglas retirees this week.  Special thanks to Mr. Hunsicker for sharing his experiences, and also to Mr. Mike de Garcia from the McDonnell Aircraft/McDonnell Douglas retiree group and Mr. Mark Nankivil from the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum for producing the event.