Museum Teams with EAA Chapter 64 for Fall Young Eagle Flights

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum again teamed with EAA Chapter 64 to give Young Eagle flights to about 20 aviation enthusiasts October 31.  Chapter members donated their time, fuel and aircraft – Cessna 172, 182, an Ercoupe and American Champion Decathlon – to share their love of aviation and encourage these young students to explore aviation for themselves.  Those who participation in the EAA Young Eagle program receive a free flight around the local area, EAA Student Membership, online flight training course, Discovery Flight with a certified flight instructor.  Flight training scholarships are also available.

Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Celebrates the Life of Carl “Chub” Wheeler

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum celebrated the life of aviation icon and museum Life Member Carl “Chub” Wheeler who passed away September 17 at the age of 103.   Family and friends of Mr. Wheeler gathered at historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport and spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting and sharing their favorite “Chub” stories.  The museum’s location is especially appropriate, since much of Wheeler’s early aviation activity was centered around the Curtiss-Wright hangars at what was then called Curtiss-Steinberg Airport.

Family and friends of Carl “Chub” Wheeler
gather near a DC-3 at the museum

Much of Wheeler’s aviation career is included in his biography submitted by the museum for his nomination and acceptance to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2014:

“Born in 1911, Chub has seen a century of aviation history unfold during his lifetime. As a young man, Chub was a frequent visitor at Curtiss Steinberg Airport, now known as St. Louis Downtown Airport. He was hired as a line boy, and then learned to fly in an OX-5 powered Curtis Robin, obtaining his pilot’s license in 1935. He purchased the Curtis Robin for $450, and then earned his flight instructor’s certificate.

“The flight instructor’s certificate was just a beginning for Chub. He and partner Bill Hart formed a flying school at Curtiss Steinberg airport and used the Curtis Robin to offer flying lessons. When the Civilian Pilot Training Program was created to train pilots in response to the impending war in Europe, Parks Air College became a training center. Chub became a flight instructor for Parks Air College first as a civilian, and then as a member of the Army Reserves flying PT-13s, PT-17s, PT-19s and PT-23s. He served at all four Parks Air College locations during the war, finally becoming responsible for the operation of their flight school at Cape Girardeau, MO.

“After the war, Chub returned to East St. Louis to become the airport manager at Curtiss-Steinberg airport during 1946 and 1947. He became a corporate pilot flying DC-3s and Beech D-18s for Monsanto Company, later moving on to fly for Peabody Coal and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When the Post-Dispatch transitioned to new equipment in the late 1950s, 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.

“In retirement, Chub became a founding board member and tireless supporter of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum in Cahokia, Illinois. He has been a frequent speaker to museum and aviation groups, using his personal history and knowledge of aviation in our region to bring the past alive again.”

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum salutes Carl “Chub” Wheeler for a life well lived with these photos from our encounters over the last few years:

Flying the 1929 Ford Trimotor at St. Louis Downtown Airport, Sept. 2011
(Mark Nankivil photos)

100th Birthday, October 2011

Visit to Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum with Daughter Mary Kay, September 2015

St. Louis Space Frontier Hosts Second Annual Gateway to Space Development Conference

The St. Louis Space Frontier, a chapter of the National Space Society, held the second annual Gateway to Space Development Conference at the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room at Boeing St. Louis on Saturday.  The conference focused on commercial space applications, and included a series of speakers relating their first-hand experiences with commercial space projects.  In between the scheduled presentations, attendees toured the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room, a museum dedicated to telling the story of the McDonnell Aircraft, McDonnell Douglas and Boeing contributions to the aerospace industry.  Other local organizations, including the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, The Space Museum at Bonne Terre and Missouri Aviation Historical Society, brought exhibits that were well-received by conference attendees.

James S. McDonnell Prologue Room entrance
Zach Kromer shows his photos in the lobby during registration
Military Aircraft exhibit
Closer look at large F-15E model
Commercial Aircraft exhibit
Curator Mike Burke with Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum
Curator Mike Burke discusses an item in the museum’s exhibit
Mercury Engineering Development Fixture on display
Gemini Engineering Development Fixture on display
New Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft model
Jim Merriman from The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO

Myron Lane from the Missouri Aviation Historical Society

Aviation Community Mourns Passing of Carl “Chub” Wheeler

The Midwest Aviation community mourns the passing of aviation icon Carl “Chub” Wheeler September 17 at the age of 103.  Chub began his flying career at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport, now St. Louis Downtown Airport, and received his pilot’s license in 1935. He became an instructor before and during World War II, airport manager and corporate pilot. He was a Life Member of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum that resides in historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at the airport, and 2014 inductee into the IL Aviation Hall of FameOur condolences go out to his family and our aviation family as well.   Below, “Chub” Wheeler with daughter, Mary Kay, September 13, 2015. 




Aviation Community Remembers Test Pilot, Humanitarian Joe Dobronski


Joseph Francis Dobronski, Sr.
September 10, 1927 – September 5, 2015
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Born: September 10, 1927
Place of Birth: Patton, Pennsylvania
Death: September 5, 2015
Place of Death: Creve Coeur, Missouri


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Dobronski, Joseph Francis, Sr., baptized into the hope of Christ’s resurrection, Saturday, September 5, 2015.

Beloved husband of Ginny Dobronski; loving father of Joseph F. (Kelly) Dobronski, Jr., Kati (Ralph) Rosato, David (Laura) Dobronski and Stephen (Cecelia) Dobronski; loving grandfather of 9 and great-grandfather of 5, dear uncle, great-uncle, cousin and friend to many.

J.F. “JOE” DOBRONSKI graduated from high school in western Pennsylvania and entered the Navy V-5 Program in 1945. He attended Worchester Polytechnic Institute and Cornell University prior to preflight. He was designated a Naval Aviator in 1947. Joe flew in VA-1L and VX-3 prior to discharge in 1949 and then the Naval Reserve until 1954. After graduation from Northrop Aeronautical Institute in 1951, he worked as a Flight Test Engineer at McDonnell Aircraft in St Louis, Missouri; became a production test pilot in 1953 flying the F2H Banshee, and was promoted to experimental pilot after graduation from the United States Air Force Test Pilot’s School in 1954. As an experimental test pilot, and later Chief Test Pilot in 1966, he helped develop the Demon, Voodoo, Phantom II, Eagle, Harrier, Hornet and other experimental aircraft and a three jet helicopter.

Joe became Director of Test Operations for McDonnell Douglas in 1972 and Director of Flight Test and Operations in 1976. Following retirement in 1984, he became Chief Pilot for Wings of Hope, a humanitarian organization where he worked for fifteen years. He flew medical missions in Central America, and also delivered aircraft for missions in Belize, Botswana, South Africa, and the Galapagos Islands. With over 1700 hours instructing, he was awarded the FAA Central Region Flight Instructor of the Year 2000 Award. He was recently awarded the James G Byrnes Excellence in Aviation Award for 2015.

He was a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was granted an Honorary Doctorate Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He was actively instructing aerobatics and sailplanes in which he held the Diamond C award. In 1998, he self-published a book titled “A Sky Full of Challenges” (now an E-Book web page www.Smashwords). Joe married Virginia Hausmann in 1957 and lived in Ballwin, MO.

Joe was accomplished in his faith, his family and his passion as an aviator.

Services: Funeral from the SCHRADER Funeral Home and Crematory, 14960 Manchester Road at Holloway, Ballwin, Tuesday, 11:15 a.m. to St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, Ellisville for 11:30 a.m. Mass. Interment Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made toWings of Hope or Birthright. Visitation Monday 4-6 p.m. Friends may sign the family’s on-line guestbook at


Funeral Mass

Tuesday September 8, 2015, 11:30 AM at Saint Clare of Assisi Catholic Church
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Tuesday September 8, 2015 at National Cemetery
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Monday September 7, 2015, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM at Schrader Funeral Home and Crematory
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Museum Exhibits Updated, Aircraft Begin Restoration

The Gallery exhibits at the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum have been updated recently to improve the layout and visibility of the displays.  Curator Mike Burke has been the driving force behind improving the visitor experience at the museum over the last several years, and has made much progress in what is a constant evaluation and improvement process.  The museum has recently received several excellent display cases from the nearby Boeing St. Louis facility, and work is on-going to install them in the gallery.  Along with the improved gallery exhibits, the museum has re-installed the F-4 Phantom II cockpit on long-term loan, begun restoration projects for several vintage aircraft, and welcomed back the Pietenpol home-built aircraft restored by EAA Chapter 64, which meets at St. Louis Downtown Airport as well.  The museum welcomes visitors Fri-Sun 10am-4pm and groups also by appointment.



Southwestern Illinois College Adds Additional Aviation Programs

Contributed by Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Board Member, Keith Mueller

Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) located in Belleville, Illinois is expanding its aviation programs.  Currently the college offers AAS degrees in Aviation Pilot Training, Aviation Management and Aviation Maintenance.  Starting August 29th and 30th Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) will be adding a BS degree in Aviation Management to the Belleville campus through their extended campus program.  The BS degree’s 48 semester hour core is offered on a weekend format through SIUC and can be completed in as little as 16 months. 

The Aviation Management BS degree is designed to build upon technical training in aviation maintenance, flight, avionics technology, air traffic control, aircraft operations support and other aviation related technical fields.  This is a career orientated degree program that meets the educational needs of individuals who have aviation related work experience and/or technical training from military schools, technical institutes, community colleges, or industry training programs.  The program includes advanced practical course work in the areas of aviation, management and supervision.    

Bringing the BS degree to SWIC makes it easy for students in the St. Louis area seeking an aviation related BS degree the ability to accomplish it on a convenient Saturday and Sunday schedule.  Classes will be held on Saturdays and Sundays at 8:00am through 4:30 PM at the SWIC Belleville campus.

 SWIC is also adding an Aircraft Dispatcher program that is planned to start in early 2016.  The program consists of seven 3 semester hour courses that are offered on an evening format.  Students already enrolled in the Aviation Pilot and Aviation Management AAS degree programs fulfill the need of several of the required classes through the degree program requirements.  Depending on their degree election, most students will only need to complete additional 2-3 classes to be eligible for the dispatcher program certification.

SWIC is partnered with industry through Trans States Airlines based in St. Louis with internships for the students providing them a unique opportunity for employment and on the job airline operations training.

Contact the coordinator at 618-222-5683 if you or someone you know is interested in any of the SWIC or SIUC programs. 

Isn’t it about time your aviation career takes off!!!!!!

Museum Hosts Young Eagle Flights for Scout Troop

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum hosted Young Eagle Flights at St. Louis Downtown Airport today.  Members of a local Boy Scout troop received their Young Eagle flights in one of two Cessna 172s or an Aviat Husky provided by members of EAA Chapter 64.  The “East Side Chapter” provides regular opportunities for local youth to experience a flight around the St. Louis riverfront in general aviation aircraft, and local Scout troops frequently credit the flight and museum activities toward the achievement of the Aviation Merit Badge.  Benefits of the EAA Young Eagles program include, without cost: first Young Eagles flight, EAA Student Membership, Sporty’s Pilot Shop online flight training program, first introductory flight lesson and availability of flight training scholarships.  For more information about the Young Eagles program in the St. Louis area, contact EAA Chapter 64 at  Here are some views of today’s flights:

Veteran McDonnell Spacecraft Team Honored on 50th Anniversary of Gemini Manned Flights

The fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of manned Gemini spacecraft missions was marked by the Missouri Aviation Historical Society during their monthly meeting on Thursday evening.  The event was a cooperative effort among aerospace organizations to honor the contributions of McDonnell Aircraft, including a select group of veteran Gemini program engineers, to successful manned space flight involving America’s dual-crew spacecraft.

Missouri Aviation Historical Society President, Dan O’Hara, coordinated the event and provided an informational presentation about the Gemini space program.  A display of Gemini spacecraft memorabilia was provided by the Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum in Cahokia, IL:

Project Gemini mission patches and thrusters


Models of Gemini spacecraft include Rogallo Wing concept


Moderator Earl Mullins

Following the introductory program, a panel discussion, featuring veteran McDonnell Aircraft engineers who designed portions of the Gemini spacecraft, was moderated by Earl Mullins, Curator and Founder of the Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO.  Members of the guest panel were: Ray Tucker, electrical ground support engineer who worked on cable systems within the launch complex; Dean Purdy, electrical engineer who worked in the St. Louis Gemini test complex; Norman Beckel, electronics engineer who developed and tested communication systems on the Gemini spacecraft; Earl Robb, structural and mechanical design engineer who designed portions of the Gemini spacecraft, including the equipment module; and Jerry Roberts, engineer who worked on guidance and control systems for the Gemini Spacecraft.

Panel members (L-R): Ray Tucker, Dean Purdy, Norman Beckel,
Earl Robb,  and Jerry Roberts


Earl Robb makes a point about the design of the equipment module


Jerry Roberts discusses the guidance and control system

Several themes emerged during the discussion, including the importance of the space program in technological as well as geo-political terms.  The Gemini program developed techniques and practices needed to maneuver and navigate in space – essential capabilities for the upcoming Apollo lunar missions.  The Gemini astronauts, most of whom went on to fly Apollo lunar missions, learned how to rendezvous and dock with other spacecraft, work effectively outside of the spacecraft, and practice precision recoveries.  The panelists shared their behind-the-scenes anecdotes, remembering those like astronaut Gus Grissom and McDonnell Aircraft flight nurse Rose Church who devoted their lives to making the program succeed.  Questions from the audience were fielded prior to wrapping up the program with the presentation of a special fiftieth anniversary cake sponsored by McArthur’s Bakery.  The panelists were also presented with a copy of the book, NASA Gemini Owner’s Workshop Manual as a special gift.

Missouri Aviation Historical Society President Dan O’Hara presents
the NASA Gemini Owner’s Workshop Manual to the panelists

Special thanks to the McDonnell Aircraft Gemini panelists, Missouri Aviation Historical Society, Creve Coeur Airport, the Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO, the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, the St. Louis Space Frontier, the Boeing Company and McArthur’s Bakery for contributing to the program.  Video from the program will appear on the Missouri Aviation Historical Society website in the near future.

Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame Inducts Two Metro-East Illinois Aviators

Since 1970, the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame has honored aviators whose principal aviation activity and experience has been in Illinois. I’ll borrow their description for induction:

“Induction into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame is the highest honor that can be attained by individual(s) whose principal aviation activity and experience is Illinois based. The inductees are recognized for their good character and excellence over a period of time. All of those selected are aviation enthusiasts who have also participated in community service, which reflects the character that earns this distinction.”

The 2015 inductees, we’re happy to report, include two local Metro-East IL area gentlemen: Edward Shafer and U.S. Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Robert L. McDaniel. The other two inductees, Beverlee Greenhill and Edward B. Heath, were from the Chicago area.

Edward Shafer (L) and Bob McDaniel

Edward Shafer was recognized for his years in aviation, starting in 1964 when he moved back to IL and obtained private, commercial, instrument and flight instructor certificates. Shafer flew charter in the St. Louis Metro East area and, along with his wife Lois, developed the restricted use runway on their dairy farm into what today is known as St. Louis Metro-East Airport (Shafer Field) near St. Jacob, IL. He has trained over 500 pilots, and as a Designated Pilot Examiner, has given over 350 check rides. Ed Shafer has been advocate for general aviation and in many ways has shared general aviation with the community.

As a child, Bob McDaniel initially grew up close to Southern Illinois Airport and later, St. Louis Downtown Airport (at the time known informally as Parks Airport). McDaniel took his first flying lesson, using a Cessna “Discover Flying” coupon, at the age of 14 and soloed on his 16th birthday. With his commercial pilot’s license and an aviation degree from Parks College, he joined the U.S. Air Force and continued his flying career. After 25 years of service, Bob McDaniel served as the Airport Director of the Texarkana Regional Airport before returning home to carry on his aviation career as the Director of St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL in 2000. Under his direction, the airport grew to be the third busiest airport in Illinois, receiving numerous awards and accolades over the years. Bob McDaniel has been an active supporter of general aviation: giving rides to anyone interested in flying, serving as the Young Eagles chairman for EAA Chapter 64 based at St. Louis Downtown Airport, and personally flying well over 2,000 youths on their first flights. Bob also shares his experience by serving on various advisory boards, serving as an adjunct instructor for St. Louis University Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology, authoring a number of aviation books and speaking at various aviation, professional and civic groups championing aviation.

Congratulations to both Ed Shafer and Bob McDaniel for earning this high honor!