Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum and EAA Chapter 64 Host Third Young Eagle Flight Rally This Year

McDonnell Model 220 – A Current View

Recently, Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum President, Mark Nankivil, visited El Paso, TX where the only McDonnell Model 220 executive jet is located.  The jet, a development of the Model 119 that lost the military aircraft contract competition to the Lockheed Jetstar, has been sitting on the ramp at El Paso International Airport awaiting its fate.  The museum has an interest in the aircraft’s future, and has expressed as much to the aircraft owner and airport staff in recent years.  The path ahead for the jet remains uncertain.

Below are some photos from the recent visit, a Boeing photo of the aircraft in McDonnell Aircraft prototype colors, and a McDonnell Aircraft video of the aircraft’s executive transport mission.  More details about the aircraft will be forthcoming as available.

The McDonnell Aircraft promotional video can be found at:

Young Eagles Fly During Warm Weather Spell at St. Louis Downtown Airport

The Midwest Aviation community took advantage of unseasonably warm weather February 7 to provide a second opportunity this year to give the next generation the gift of flight.  EAA Chapter 64 and The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum teamed up again to give Young Eagle and Eagle Flights to area residents.  The chapter’s Young Eagle Coordinator, Bob McDaniel, arranged for another warm weekend and four crews to fly about 15 passengers around the St. Louis riverfront from Ideal Aviation’s West Ramp at St. Louis Downtown Airport Saturday.  Here are some scenes from the great day of flying:


Museum Exhibits Update!

Museum Received Loan of Engines, Rare Wind Tunnel Model

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum accepted a number of new exhibit items in December on long-term loan from Gateway STEM High School Aviation Engineering program.  The museum has built a relationship with Gateway STEM High School through its association with the St. Louis Community College Aerospace Institute workforce development programs.  The well-equipped Gateway STEM High School Aviation Engineering facility uses modern equipment to teach airframe and powerplant mechanics, and management was ready to pass along some of the more “historic” equipment to the museum for staff training and educational exhibition beginning this spring.  That surplus equipment took the form of four 1950s-era engines and a rare wind-tunnel model used in the development of an early McDonnell Aircraft jet, the Model 119. 

Several deliveries were made within the last ten days to complete the relocation of the items.  On December 13, four engines were delivered with the donated help from our friends at Bollmeier Construction Company, Inc.  Included in the loan were two General Electric J33-A-35 jet engines manufactured by the Allison Division of General Motors in Indianapolis – 2 of over 15,000 manufactured for aircraft including the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer; a General Electric J47-GE-11 jet engine (cutaway) – a popular engine used to power the F-86 Sabre and the Boeing B-47 Stratojet medium bomber among others; and a Pratt & Whitney R2800 Double Wasp radial engine (cutaway) – used to power most fighters and medium bombers of the World War II era.  The engines can be seen in the museum’s hangar, though they will not be set up for exhibit until the coming spring.

On December 19, a team of museum members returned to Gateway STEM High School to pick up another loaned artifact that may be the only one of its kind – a 13% scale, low-speed wind tunnel model of the McDonnell Aircraft Model 119.  Museum members were astonished to see it stored in the rafters of the Gateway STEM High School facility during a visit earlier this year, and the museum is grateful to receive it for repair and display along with the high-speed wind tunnel model and a large display model of the aircraft already in the collection.  The model was dirty and contained some paint chips, but it was in remarkably good condition for a 50+ year old artifact.  There was only one actual McDonnell Model 119 (later Model 220) manufactured, and after failing to receive military or civilian orders, it was sold to private owners and now resides in El Paso, TX in non-flying condition.  The museum hopes to put the aircraft on display if a sponsor can be found to assist in acquiring it.  






Special thanks to Museum President (and The Aero Experience Contributor) Mark Nankivil for pursuing the loan of these items.  Also, thanks to Gateway STEM High School Instructor Paul Voorhees, Ray Bollmeier of Bollmeier Construction Company, Inc., Museum Curator Mike Burke, Museum Curator Emeritus Jack Abercrombie, and other museum volunteers who helped with the move and in the operation of the museum.

Aviation Legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler Honored on 103rd Birthday at Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport, recently hosted a 103rd birthday celebration Sunday for local aviation legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler.  Family and friends gathered to commemorate his life and an aviation career that spanned nearly 70 years.  Mark and Elaine Harter flew in their 1937 Waco YKS-7 cabin biplane especially for the occasion.  Mark Harter earned his tail-wheel endorsement from none other than “Chub” Wheeler himself in the 1980s.  Wheeler, a Founder and Life Member of the museum, took his first airplane ride in 1930 at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport (now called St. Louis Downtown Airport, where the museum is located) and soloed in a Curtiss Robin in 1935.  During his aviation career, “Chub” Wheeler instructed new flight students at Parks Air College during World War II, managed Curtiss-Steinberg Airport in 1946-1947, flew corporate DC-3s for several St. Louis businesses, and flew for the Defense Mapping Agency in the 1950s.  He continued to fly until the age of 92, and owned a number of aircraft.

The following biography was prepared by Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum President Mark Nankivil for “Chub” Wheeler’s successful nomination to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013:
Carl “Chub” Elliott Wheeler
- Born October 1, 1911 in Murphysboro, IL
- Moved to East St. Louis, IL (Chub’s father was a railroad engineer with the M&O) after the 1925 Tri-State Tornado nearly destroyed all of Murphysboro, IL, killing 450 people there.
- In 1928, Parks Air College opens and construction of Curtiss-Steinberg Airport starts (full operations in 1930) in East St. Louis, IL (now Cahokia, IL)
 - On September 1, 1930, Chub takes his first airplane ride at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport.  A pilot named Giggs took Chub up for a 10 minute ride, reaching at one point an altitude of 2,000 feet in a Travel Air 2000, C9986.  Chub still has that ticket in his possession.
 - Once in high school, Chub would walk to Parks (3 miles from his home) and Curtiss Steinberg to see the aircraft and with frequent visits, came to be accepted at the airports and was able to freely roam the airports and hangars.  All the visits and time spent at the airports led to Chub being hired as a line boy at Curtiss-Steinberg, making $14/week servicing aircraft such as Union Electric’s Ford Trimotor.  His work there led to a friendship with Earl Hayden who in turn taught Chub to fly in Earl’s OX-5 powered Curtiss Robin (NC341K), soloing on September 2, 1935 and earning his pilot’s license on October 6, 1935 (Pilot Certificate #34908).  In his first year of flying, he had a total time of 81 hours.  Later, after taking a job at Mobil Oil, Chub saved enough money to buy the Curtiss Robin from Earl for $450.00.
- Chub earns his flight instructor’s certificate and teaches his first student, Roy Crouse, in an OX-5 powered Travel Air 2000, NC6085.
- Chub and partner Bill Hart set up a flying school at Curtiss-Steinberg and used the Curtiss Robin to offer flying lessons during weekends (while continuing to work at Mobil Oil during the week), putting 400 hours on the Robin before selling it in 1939 to purchase a Luscombe 8F.  In May, 1939, Chub had 555:15 hour total flying time, earned his ATP rating by 1940 and by May, 1941, had a total of 1,617:45 hours in his logbooks.
- In 1940, Chub and Bill Hart move their flying school to Lakeside Airport (near Collinsville, Illinois) when Parks Air College expanded its pilot training to Curtiss-Steinberg Airport as part of the expansion of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), which was created in response to the impending war in Europe.  Before long, Chub closed his flying school and went to work at Parks Air College as a flight instructor.  Over 37,000 cadets passed through the program at Parks operated facilities, including Curtiss-Steinberg, with 24,000 becoming commissioned pilots during the war.
- With the declaration of war after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Chub, as a civilian instructor, was drafted into the Army Reserves.  This was done by the military to keep the civilian instructors from leaving to join the Army Air Corps and going off to the war fronts.  Their assigned rank was one rank above the students they were instructing.  Post war, their inactive reserve status kept them from receiving any of the benefits provided to active duty military personnel.

-  Chub was a primary flight instructor throughout the war and served at all four of Parks Air College flight schools during the war, at the end of the war being responsible for operating the flight school at Cape Girardeau, MO. Aircraft types he flew for training were the PT-13, PT-17, PT-19 and PT-23.  Chub was flight leader for the “Thunderbolts” which was a demonstration team showing off the capabilities of the flight trainers being used at the time.

- After the war was over, Chub came back to East St. Louis to become the Airport Manager at Curtiss-Steinberg (later called Parks-Metropolitan) Airport during 1946 and 1947.
- Chub became a corporate pilot in 1948, first with the Monsanto Company flying Douglas DC-3s and Beech D-18s for the President of the Board of Directors.  After Monsanto downsized their staffing, Chub went to work for Peabody Coal flying DC-3s and later, worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch flying the DC-3 there as well.  When the Post-Dispatch transitioned to new equipment in the late ‘50s, 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.
- Chub flew until he gave up his medical at the age of 92, the last aircraft he personally owned being a 1946 Fairchild 24.  Total flying time in his career was over 15,000 hours.

- Aircraft Chub has owned include the Curtiss Robin, Fairchild 22, Travel Air J-5 Speedwing, BT-13s, PT-23, J-3 Cubs, Piper Pacer, Aeronca Champ, Aeronca 7AC, and his final aircraft, a 1946 Ranger powered Fairchild 24.

 - Associations: OX-5 Aviation Pioneers, Quiet Birdmen, Experimental Aircraft Association, Antique Airplane Association, Founding Board Member/Life Member for the St. Louis Aviation Museum (now the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum located at St. Louis-Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL)
- Awards & Recognition:  FAA Wright Brothers’ “Master Pilot Award” (2009), Experimental Aircraft Association’s “Timeless Voices of Aviation”, OX5 Aviation Pioneers 2012 “Legion of Merit” Award

Museum Exhibits Update!

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum has been updating some of it’s exhibits, and we thought you would like a look at the new arrangements.  Better yet, visit the museum for yourself and surround yourself in St. Louis area aviation history!


Museum Promotes Aviation Heritage With Display at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

Anyone traveling through Lambert-St. Louis International Airport recently may have seen an exhibit by the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum next to Baggage Carousel 1.  The Museum has been given the use of two Community Group Windows there for three months beginning July 15.  Tom Ahillen, Doug Bent, and Jack Abercrombie transported some of our exhibits to Lambert on the start date and began setting up the display, although several other people were involved in the planning of the layout and the selection of materials.

The display is a great opportunity for exposing the museum to potential visitors, so we wanted to make our display as eye-catching as possible.  So we started with some of the TWA and Ozark stewardess outfits.  Then we added samples of items from various areas of the museum’s holdings that would keep viewers interested.  The total length of the display area is sixty feet, and the case extends about five feet deep behind the windows.  Our items are arranged in generally chronological order from left to right.

We have received good feedback from the people on the airport Public Relations staff.   Several visitors have come to the museum because they saw the exhibit, so it appears to be  accomplishing our goal, too.  This has been a learning experience, since we had not previously attempted a display of this size off-site for this kind of an audience.  But the location and the impression given by the display appear to go together well. 

Thanks especially to Doug Bent for helping setup and donating a mannequin, Joe Gutknecht for making the signs and helping with the layout, Jack Abercrombie for lending us the 1923 aviation map for display, our Curator Mike Burke  and to all the others who aided getting this display together.

Gateway Eagles Youth Aviation Day Provides Flight Experience Over St. Louis

The Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum hosted the 20th Annual Gateway Eagles Youth Aviation Day on Saturday, September 13th at the Museum’s location at St. Louis-Downtown Airport (CPS) in Cahokia, Illinois.  The weather was excellent and with the fine organizational efforts of the Gateway Eagles, 116 children from 8 to 17 years of age flew, many for the first time, through the EAA Young Eagles flight program.

The Young Eagles program was developed by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in 1992 with the intent of providing a flight experience to kids who might not otherwise be exposed to aviation and the joys of flying.  Over 1.8 million kids have taken their free introductory flight through local EAA Chapters and groups like the Gateway Eagles.  More information on the program is available at: EAA Young Eagles Program.

Gateway Eagles members provided their own aircraft, and along with the assistance of Southern Illinois University aircraft and pilots from both the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses, the flying was completed by mid afternoon.  One of the great benefits of flying out of St. Louis-Downtown Airport is that the flight route takes the kids along the St. Louis riverfront, and for many it’s a different and exciting view of the Arch, Busch Stadium and the St. Louis skyline.

The Gateway Eagles reach out to various youth groups to bring a variety of kids together for their Young Eagles flights.  One group of students came all the way from St. Clair, MO to take their Young Eagle flights.  The Gateway Eagles also set up an impressive set of activities for participants to do while waiting for their flight.  The Airport’s Fire Department set up their Emergency Response vehicle for everyone to check out, and the crew   demonstrated the reach of the vehicle’s water nozzles.  Food was also available for attendees, and there were raffle prizes as well.  Those not flying toured the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum and participated in related activities.

The Gateway Eagles would like to say thank you to the following for their help and support of the event:

The Corvette Club of St.Louis

SIU Carbondale
SIU Edwardsville
Kansas City Chapter, Black Pilot’s Association
Airport Fire Department
Airport Control Tower Staff
Greater St. Louis Air and Space MuseumFor more information on this great group, or to join them for future events, visit their website at: Gateway Eagles.

Here are some scenes from the great day of flying:

Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour Makes Stop In St. Louis: Part 2, Veteran Flight, Departures

By Leo Cachat of The Aero Experience

The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom tour made a stop at the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum, located at historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL July 25 – July 27, 2014.  The Aero Experience was there to bring you the sights of the weekend, especially our visits with some of the Veterans who flew in one of the three historic aircraft parked on the ramp just outside the museum.  I attended Friday’s arrival and witnessed Saturday’s B-24 veteran flight, while fellow contributor Mark Nankivil covered Sunday and Monday’s departure of the aircraft for nearly Creve Couer Airport (see photo essay below).

I arrived Saturday morning just before 9 a.m., and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect as a group of Veterans were getting ready to go for their flight in the B-24.  I was allowed to go out as they received their briefing before boarding this beast - quite a tricky process. Once everyone was aboard, the ramp was cleared and the bomber took off.  They flew around the St. Louis area in one of only two B-24s still flying in the world (B-24A “Diamond Lil” was in Dupage, IL that  weekend prior to arriving in Oshkosh).  After the B-24 returned, I talked with some of those who flew. Each person said it was great, but one gentleman said his hat blew out!   I don’t know if that counts as a bombing mission or not, so we’ll have to keep an eye on the side of the plane and see. I spoke with Kelsey Hickman, a crewman on a B-24 during WWII. His jacket leaves no doubt that he is well traveled, and his spirit beamed as he spoke with a crewman of the bomber as they sat beneath the plane.  He spoke of being shot down 4 times, crash landing 2 times and being a P.O.W. in Russia during WWII.  What can you say to a man like that other than thank you - which is exactly what I said.  I also spoke with Doyle Treese who was a tail gunner in a B-24 during WWII.   It was an awesome experience to listen to the stories of these men who changed the world almost 70 years ago!  Rodney Fant was also on board this special flight around St. Louis.  He was a navigator in a C-130 in the Vietnam War. I don’t know if these gentlemen knew each other before they came to the museum for their flight, but they were leaving together sharing stories.  This is the beauty of what aviation, and more specifically the restoration of historic aircraft, can do.I then roamed the ramp and photographed the crowd that came out on what has turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year.  It was very nice to see a good-sized crowd and, more importantly, a lot of kids looking at these three pieces of history sitting in front of them.  I watched as some of the children marveled at the general aviation aircraft taxiing by them on the way to the nearby runway for takeoff.  It was a very pleasing sight to see their excitement, and I hope the experience makes an impact on them the way it did to me when I was a young child.

Thank you to the men and women of the Collings Foundation for bringing these beautiful historic aircraft to St. Louis and for the opportunity to visit with you and the Veterans that flew in your aircraft.  You keep history alive in a culture that more and more does not teach our children about the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation to save the world from tyranny.  We look forward to welcoming you back in future years!

Thanks to Mark Nankivil for these photos from Sunday and Monday’s departure: