Local Aviation Legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler Honored on 102nd Birthday

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport, hosted a birthday celebration Sunday for local aviation legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler who recently turned 102 years old.  Family and friends gathered to commemorate his life and an aviation career that spanned nearly 70 years.  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.
Museum staff welcomed Wheeler, his son Jim and Daughter Mary Kay Sunday morning, and they quickly became the center of attention.  They were delighted to find that a flight around the St. Louis area was being prepared for them.  Mark and Elaine Harter flew in their 1937 Waco YKS-7 cabin biplane especially for the occasion, and in no time all three were ready for takeoff.  Harter, who earned his tail-wheel endorsement from none other than “Chub” Wheeler himself in the 1980s, flew his special passengers along the riverfront and received permission for a few fly-bys near the museum.  Following the flight, all guests were treated to barbeque lunch, birthday cake, and a presentation of a special birthday gift to Wheeler.

For additional coverage of the event and a biography of “Chub” Wheeler, click here.


Museum Receives Grant from Ameren Illinois for Installation of New Archive System

Ameren Illinois presented the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located at historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport, with a $15,000 check to fund a the installation of a new archive computer system.  Richard Mark, President and CEO of Ameren Illinois, visited the museum today to deliver the award to museum representatives at a ceremony held in the flight simulator bay of the nationally-registered historic hangar.  Following the grant presentation, Mr. Mark was given a ride in the McDonnell Aircraft factory cart once used by company founder James S. McDonnell to drive President John F. Kennedy on his factory tour in 1962.

“The database will be  a cataloging of the museum’s entire collection and library,” said Mark Badasch, the museum’s Director.  ”This will lead to better preservation of artifacts, greater availability to the public as well as, eventually, online browsing of the collection.”  The management of the records associated with thousands of artifacts and many more historic documents and media items is a daunting task.  “Having the information on each item at your fingertips is essential for managing the collection and fulfilling our public education mission,” added Carmelo Turdo, museum 2nd Vice President.  “Implementing this system will be challenging,” Turdo continued, “but I am looking forward to learning a lot more about the collection as we proceed through the installation process.”

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum wishes to thank Ameren Illinois for providing the grant needed for this important project.  Members of the community are invited to visit and lend their talents to continuing the mission of the museum:

Serve the public through preservation and display of historic air and space artifacts and by providing educational programs to foster the spirit of flight in today’s youth and in future generations.

McDonnell Aircraft XF-85 Goblin Wind Tunnel Model Dedicated at Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum dedicated a one-sixth scale restored wind tunnel model of the McDonnell Aircraft XF-85 Goblin parasite fighter during a mid-day ceremony held at historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport.  The museum hosted a group of retired McDonnell Aircraft employees and guests in the hangar following a luncheon held at the airport’s nearby Spinners restaurant.  Prior to the arrival of the invited guests, museum members set up several displays featuring wind tunnel model parts from various known and unknown aircraft projects in addition to the Goblin model, which was kept under wraps until later in the program.  Here we present an illustrated recap of today’s event:

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum is the custodian of artifacts and memorabilia relating to aerospace activity in the St. Louis, Missouri and Metro East Illinois area.  The museum is located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport.  The museum offers three main galleries of aerospace memorabilia, along with special exhibits including a Lockheed Jetstar corporate jet once owned by Howard Hughes, F-4 Phantom II fighter jet restored cockpit and F-4 cockpit simulator, two working Link Trainers, other aircraft, engines and components.  New members and volunteers are welcome to participate in museum operations and activities.    
Howard Hughes Lockheed Jetstar outside of Museum
Goblin Model (foreground) with Link Trainers 
The museum provided several displays of wind tunnel model parts that will also be assembled and restored in the future.

McDonnell Model 44 wind tunnel model parts
Other wind tunnel parts, likely from McDonnell Demon fighter
The McDonnell Goblin wind tunnel model was unveiled to the invited guests by Museum members Past Curator Jack Abercrombie and Director Mark Badasch.  The model was donated by Rainy and Carol Bell, and restored by Greg Downen of Downen Signs.  Museum President Mark Nankivil presented a framed photo of the Goblin to Greg Downen in appreciation for his work on the model. 

Jack Abercrombie (left) and Mark Badasch unveil the Goblin model
Jack Abercrombie dedicates the Goblin model
Museum President Mark Nankivil (left) and Greg Downen
Museum Past Curator Jack Abercrombie gave a presentation on the development and testing of the McDonnell Goblin parasite fighter prototype.  The 15-foot long aircraft was launched from an EB-29 bomber during test flights in 1948-49 using a trapeze mechanism attached to the bomb bay.  The trapeze operator, McDonnell Aircraft engineer Les Eash, was present at today’s dedication ceremony.  

Jack Abercrombie with the refurbished Goblin model
Jack Abercrombie gives a presentation on the Goblin program
Invited Guests included McDonnell Aircraft retirees
Jack Abercrombie and Les Eash relate Goblin stories
Following the program, guests toured the museum and Irve Burrows, McDonnell Douglas test pilot who flew the F-15 Eagle’s first flight, took the Link D4 trainer for a spin.  

Museum member Bob Dighton and Jack Abercrombie visit with guests
Test Pilot Irve Burrows flies the Link D4 Trainer

Museum Receives Stinson Reliant for Future Restoration and Display

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum has completed the acquisition of a 1943 Stinson V-77 Reliant (s/n 77-144) that will become a major restoration project in the coming months.  Museum members traveled to Calvin C. McDaniel Field (Pinckneyville-du Quoin Airport) today to retrieve the fuselage with the help of Ken Hartlage of Hartlage Truck Service (the wings, empennage and engine were delivered previously).  The aircraft was donated to the museum by the family of the Late John Johnson, and it will be restored in memory of him and in dedication by his loving family.  The museum will provide periodic updates on the restoration process as it develops.

Young Eagles Take Flight At Museum

A group of Young Eagles took flight with the help of EAA Chapter 64 pilots Bob McDaniel and Trent Duff.  The flights took place from the ramp near the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport (CPS), on Sunday.  EAA Chapter 64 and the museum regularly fly small groups of Young Eagles and fly very large groups during the airport’s Youth Gateway to Aviation Day each Fall.  Thanks to Bob, Trent and Museum President Mark Nankivil for making this a special day for our newest Young Eagles.


Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Shares the Dream of Flight With Young Eagles, Scouts


The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum hosted two group tours today, with approximately 35 Young Eagles earning their logbooks, and a group of Boy Scouts touring the museum.  The two groups were treated to appearances by the MO CAF B-25, “Show Me,” and a T-6 Texan based at St. Louis Downtown Airport where the museum is located.  Many of the Young Eagles were treated to a ride in the factory cart once used by James S. McDonnell, Chairman of McDonnell Aircraft, during President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the plant in 1962.  All young visitors received a poster depicting characters from the new Disney movie, ”Planes.”  The museum welcomes group visits, and arrangements should be made in advance by contacting the museum.  Here are some scenes from today’s activities:



New Book Traces “The Lindbergh Line” Coast-to-Coast Air Travel Route

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum would like to promote a new book that traces the route of “The Lindbergh Line,” the primary cross-country flight path used by Transcontinental Air Transport, later TWA, a staple of Midwest Aviation for many decades. We will let the author, Mr. Robert Kirk, describe the book in his own words, and we encourage our audience to get a copy or two at  authorhouse.com and Amazon.com.


Last July my wife and I flew our small airplane across the U.S. to retrace the old Lindbergh Line. This series of 12 airports/stations, approximately half of which were built by the Transcontinental Airline Company, or TAT, was named the Lindbergh Line. It was named after Charles Lindbergh who was hired by TAT to be the head of their technical department and select the locations and oversee the building of the airports. This story is about the first coast-to-coast airline passenger service in the U.S. Its goal was to cross the country in 48 hours. In 1929 the trains took four days and four nights to take passengers across the country.

I researched the history of TAT and its airports and along with it, utilized information gained at the visited locations, libraries and museums to write the book about TAT. The book is titled Flying the Lindbergh Line: Then and Now. It includes over 225 photos that show what the airports were like in 1929-30 and what they are like today.

About the Book:

Relive the vision of TAT’s “Lindbergh Line” that began the first scheduled coast-to-coast airline passenger service in 1929. Fly with the author as he retraces in words and photos this historic route across America. Flying in the early 20th Century was dangerous business. Aircraft were made of sticks and cloth and their engines failed at an alarming rate. Those who flew experienced a high incidence of accidents. Almost every pilot had stories of seized engines, landing or takeoff mishaps, becoming lost, bad fuel, dangerous weather and lost friends.

However, some saw this stumbling attempt to master the skies as an opportunity to bring the human race forward. They had a vision of stylish travel across the ground and into the heavens with comfort, speed and profit. Such was the vision of Transcontinental Air Transport’s Lindbergh Line that began the first scheduled coast-to-coast airline passenger service in 1929. It teamed with aviation visionaries Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart to build a new industry. That industry’s successful struggle evolved into our modern airline passenger service, one that carries us across the continent and across the world.


“Art” Davies, One of the Museum’s Founding Members, Passes Away

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, and the aviation community, thanks you for a lifetime of dedicated service to family, country and aviation.

Charles Arthur Davies (April 11, 1925 – July 5, 2013)        

Charles Arthur Davies (April 11, 1925 – July 5, 2013)                               

Charles Arthur “Art” Davies, Jr., age 88, of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, departed this life on Friday, July 5, 2013, at Lake Regional Health Center in Osage Beach, Missouri.Charles was born April 11, 1925 in Slater, Missouri, the son of Charles Arthur, Sr. and Magelalen McAteer Davies.Art served his country proudly during World War II in the United States Army from August 2 1943, until his honorable discharge, December 7, 1945. He had also served in the US Coast Guard. Art was a graduate of Christ the King High School located in University City, Missouri, and a graduate of Washington University School of Architectural Engineering. He retired from McDonnell-Douglas-Boeing after 38 years of employment.

Art attended St. Monica Catholic Church in Creve Coeur, Missouri. He was one of the original founders of the Spirit of St. Louis Aviation Museum in Chesterfield, Missouri, now located in Cahokia, Illinois.

Art is survived by his wife Mary Alice, of Sunrise Beach, Missouri; his sister Patricia Newcomb; and his brother, William Davies.  Art was preceded in death by his parents; and his first wife Margaret Dietz Davies. 

EAA’s B-17 “Aluminum Overcast” Makes Visit to St. Louis Downtown Airport and Museum

The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress ”Aluminum Overcast” made its St. Louis area stop today at St. Louis Downtown Airport as part of a summer tour prior to returning for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh later in July.  The World War II era heavy bomber parked in front of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located in historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2.  The visit, sponsored by EAA Chapter 64, will continue until July 4 when it performs in the Fair St. Louis Airshow and then flies to Spirit of St. Louis Airport where it will remain until Sunday. The B-17 as it arrived around 12:30pm and as the crew prepared to make two flights along the Mississippi riverfront with local media representatives and several B-17 crew veterans  aboard.

Museum Board Member Carmelo Turdo flew on the first B-17 flight from St. Louis Downtown Airport, which took off around 1:45pm.  Securely harnessed in the canvass seat across from the right rear exit, Turdo experienced a fairly sanitized version of what flying in a B-17 was like about 70 years ago.  “Flying in the tail section of a large tail-wheeled aircraft is a unique experience, in that you can feel the affects of the rudder inputs during the takeoff run and feel the tail wheel settle on the runway on landing,” he said after the flight.  “After takeoff, we had a few minutes to walk around the various crew stations and let our minds wander and imagine ourselves in these aircraft during combat conditions.  I am amazed at how men half my age managed to go to battle in these aircraft – they have my highest respect and admiration.”    

The Arrival:


The Flight: 


St. Louis Area Is Ready for Week of Aerial Activity to Celebrate Nation’s Birthday

The St. Louis area will be a center of aerial activity as our nation celebrates its birthday in grand fashion this week.  Fair St. Louis activities in downtown St. Louis will run from July 4-6, and include the 136th annual Veiled Prophet Parade, concerts under the Gateway Arch, and of course the incredible air show over the Mississippi River.  The Fair St. Louis US Bank Air Show lineup has just become even more impressive with the announcement that three-time U.S. National Aerobatic Champion and National Aviation Hall of Fame Member Patty Wagstaffwill be performing in her home town again.  Other air show performers include:

Aeroshell Aerobatic Team
Red Bull Helicopter aerobatics flown by Chuck Aaron
Tuskegee Airmen P-51C Mustang and Rise Above Exhibit
F-4U-5 Corsair flown by Dave Folk
Jet-Powered Super Salto Sailplane flown by Bob Carlton 
Air National Guard MX-2 flown by John Klatt
RV-8 flown by former A-10 pilot Joe “Rifle” Shetterly
Lucas Oil Pitts S1-11B flown by Mike Wiskus
Beech 18 aerobatics flown by Matt Younkin
Liberty Jump Team

Along with the airshow activities St. Louis Downtown Airport will host aviation activities July 1-6, including:

Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museumwill be open all week, 10am-4pm

EAA Chapter 64 hosts the B-17, “Aluminum Overcast,” available for flights at the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum July 1-3

 Fly in a 1941 Waco biplane from St. Louis Biplane Rides at Ideal Aviation (reserve your flight now)