mcdonnell aircraft

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:

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.

Aerospace Community Mourns the Passing of McDonnell Douglas Engineer Les Eash

Lester E. Eash

Eash, Lester E. age 95, on Wednesday, April 16, 2014; preceded in death by his beloved wife of 57 years Daisy A. Eash, loving father of Susan (Roger) Stewart, Sally (Kent) McMillen, John (Marie) Eash, grandfather of 7, great-grandfather of 11, uncle, great-uncle, cousin and friend to all he met. Born in 1919 in Jet, OK, Les moved to Goshen, IN at age 4. It was during that time working on his father’s farm that he saw the Akron dirigible and became fascinated with aviation. After high school, he moved to Wichita, KS to live with his brother and attend Friends University. While in school, he worked for Stearman Aircraft (now Boeing) and Coleman Stove as a draftsman. After leaving school, he worked for several companies and eventually moved to St. Louis to work for Curtiss-Wright when he met Daisy. After marriage and closure of Curtiss-Wright, he and Daisy spent a short time in Toledo, OH working for WillysOverland and then returned to St. Louis for a job opportunity at McDonnell Aircraft Co. in 1945. Les worked on various aircraft programs at McDonnell Aircraft including the Banshee, Voodoo, and Phantom. One of his most memorable assignments was the designer and operator of the trapeze mechanism for the XF-85 Goblin parasite strike fighter that was designed to be carried in the bomb bay of a B-29 bomber. His last assignment at then McDonnell Douglas was Project Engineer for the DC-10 wing subsystems. This assignment led to a transfer to the Douglas Co. location in Long Beach, CA in 1976. After retirement from McDonnell Douglas in 1978, he went to work for Parker Hannifan as a Program Manager and then fully retired in 1980. While in California, he received a patent for the Champopper, a device used to open and retain the cork from a champaign bottle. He and Daisy returned to St. Louis in 1987 to enjoy time with family and friends. Les enjoyed singing in his church choirs and barbershop choruses, bowling, golf, Dixieland jazz music, returning to Indiana for High School Reunions, leading volunteer groups and spending time with family and friends. Let his faith, friendship and rolling with the punches philosophy be an inspiration for us all. Services: Please join the family in celebrating Lester’s life by attending a memorial service at St. John’s United Church of Christ in St. Charles, MO on Friday, 9 May at 7:00 p.m. Lester donated his remains to the Washington University School of Medicine. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Johns United Church of Christ Music Program in his memory.
Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Apr. 22, 2014

Mr. Eash participated in programs recognizing his work on the McDonnell Aircraft XF-85 Goblin parasite fighter test program sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum and the Missouri Aviation Historical Society.  We encourage you to re-visit these stories featuring Mr. Eash:

Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

The Aero Experience

Rare Artifact Links St. Louis Aircraft Producers of World War II Era

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum has acquired an artifact from the World War II era  that links several St. Louis area aircraft manufacturers.  The item is a Left Hand Gun Box No.2 .50 caliber ammunition container from a Curtiss Wright A-25A Shrike, a two-seat dive bomber ordered by the USAAC in 1940 under the U.S. Navy contract for the SB2C Helldiver.  Deliveries began in 1942.  The next year, the order for 3,100 aircraft was canceled due to its perceived vulnerability in combat after 900 had been produced.  While some of the aircraft were transferred to the USMC as sister ships to the SB2C Helldiver, many of those remaining were used for non-combat roles such as target towing.  The A-25A Shrike was produced at the Curtiss-Wright plant in St. Louis at Lambert Field, while the ammunition container recently acquired was made at the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation plant, also located at Lambert Field.  The container is in very good condition, possibly due to non-combat use during much of the life of the aircraft for which it was fitted.  The artifact is now on display at the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum’s Historic Gallery with other items representing the Curtiss-Wright St. Louis facility.

The ties between Curtiss-Wright,  McDonnell Aircraft and the museum do not end there.  The Museum is located at St. Louis Downtown Airport, formerly known as Curtiss-Steinberg Airport owing to the involvement of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in its development.  The museum also maintains a gallery dedicated to military aircraft and spacecraft manufactured by McDonnell Aircraft, who subsequently acquired the Curtiss-Wright assembly plant at Lambert Field after World War II.



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 “Operation Sun-Run” McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo Print Collection

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum received a collection of limited edition prints depicting the McDonnell Aircraft RF-101C Voodoo flown by then U.S. Air Force Captain Ray Schrecengost on “Operation Sun-Run,” a successful bid to establish three transcontinental speed records.  The prints were presented Tuesday to the museum by Mr. Ed and Cynthia (Schrecengost) Miller and were immediately placed on display in the Jet and Space Age Gallery.  Captain (later Colonel) Schrecengost was the first crew to take off at 6:59am November 27, 1957 on his run from Los Angeles to New York and back to Los Angeles.  Altogether, six crewmen, four primary and two backup, were chosen from the 17th and 18th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.  They broke three transcontinental speed records, using 26 aerial refueling hookups from the new Boeing KC-135 tankers to avoid landing for fuel along the way.  The prints can be viewed this weekend at the museum just in time for the 55th anniversary of the F-4 Phantom II first flight on May 27, 1958, six months after the “Operation Sun-Run” flights.  

Mr. Ed Miller Presents “Schreck’s CIN MIN on the Sun-Run” by William S. Phillips


“Schreck’s CIN MIN on the Sun-Run” is Number 13 of 15 proofs and signed by the artist


Letters from James S. McDonnell and National Aeronautic Association verify the records
“Operation Sun-Run” display in the Museum’s Jet and Space Gallery


Museum President Mark Nankivil holds “Parade Rest”
“At the Factory Before the Sun-Run Delivery”

Museum to Unveil Restored McDonnell Aircraft Factory Cart Used During President Kennedy Visit

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum will unveil on Monday the restored McDonnell Aircraft factory cart used by company Board Chairman and CEO James S. McDonnell to drive President John F. Kennedy around during his visit in 1962.  The cart will be dedicated May 6 at a ceremony held at the Museum, located at historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport.  It has been a part of the Museum collection for over 20 years, and has been on display there and at the St. Louis Science Center.  The cart was caught in the floods of 1993 when the Museum was located at Spirit of St. Louis Airport, and was later cleaned and again displayed.  The 2013 comprehensive restoration, funded by the Boeing Employees Community Fund, was completed by North Town Auto Body in Collinsville, IL along with:  tires, tubes and battery from Master Auto Care; battery cables from O’Reilly Auto Parts; keys from Village Locksmith in Collinsville, IL.   The Museum thanks everyone involved in the restoration process, including Museum members Trent Duff, Doug Bent, and Rick Rehg for leading this project.    

For news coverage of the cart, please visit and

Rose Church, Flight Nurse to the Astronauts, Receives Life Membership at Museum

Ms Rose Church, “Flight Nurse to the Astronauts” at McDonnell Aircraft during the Mercury and Gemini space programs, received Life Membership in the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum today.  Members of the museum Board of Directors hosted Ms Church at a luncheon and visited the Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) Prologue Room Museum near Lambert St. Louis International Airport.  Life Membership was bestowed in recognition of her generosity to the museum, including the donation of an extensive space program artifact exhibit.  The Museum is very grateful to Rose Church and the other Life Members who have contributed greatly to the success of the museum.

Ms Rose Church receives Life Membership (also pictured, friend Frederick Wear)

Group of Retired McDonnell Aircraft Employees Visits Museum

A group of about 60 retired McDonnell Aircraft/McDonnell Douglas employees visited the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Musuem last week following their monthly luncheon.  Many worked on the Mercury and Gemini space programs, while others worked on missiles and military aircraft made at McDonnell Aircraft and later McDonnell Douglas throughout the Cold War era.  The museum has a significant collection of Mercury and Gemini program artifacts, and also features McDonnell fighter aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom II in its exhibits.  The museum congratulated the group of accomplished aerospace workers, and presented a personal greeting sent by astronaut John Glenn, third Mercury astronaut and first American to orbit the earth.  In the future, the museum will interview several in attendance that day for its oral history program.  Among the guests were Norman Beckel, group organizer; Rose Church, McDonnell flight nurse to the astronauts; Joe Dobronski, McDonnell test pilot.

McDonnell Aircraft retirees visit the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum















Group organizer Norman Beckel reads the greeting from astronaut John Glenn




















Norman Beckel and Rose Church react to the John Glenn letter