Blog

David Franson
February 3, 2016

Aero Club Gala Highlights

If you missed the 2016 annual Aero Club Gala, check out some highlights from our Gala video.

It’s easy to be dazzled by hardware and technology. But the seventh annual Wichita Aero Club gala reminded me that people make aviation fly. Judging by all the standing ovations throughout the night, I was not alone.

The evening honors diamonds. People who are not just brilliant – but resilient. Who cut through obstacles. And make a mark. Past honorees include the late Velma Wallace, Jeff Turner and Spirit AeroSystems, John O’Leary and Airbus Americas Engineering, Russ Meyer and Al Higdon.

As the head of the trophy selection committee, I have the privilege of bringing together a group of highly regarded industry colleagues to bestow this honor upon a person or organization with strong Wichita ties and exemplary achievements in aviation. Here in the Air Capital, you can only imagine the number of nominees worthy of this distinction. The gala serves as an opportunity to pay respect to those who’ve made an impact on both our community and aviation.

This year, the club saluted the Doc’s Friends Restoration Team. Since 2000, this group of volunteers donated upwards of 350,000 hours to restore Doc, a WWII-era Boeing B-29 Superfortress once part of a squadron called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When it flies this spring, it will be one of only two airworthy B-29s. The U.S. Air Force’s Fifi is the other.

Humble Yet Herculean

This band of volunteers – including many retired workers from area aircraft manufacturers – started with a big challenge. The plane came to them disassembled, little more than a bunch of parts and pieces. Doc was discovered in 1987 by Tony Mazzolini in the Mojave Desert, part of a bombing target range. After years of negotiations and red tape, Doc was rescued from its ignominious (and scorching hot) home. In 2000, Doc shipped to the Wichita plant that

originally built it. And people responded. None more than 91-year-old Connie Palacioz, who stands several inches shy of five feet tall. She’s been a Doc volunteer for 16 years.

Seventy years ago Palacioz riveted this particular B-29. The nose, the only undamaged section after Doc’s years of being used as target practice, still contains Palacioz’s original rivets. She put them in when she was 17 years old. Her brother, uncle and fiancé had enlisted, she said, and “I wanted to do my part.” She did. And does. Like the hundreds of other Doc volunteers, Palacioz reminds us that we are part of something bigger. That sacrifice and dedication lead to great things.

History With a Mission

You can learn about Doc’s progress, upcoming flight and future educational efforts at www.b-29doc.com and about the Wichita Aero Club’s industry-elevating activities at www.wichitaaeroclub.org.

 

 

 

 

Photo credits: Doc image: Brett Schauf, Visual Media Group; gala images: Jeff Hetler, Visual Media Group.

This column ran in the January 28 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.
By Ashley Bowen Cook. Originally posted on the Gateman Group’s blog.

David Franson
December 21, 2015

Doc’s Friends Restoration Team Awarded Wichita Aero Club Trophy

Doc’s Friends Restoration Team, the group leading the return of the B-29 known as ‘Doc’,  to flyable status, received the annual Wichita Aero Club Trophy on Saturday, January 23, 2016.

“This award recognizes our team of restoration volunteers, and it signifies and celebrates their great dedication to getting our historic B-29 back into the air,” said Tony Mazzolini, Doc’s Champion and the person who first identified the last restorable B-29 in 1987. “Receiving the Wichita Aero Club Trophy is testament to the long hours and tireless work these volunteers have put in since the plane was rescued from a bombing range in the Mojave Desert three decades ago.”

Fifty-eight of the Doc volunteers were in attendance and were recognized aduring the annual Wichita Aero Club Gala in January, where the trophy was presented. Mr. Mazzolini, Doc Restoration Program Manager Jim Murphy, and Connie Palacio, an authentic “Rosie the Riveter” who worked on the airplane when it was originally built in Wichita in the 1940′s spoke.

“From the beginning, this team has been focused on one thing: getting this historic warbird back into the air,” said Jim Murphy, Restoration Program Manager for Doc’s Friends. “This plane means so much to so many people. Many of our volunteers either helped build our B-29 when it came off the assembly line at Boeing Wichita in 1945 or served our nation in a B-29 during conflict. Some have even carried out their volunteer work to honor a loved one who either served our nation in a B-29 or was member of Wichita aviation work force during the 1940s and 50s.”

The restoration team recently successfully started and ran all four engines as they prepare for an Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA, which could be received in the next few weeks. Following certification, the crew will embark on ground and taxi testing before eventually entering into the test flight status. Murphy and the Doc’s Friends restoration team are hopeful they can reach the first flight milestone before the end of the year.

In order to reach the first flight milestone, Doc’s Friends held a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to cover the costs of engine, taxi, and flight-testing.

“It’s all about getting the plane back into the air,” Turner said. “Every dollar matters, and it all goes into the cost of restoring the plane. Every single pledge will make a difference, whether it’s $10, $25, or $1,000—and we’re running out of time.”

The Kickstarter campaign ran through the end of October. More information about the Kickstarter campaign can be found here.

On the web: www.b-29doc.com
On Twitter: @DocsFriends

About Doc’s Friends

Doc’s Friends is a 501c3 non-profit board managing the restoration of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress known as Doc. The group was formed in 2013 and is led by retired Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner along with other Wichita business leaders; Charlie Chandler, Jack Pelton, Steve Clark, Lynn Nichols, Brad Gorsuch, Vic McMullen, Ron Ryan, Tim Buchanan, Jeff Peier, Esq., and Tom Bertels. Doc’s Friends is committed to returning this World War II warbird to the air to honor previous generations, educate current and future generations and connect the world to the rich heritage of aviation. You can find more information about Doc’s Friends at www.b-29doc.com.

David Franson
September 22, 2015

Clipping Shirttails, $100 Hamburgers, and Other Costs Of Flying

 ”The ideas and alternatives we consider need to conform to the legal and safety standards of the industry and they have to make sense from an economic point of view–otherwise they literally won’t fly.  But we can’t ignore the needs and requirements of the entry level prospects in general aviation or we’ll simply price ourselves out of existence.”     –An  EAA AirVenture attendee after looking at a remanufactured Ascend 172 in the AOPA exhibit

Learning to fly never seemed like a minor expense, even back in the mid-1970s when I learned to fly at one of the nation’s hundreds of Cessna Pilot Centers and a new Skyhawk II was available for less than $30,000, complete with an ARC Nav Pac. It still meant forking over $25 an hour for the airplane and $15 for the instructor and there were fees for the CPC kit, ground school, the Third Class medical, the radio operators license, the fuel–especially on the cross country flights, and the check ride.  And don’t forget the $20 “wardrobe fee” after you got the shirttail cut off when you soloed on a day you didn’t expect to and wore your favorite Oxford.  The more hours it took to master the “magic” of getting an airplane safely into the air and back down again, preferably at your intended destination, the more the investment.  It could end up costing thousands of dollars.  That was back then.  Nowadays, that’s what it costs just to solo–not including the shirt!

The $30,000, which was the retail price for the airplane in 1975, is now closer to the purchase price for the flight training.  Add about $400,000 to that tab if you want a new Skyhawk.  Oh, you’ll get a radio package that’s a little more sophisticated than the ARC Nav Pac, a Garmin 1000 glass panel, in fact, but you’ll still get four seats, the same basic payload, and roughly the same climb, cruise, speed, and range performance and the instructor will cost about four or five times as much, but the actual experience and requirements aren’t going to be that much different–are they?  Well, maybe due to video games, the availability of extraordinarily realistic simulation and computerized graphics, and the fact that kids have become familiar with joysticks and touch screens from the time they’re able to count or speak in sentences, it may not be quite as exhilarating to actually control an airplane, but traveling from place to place in half the time it takes to drive should still offer some attraction.

But, the real question isn’t whether flying or learning to fly is enough to attract potential pilots, it’s whether the cost to acquire an airplane or flight training is so high that it will eventually–and perhaps rapidly–result in the end of pilot education as we’ve known it.  The private pilot will become a part of history.  General Aviation flying will be virtually non-existent, or about as common as that of classic warbirds and collectible aircraft–making appearances at rare, weekend fly-ins where the curious can come out, pay a fee to see the privately-owned, owner-flown airplanes of the past when real human beings actually got behind the controls and controlled the aircraft themselves–and could afford to do so.

Today’s airframe manufacturers really seem to think that several hundred thousand dollars is not too much to charge for a four-place airplane that will fly less than 1000 miles on a tank of gas at less than 200 miles per hour.  The concept of taking the family on a day trip for the proverbial “$100 hamburger” is fast being relegated to the annals of history, too.  The $100 hamburger is more like a $800 Quinoa and Tofu burger.

The alternative is to offer ways to acquire and update existing airplanes–there are still tens of thousands of flyable Cessnas, Pipers, Beechcraft, Cirrus, Mooneys, Meyers, Bellancas and others out there–that can be revitalized and utilized, even in the Next Generation air traffic control system, if the industry doesn’t shoot itself in the foot trying to regulate and price itself out of existence.  There are some great companies out there that have the legacy airplane owners in mind.  Yingling Aviation is one:  they’ve announced a “remanufactured 172″ that is an exceptional value and brings 30 year old airframes up to nearly new specs and performance, complete with glass cockpits if desired, at about a third the cost of a new airplane.  TKM in Phoenix offers “plug and play” replacement avionics for legacy models and they’ll work with and allow older airplanes to operate in the Next Gen environment.  There are companies actively working on alternative fuels and engine technology to keep those airplanes flying if and when 100LL becomes 100 % unavailable, too.  It’s really time to give these guys some attention and some support so they can give the dwindling, existing pilot population some encouragement and the prospective pilot population some hope that they’ll be able to afford to get a pilot’s license–one that won’t cost them the shirt off their back!

David Franson
August 10, 2015

Watch Video Here! WAC Members at AirVenture 2015.

Wichita has been claiming the title of the “Air Capital of the World” for nearly 90 years–since it first started appearing on products manufactured in the city during the late 1920s–but it’s compelled to share the spotlight with Oshkosh, Wisconsin each summer during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual AirVenture. The week-long gathering of aviation’s most ardent devotees attracts more than half a million people to Wittman Regional Airport and seemingly every available campsite, bed & breakfast, hotel room and rental property in a 100-mile radius for seven straight days focused on defying gravity. And let’s not forget the 10,000 airplanes that blanket Wittman’s “North 40″ and all those who camp beneath their wings, too. It’s a festival of flying, an annual mechanized aviary migration that must be experienced to be believed. What’s great about it is that it’s as intimate as it is enormous. It’s like a massive planetary family reunion. No one’s really a stranger at Oshkosh…with the possible exception of the rare bird who happens to show up, however briefly, in a suit and tie. He will be quickly disabused of the notion that anything more formal than khaki shorts and T-shirts are appropriate and, language barriers aside, he’ll be on a first-name basis with virtually everyone he sees in the time it takes him to consume a “Brat and Brew.”

Oshkosh is a great place to conduct business–and have a great time doing it, so it’s no wonder most of Wichita’s aviation companies find an excuse to be there, either as exhibitors or attendees. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to attend or didn’t get to go this year, Wichita Aero Club Board Member Visual Media Group took some time out of their very busy schedule at AirVenture 2015 to vista a few of the other Kansas companies who were also in attendance. They’re also members of the Wichita Aero Club, and we’re extremely proud of our member companies’ presence at the world’s largest aviation gathering. We hope you enjoy this brief look at AirVenture 2015 and will make plans to join us at next year’s show!

Wichita Aero Club Oshkosh 2015 from Dave Franson on Vimeo.

David Franson
July 15, 2015

Order Copies of Jack DeBoer’s Risk Only Money

 

When Wichita businessman Jack DeBoer spoke at the Wichita Aero Club’s July 13 event at Wichita Air Services, he detailed his use of airplanes in the conduct of his highly successful business ventures, citing a number of examples from his book,  Risk Only Money.  The Aero Club offered copies of the volume for sale after the presentation and promptly sold out!  If you’d like to order a copy for only $20–well below the retail price in bookstores–you can do so by calling the Aero Club office at 681-4471.  We’ll be acquiring a limited additional quantity in the near future.  As with the purchases at the July 13 event–and for every book sold–all proceeds will go to support World Vision.

The reception, which was attended by 100 people despite the 100 degree heat,  also honored WAC Stimpson  Scholarship winner Karen Morrison of Kansas State University-Salina.  Ms. Morrison also flew in the recently-concluded Women’s Air Race Classic. Three members of the KSU-Salina faculty were also in attendance and Textron Aviation also displayed its newly-certified Citation Latitude.   It was the first time the latest addition to the Citation fleet had been shown publicly in Wichiita.

 

David Franson
April 16, 2015

WICHITA’S AIRPORT: What’s in the Name?

Dwight D. Eisenhower made more extensive use of airplanes than virtually any of his predecessors, so naming an airport in his home state after him isn’t really all that unusual. The former general and 34th President was from Abilene, Kansas, and he even learned to fly himself. His granddaughter, Mary Jean, points out that, as President, he held a pilot’s license…but not a driver’s license! Still, that’s probably not a good enough reason, by itself, to re-name the Wichita airport in his honor. Critics tend to point out that he was an Army general, not an Air Force officer and his connection to the Air Capital was therefore, a bit tenuous.  They even suggested that there might be some other prominent Wichitans who might warrant more consideration as long as we were considering re-identifying the airport in the state’s largest city.  They would note that he didn’t even fly to Wichita when he returned to his childhood home. He would land in Kansas City and drive out to Abilene.

It’s true he didn’t frequent Wichita even as an adult.  There is, however, evidence that he made a couple of campaign stops here and there are still a few people in town who remember seeing him drop into town both as a military officer and as a presidential candidate.  On one occasion, for instance, he visited Boeing at the old Municipal Airport (now McConnell Air Force Base) in 1951 to see a demonstration of the Boeing Scout , a post war trainer. where he posed with a pair of native American shop foremen, Gordon Bushyhead and Francis Stumblingbear, for a publicity photo. Ike, who had been reactivated during the Korean Conflict, wore his general’s uniform. The two Boeing workers donned buckskins and headdresses from a local costume shop. The picture made it into the newspapers.  The Scout, on the other hand, never made it into mass production. Ike didn’t make many more visits to the Boeing plant, either.

When President Eisenhower was elected to the White House he made a number of trips west to visit family. In fact, in what would be unheard of today, he spent six weeks at the home of a family member during the Summer of 1953. It happened to be his wife’s mother, in suburban Denver, Colorado–not Abilene, Kansas–so the closest he came to Wichita on that occasion was to fly over on the way to and from Washington.

But, Ike did learn to fly and, as his great grandson, Merrill Eisenhower Atwater told me during the celebration of the new airline terminal at the airport that now bears his name, he made numerous trips through Wichita to Abilene and logged hours in the Kansas skies as a pilot in command, as well. His logbooks, in fact, are on file at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

Being elected the President of the United State gave Ike a leg up on other Kansans in the competition for the title of our state’s most prominent citizen, but probably ranks him at least second when it comes to consideration for Kansas’s most famous aviator. That probably goes to Amelia Earhart. Chances are, if she had returned from her ill-fated 1937 circumnavigation of the globe, the sentiment for naming the airport in the Air Capital might well have tilted in her direction instead…assuming Atchison hadn’t already claimed it!

David Franson
April 16, 2015

WICHITA’S AIRPORT: WHAT’S IN THE NAME?

Dwight D. Eisenhower made more extensive use of airplanes than virtually any of his predecessors, so naming an airport in his home state after him isn’t really all that unusual.  The former general and 34th President was from Abilene, Kansas, and he eve

n learned to fly himself.  His granddaughter, Mary Jean, points out that, as President, he held a pilot’s license…but not a driver’s license!  Still, that’s probably not a good enough reason, by itself, to re-name the Wichita airport in his honor.  Critics tend to point out that he was an Army general, not an Air Force officer and his connection to the Air Capital was therefore, a bit tenuous.  They even suggested that there might be some other prominent Wichitans who might warrant more consideration as long as we were considering re-identifying the airport in the state’s largest city.  They would note that he didn’t even fly to Wichita when he returned to his childhood home.  He would land in Kansas City and drive out to Abilene.

It’s true he didn’t frequent Wichita even as an adult.  There is, however, evidence  that he made a couple of campaign stops here and there are still a few people in town who remember seeing him drop into town both as a military officer and as a presidential candidate.  On one occasion, for instance, he visited Boeing at the old Municipal Airport (now McConnell Air Force Base) in 1951 to see a demonstration of the Boeing Scout , a post war trainer.  where he posed with a pair of native American shop foremen, Gordon Bushyhead and Francis Stumblingbear, for a publicity photo. Ike, who had been reactivated during the Korean Conflict, wore his general’s uniform.

The two Boeing workers donned buckskins and headdresses from a local costume shop.  The pictu

re made it into the newspapers.  The Scout, on the other hand, never made it into mass production. Ike didn’t make many more visits to the Boeing plant, either.

When President Eisenhower was elected to the White House he made a number of trips  west to visit family.  In fact, in what would be unheard of today, he spent six weeks at the home of a family member during the Summer of 1953.  It happened to be his wife’s mother,  in suburban Denver, Colorado–not Abilene, Kansas–so the closest he came to Wichita on that occasion was to fly over on the way to and from Washington.

But, Ike did learn to fly and, as his great grandson, Merrill Eisenhower Atwater told me during the celebration of the new airline terminal at the airport that now

bears his name, he made numerous trips through Wichita to Abilene and logged hours in the Kansas skies as a pilot in command, as well.  His logbooks, in fact, are on file at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

Being elected the President of the United State gave Ike a leg up on other Kansans in the competition for the title of our state’s most prominent citizen, but probably ranks him at least second when it comes to consideration for Kansas’s most famous aviator.  That probably goes to Amelia Earhart.  Chances are, if she had returned from her ill-fated 1937 circumnavigation of the globe, the sentiment for naming the airport in the Air Capital might well have tilted in her direction instead…assuming Atchison hadn’t already claimed it!

tessa
March 23, 2015

Act Now! Airport Gala Tickets Are Going Fast!

Wichita Aero Club Members and Guests:  Act now!  We have only a limited number of discounted tickets for this special event still available…and they are going fast!  WAC Members and their guests can purchase tickets at a 20% discount–$100 each–while they last.

The Wichita City Council has voted to open this event to the public so it is expected to sell out.  Sponsors and VIPs will account for a significant number of the 800 tickets allotted for the event.  The Wichita Aero Club has purchased a block of 100 tickets at full price and we’re making them available to our members at the reduced rate as a way of saying “Thank you” to our members for your support!  More than half of those tickets have already been reserved.  Don’t wait!  Call 316-681-4471 or go online now to reserve your tickets for admission to this historic and memorable Dedication Gala progressive dinner with dazzling displays of international cuisines from Wichita’s City Sisters in China, Mexico and France alongside American classic dishes from New York and Texas located at food and beverage stations throughout the impressive new terminal.

tessa
March 5, 2015

WICHITA AERO CLUB OFFERS MEMBERS SPECIAL PRICE TO ATTEND AIRPORT TERMINAL GALA ON APRIL 11

By Invitation Grand Opening Event Will Feature Music, Food, VIPs

The Wichita Aero Club is offering its members a very special opportunity to be a part of an important milestone in the Air Capital’s aviation history…and at a special price not available to the public!  A limited number of tickets are being made available for the Grand Opening Gala of the new Airline Terminal at Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport on Saturday evening, April 11. The celebration will include a variety of musical offerings from local artists, highlighted by the Wichita Symphony, gourmet food and drink stations located at various points of interest throughout the new terminal, guided tours, and short presentations by local VIP guests and dignitaries.  Invitations to the event are offering tickets at $125 each.  However, as a co-sponsor of the Gala, the Wichita Aero Club is providing tickets to our members at a price of $100 each on a first-come/first serve basis!

“The re-naming of our airport to honor the only president who called our state his home and the opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art airline terminal is a once in a lifetime milestone and certainly a memorable part of our aviation history,” noted Dave Franson, Wichita Aero Club President.  “We’re honored to be included in the planning and hosting of this event and even more pleased to be able to offer our members the opportunity to be a part of it at a price that’s not available anywhere else.

“This is a benefit we’re offering to those who have loyally supported the Wichita Aero Club and the local aviation community over the past several years through their attendance at our luncheons, involvement in our educational programs, and attention to the issues that affect our industry.  We have purchased a quantity of tickets at face value (because the proceeds go to the Airport Foundation to defray expenses associated with the opening of the new facility) and we’re reducing the price to our members as a way of thanking them and ensuring that they can be  included in this memorable event,” he explained.

To receive the WAC discount, Aero Club members can order Airport Gala tickets by visiting the website at www.wichitaaeroclub.org or by calling the Aero Club at 681-4471 and providing names of attendees. Purchases of tickets can be made with VISA, MasterCard, or Discover Card or by check sent to the Wichita Aero Club at 151 South Whittier Street, Suite 100, Wichita, KS 67207.

David Franson
January 28, 2015

Aircraft Electronics Association President Paula Derks Will Address FAA Mandates At February 17 Wichita Aero Club Luncheon

Aircraft Electronics Association President Paula Derks will serve as the featured speaker at the Wichita Aero Club’s monthly luncheon scheduled for 11:45 a.m. CST on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Wichita, Kansas. During her remarks, Derks is expected to discuss the ADS-B Out equipment mandate and the industry’s readiness to meet the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline set by the Federal Aviation Administration several years ago. ADSB stands for Automatic Dependent Surveilance-Broadcast technology by which an aircraft determines its position utilizing satellite navigation and periodically transmits it so that it can be tracked by air traffic control. It can also be received by other aircraft to provide situational awareness and allow them to maintain safe separation distances. ADSB equipment is already mandatory in portions of Australian airspace and it’s part of the US Next Generation Air Transportation System, commonly referred to as “Next Gen” and the Single European Sky ATM Research or (SESAR) requirements. “In Wichita, we have a lot of people who can provide in-depth expertise on just about anything that has to do with the airframe side of commercial aviation because we’re immersed in the production and operation of airplanes,” explained Wichita Aero Club President Dave Franson. “But the technology and regulation on the avionics and electronics side of the industry has been advancing at an extraordinary pace and keeping up with the developments, operating environment and mandates that effect that segment is a daunting task. We’re fortunate to have Paula here to give us some insight into what’s happening in this important arena.”

AEA will host its annual convention in Dallas in April, as well, bringing together the industry’s leading manufacturers and experts on operators
The Wichita Aero Club was established to foster and promote interest in aviation, to provide a forum that focuses on the industry’s issues and achievements, and to bring together those with a passion for flight in an environment that expands and enhances professional relationships and furthers cooperation and understanding. Tickets for the Feb. 17 luncheon may be purchased online via the Wichita Aero Club website.