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David Franson
July 20, 2016

B-29 DOC RETURNS TO THE AIR AFTER 60 YEARS

Wichita Restoration Effort Celebrates With Short Flight on July 17. 

Doc takes to the air after 60 years

At approximately 8:50 AM CDT on Sunday morning, the worldwide fleet of flyable B-29s doubled when “Doc” lifted off from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas culminating a restoration project that began sixteen years ago at the factory where the airplane was built initially in 1944.  Piloted by the Commemorative Air Force’s Charlie Tilghman and co-pilot David Oliver. , “Doc” joined “Fifi” as the only two Superfortresses of the 3,888 produced  between 1943 and 1946 which are airworthy.  “Doc” returned to the air 60 years after its last flight in 1956 when it was ferried to China Lake in California, decommissioned and hauled into the desert where it was used as a target for Naval bomber training until 1987 when Cleveland, Ohio printing executive Tony Mazzolini discovered it, largely in tact, acquired it and moved it to Wichita.  

I Never Thought I’d See the Day…

Mazzolini, members of DOC’s Friends, a non-profit group formed to raise funds to support the airplane’s restoration and dozens of the  volunteers who began restoring the airplane in 1991 were joined by hundreds of onlookers early on July 17, including Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell and Kansas Fourth District Congressman Mike Pompeo, to witness the takeoff.  The airplane completed high speed taxi tests on Saturday evening at around 8 PM in preparation for the first flight.

The flight itself lasted approximately 10 minutes, encompassing one takeoff, climb out to pattern altitude, and a return and landing.  The crew chose to land after circling the field when a precautionary light illuminated, but the short duration of the flight didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or their positive outlook.

“I never thought I’d see this day when we started restoring this airplane 16 years ago,” said Connie Palacioz, who at 92 years of age, remembers working on serial number 44-69972 when it came down the assembly line the first time in 1944.

“I prayed for good weather and a good flight when I woke up this morning.  I just don’t have words to describe how I felt when I saw it in the air.  It was wonderful…but a little bit sad, too, because of the volunteers who worked on it that have passed without getting to see this.”

The Town’s Talking About Doc… 

Wichita’s Mayor called the event “a Wright Brothers moment for Wichita, and even though the flight wasn’t as long as we had hoped, it was still longer than their first flight!  It was a perfectly fitting event for the ‘Air Capital of the World.’  ’Doc’ now serves to unify our community and to demonstrate that we can come together and our visions can take flight. Let’s continue to work hard to keep ‘Doc’ in our community.  We think it’s important to our rich history and we want make sure that future generations of Wichitans have a chance to see ‘Doc’ fly.”

“This is truly a remarkable example of the dedication and commitment by the community to honor our American Servicemen and women and and our long tradition of flight in Wichita. Its an achievement that we can be proud of for decades,” added Congressman Pompeo.

Tony Mazzolini summed up the celebration by saying, “This restoration has always been aimed at wanting to honor our veterans,  to honor those who worked on these airplanes on the home front and  to honor those who sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom and the American way of life.   I just want to say ‘Thanks’ to all of the people who made this event today possible!’

David Franson
July 1, 2016

Seventh Annual WAC Golf Tourney, Air Capital Classic are “Hot Tickets,” Yield Significant Charitable Contributions

Check out the summary below and photos in the Gallery under 2016 WAC Golf Classic.

The seventh annual Wichita Aero Club Golf Tourney was a memorable event with highlights that included great weather, great conditions, some great shots, the “Money Ball,” and a grateful scholarship recipient that greeted golfers who took their turns trying to win a brand new car! Accompanied by her father, Patrick, on Fathers Day, Talon Wanless, a senior at Wichita State University and one of two Wichita Aero Club Scholarship recipients for 2016, had the opportunity to personally thank the nearly 100 golfers who participated in this year’s WAC Golf Classic at Crestview Country Club as we kicked off a week of golf festivities that culminated in the 27th rendering of the PGA Tour’s annual championship event in Wichita, appropriately known as the web.com’s Air Capital Classic since 2012.

The tournament not only raised significant funds for the WAC Scholarship fund, it also allowed the Aero Club to contribute support to two of our members, Robin Laws and Tessa Roberts, who flew in the annual Women’s Air Race Classic last week! We plan to honor our scholarship winners, Talon Wanless and Zavier Luciano and Robin and Tessa at a later date this summer.  Zavier, who’s enrolled in A&P classes at Wichita Area Technical College, wasn’t able to make it to the WAC Golf Classic, but he’s carrying a 4.0 GPA into the current semester and expressed his gratitude for the generosity of the golfers who added to the Stimpson and Humphrey scholarship funds.

Nearly $1,000 in additional contributions were raised on the day of the event by teams who purchased a “Money Ball” for $50 at the start of play–good for a “Mulligan” on any shot throughout the round.  It was used to good advantage, as the winning team carded an impressive round of 53, 19 strokes under par!  The “Money Ball” helped each member of the winning team win a $100 gift certificate at the Golf Warehouse for their outstanding play.

Meanwhile, we also did our part to support Wichita’s annual professional golf—and charitable event. One of only four tournaments on the PGA Tour web.com’s circuit that has been played in the same city continually over the past quarter century, the Wichita event boasts the Best Pro-Am, as voted by the players, and probably the most popular single hole on the tour, the raucous and rowdy 17th with its double-decker stadium seating, enthusiastic crowds, and great golf shots.

To say it was a “hot ticket” this year would be an understatement! Not only were the temperatures throughout the tournament hot, so was the calibre of play as the outcome came down to a three-way playoff that saw the leaders return to the 17th for a fifth time—for a playoff—and then settle the issue with a scintillating finish and a long birdie putt on the 74th hole that gave the win to Ollie Schiederjans. The Air Capital Classic generates significant funds for a variety of charities each year—including contributing to our educational initiatives, too!

 

Ashley Bowen Cook
May 11, 2016

Our State’s New Champion of Aviation

Sixty days into his new position as Director of Aviation for the Kansas Department of Transportation, Merrill Atwater took time to share his vision for the days ahead. In his address at the May meeting of the Wichita Aero Club, Atwater touched on his priorities. Chiefly: to serve as a champion of aviation.
Aviation’s fiscal impact on the state amounts to $13.5 billion or 10 percent of its economy. Atwater wants to ensure that business owners, entrepreneurs and manufacturers know that, “Kansas is here for you.” He sees his role, his department’s and indeed the state’s as one of support to advance growth and industry improvements. “We’re here to help you. We’re a tool.”
It’s also a financial resource. The state’s airport improvement program provides matching grants to the state’s 138 public-use airports. To date, a sweet $90 million has been distributed. Funding everything from paved runways to needed equipment accomplishes many objectives. Economic stimulation. An inviting front door for business. One key goal is greater access to air ambulance services. Atwater’s working to see that 94 percent of Kansas can be reached within 30 minutes. No small feat considering Kansas’s expansive rural landscape.
During the post-presentation question-and-answer session, Atwater razzed Victor White, director of the state’s largest airport, Wichita Eisenhower National. “Victor doesn’t need our money,” said Atwater, referring to the airport’s stunning new terminal, parking garage and other improvements that have led to its ranking as the nation’s fourth-best small airport. White gamely shouted back, “Yeah we do!”

A Truly Great Great-Granddaddy

Atwater spent a good portion of his presentation talking about his great grandfather, the 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He’s rightfully proud of Eisenhower’s accomplishments and his Kansas connections.

He was born in 1890, well before the Wright brothers’ history c flight. But aviation played a major role in his legendary life. As WWII Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he had final say on how to use thousands of warplanes (mostly built in Kansas). He was the first president to have his pilot’s license. (He didn’t have a driver’s license.) The first to ride in a helicopter. The first to fly in the jet called Air Force One. He passed the law that led to the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration. He propelled the world into the space age by establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). President Eisenhower grew up in Abilene, Kansas, but he lived his life on the world stage. Fighting for peace. Laying the groundwork for innovation. We like Ike.

Buzz for Unmanned Aerial Systems

Atwater reminded the audience that his department’s conducting a search for a director of unmanned aerial systems. It’s an industry poised for growth, he said, with projections calling for $2.9 billion in applications by 2025. He acknowledged there are issues, but communicated confidence that they will get worked out, especially with support. He looked around and said, “We need everybody in this room to participate.”
“Kansas is open for business in aviation.”

Chad Raney
April 20, 2016

Aero Club Helps Make Aviation Available to the Masses

The Air Capital of the World has reinvented itself many times as our industry has changed.  Through wars, economic turmoil, regulatory changes, we have maintained our position, feeding all levels of the industry.  That spirit and zeal is rooted in a love for aviation which in great part is a result of Wichita having a greater opportunity to touch aviation than anywhere else in the world.  We are surrounded by the airplanes we build, support, and service, so what better way to celebrate than to operate them.  The average person here still has the opportunity to live aviation as a pilot unlike most areas in the world.  Although flying will never be cheap, it is as affordable as ever in Wichita.

Most all of the manufactures realized that the ability for their employees to enjoy aviation would drive their passion at work and dedication to the company.  30-60 years ago employee flying clubs were common and a great way to learn to fly, as well as enjoy aviation.  With exception of Textron’s commitment to their Employee’s Flying Club, other employee flying clubs are sadly a thing of the past.  The connection that resulted from these clubs is still available, but through slightly different avenues.

Just as our great city has had to navigate change and continuously reinvent itself so has The Air Capital Aviators Club.  Up until 2014, they were known as the Boeing Employees Flying Club and served Boeing and Spirit employees since 1978.  With the exit of Boeing from Wichita they faced the challenge of transitioning to an independent flying club.  The updated charter specifically calls focus to engage employees of aviation companies and provide affordable flying options much like the traditional employee clubs of days past.  The result is flying for as low as $85 per hour, proving that the $100 hamburger still exists in Wichita!

As AOPA President Mark Baker touted during his visit to our October, 2015 luncheon, Flying Clubs offer affordable flying and help curb the rising cost of aviation.  As much as providing access to an aircraft, a flying club creates an aviation community.  You are surrounded by others sharing the same passion to share advice, technique and encouragement.  This first hand engagement in aviation is a reward to each person involved, but I also believe it benefits the companies they work for.  Living aviation on the weekend provides the first hand knowledge and passion to drive success across the Air Capital at work.

I encourage you and your employees to seek an opportunity to engage locally in aviation.  If you have access to an aircraft directly, through an employee club or the Air Capital Aviators Club, get out to the airport today.

Chad is currently Director of Programs for FlightSafety International at the Wichita East Learning Center.  A 2001 graduate from the University of North Dakota in Commercial Aviation he gained professional experience as both an Airline and Corporate Pilot before finding his niche in aviation management.  Serving as Director of Flight Operations at Ward/Kraft Inc. lead to further business experience as General Manager of their CTC printing division.  Shortly after, he started Raney Aircraft Services, LLC which reinforced his desire for formal business training.  After transitioning to FlightSafety International, managing the development of training curriculum and simulation for pilot and maintenance training, Chad was able to attend Wichita State University’s Executive Master of Business Administration program in 2012.   A partner at the Center for Professional Business Development he provides general business training for physicians and medical professionals.  He is also the Vice President of the Air Capital Aviators Club, a flying club dedicated to creating affordable flying opportunities for pilots in Wichita and the surrounding area.

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 Greteman 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!