Part 4 – AC-47 “Spooky” Trip to Urbana, OHIO

AC47-y55The question of the moment was: Since (the airport golf cart driver explained) everyone connected to the Champaign Aviation Museum was in the middle of a membership meeting,  would they also have locked the front door on the public side of the security fence?  With his gate pass card. it was a short drive to the front of the museum where I successfully opened the door and thanked my new friend for his hospitality. For the next five minutes in that beautiful  facility I fast-walked around the exhibits like I had ants in my pants. I could  probably have been arrested for how fast I covered the floor space, and for darn few pictures . . . .


The star of this show is the B-17 “Champaign Lady” which is being restored from FIVE different B-17s, using the best parts from partially intact aircraft and fabricating new parts where possible. I had visited the project about five years ago. I was amazed (again) by the quality of craftsmanship throughout!

I knew time was of the essence, that Keith knew where I was, but I did not want to inconvenience him and Chuck by lingering longer than absolutely necessary. As I started to head back to “Spooky,” I detoured long enough to take a few more pictures near the building . . .

It was an easy walk back to “Spooky” at the opposite end of the drive shown here culminating at CAM. Keith told me my timing was good. Chuck was on his way back with the rental car. Happily I was able to visit the open hangar of theGrimes aircraft lighting operation just a few yards from our big bird.

Chuck pulled into the airport parking lot with the rental car as I exited the Grimes hanger, and in a few minutes, Keith and I joined him. It was a delight seeing Urbana for the first time in about four years.

It was a fine journey home. The car’s computer/voice talked to driver and navigator as much as we talked to each other. I’m not used to being interrupted by a computer, but if the opportunity ever arises again, to share more of it with the intrepid airmen courtesy of Chuck, Keith and “Spooky” Squadron of Topeka, you can be sure I will be good to go. As the sun set I took the following to pictures. Thanks again for a terrific Wednesday!



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pt. 3 – AC-47 “Spooky” Flight to Urbana, OHIO

Before leaving Spooky, I took a picture of the firepower on the port side of the cabin. Visitors to the weekend veterans’ gathering would not be “touring” the inside.
The first place were directed to park Big Bird was, on second look, not the  best place for free movement of aircraft onto the ramp from nearby T-hangars, so Captain and Co fired up the engines and re-positioned her.

Chuck had arranged for the local Enterprise Rent-A-Car business to have a car waiting for us about 2 pm. We would grab some lunch at the airport diner and be back in Springfield with time to spare. He and Keith headed for the admin offices and cafe. I stayed with the airplane awhile and talked with visitors. By the time I rejoined inside, they had finished their lunch, and told me the airport would buy mine was well.

High on my “to do list” was to tour the Champaign Air Museum, a fairly short hike down the airport grounds from the Airport Cafe.


This sign, facing the ramp, greeting arriving aircrews and friends in front of admin and Cafe is a nice touch. I had visited the museum a few years ago during a delightful occasion when I was part of the dedication of the renovated Johnny Appleseed Museum at the local college. I was eager to return.

I returned to “Spooky” to check with Keith to see how much time we had. He explained Chuck was in Urbana getting a car for us, didn’t know how long he’d be. I explained I was going to fast-walk down to have a fast look and take pictures.

I knew I was running out of time, and I didn’t want Chuck and Keith to have to come looking for me so we could “westward ho.” My time inside Champaign Air Museum was less than ten minutes and I took only a few pictures. Those pictures, and more from the rest of my visit to the Grimes aircraft lighting array in the ramp-side of their offices,  and the details of our journey homeward will be shared in part four of our saga.

Thanks for reading this post.

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Late Resolution re Der Adlers

If I could “do over” 25 seconds of my life or erase them from my memory, those 25 seconds would vaporize last winter’s discovery of several issues of the German World War II propaganda magazine MISSING from AeroKnow Museum’s Magazine Room.
The revelation his me like a sledge hammer delivered with maximum malice and power to my solar plexus. The dismay over someone entering the unlocked door and leaving with the priceless magazines sent to me by a long-forgotten correspondent in Belgium was worse than any woe I have experienced since setting up the museum out here in 2010. It was my fault. I hadn’t paid attention to locking the doors upstairs. During my hours and hours away from the airport who had seen the magazines and where I had put them after showing them to the visitor, could have walked upstairs un-noticed by anyone in the lobby, placed them inside an overcoat and exited in less than five minutes. The worst part about the disappearance was that I KNEW I had to KNOW the THIEF. I had my suspicions, my “suspects,” and I informed the airport security people — Tim Franke and his terrific team — about the loss.  It’s been months since the incident happened, but the disappearance has never been a distant memory.

I am exceedingly relieved today to report that I now know the name of the person who made those Der Adlers disappear. His name is  Job Conger.

Yesterday,  June 28, I was giving my friend had AKM supporter John Holland a complete tour of the upstairs rooms. Earlier in the visit he had brought some books, including a 1954 US Air Force Flight Surgeon’s Manual and seen other parts of the museum, including the Books and Miscellaneous Files Room, pictured below — the same room which, for several years, had been headquarters of of the fabulous Springfield Air Rendezvous air show.  He’s holding an issue of Springfield Skyways a newsletter I wrote and produced more than 10 years ago.
Our last stop on that tour was the Magazine Room. One of the niftiest parts of that assemblage was a modest collection of LIFE magazines, big extra-large magazines that could be used to cover and hide a boxed pizza, should such a need ever arise, unlikely though it would be. As I separated some of the LIFES, showing John the covers (F-80 pilot in 1946, Yuri Gagarin with Nikita Kruschev, Winston Churchill)  I discovered the missing Der Adler magazines! Last winter, in a flash of ill-considered “wisdom” I had placed them under the slightly  larger magazines to protect them from excessive exposure to light and to keep them away from the eyes of more casual visitors. My action of probably 25 seconds of  consideration and action was totally, almost instantly, forgotten. Hence my dismay that came after.

John graciously posed for a picture holding one of the issues. I did not tell him how downright elated I was to have discovered those publications because I would have revealed a museum director (me) to be more bleeping excited than the occasion warranted.

So the Der Adlers are officially back where they need to be, behind a locked door. I will be arranging to photograph every page of each of them so I can share content with visitors and supporters more securely in the future.

I never accused by  name, any of those who had seen the them of stealing them. So no apologies seem appropriate here.   I  appreciate the sympathies and support shared with me when the agony of their apparent theft was deeply felt.

I’ll be more careful — and cognizant of what the heck I’m doing — in the  future, that’s for sure.

Thanks for reading this post.

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pt 2 -AC-47 “Spooky” Flight to Urbana, OHIO

I had just finished letting model club members know I would be absent from our meeting that night but the meeting room would be open for them, when Horizon Aviation’s all-around nice fellow and aircraft maintainer whiz kit Rusty, let me know that Chuck and Keith were pulling the AC-47’s props through, a sure sign it was time for me to grab cameras and “do the hustle” out to the ramp. Engine start was imminent.
The Lincoln Land Community College  Aviation School students were watching flight prep as I approached and boarded “Spooky.” A minute later the intrepid captain and first officer boarded, closed the door behind them and settled into their  “front office.” I was buckled into a metal bucket seat on the left side of the airplane when I took this picture of the airplane’s interior looking back.
Then before the first engine start I photographed the students watching from a safe distance by the fence.

This was my second ride in “Spooky,” so everything was routine — but still a thrill — as engines were started, warmed and Chuck and Keith made arrangements with the control tower for departure on Runway 31. Because I didn’t know what would be waiting in Urbana, Ohio’s Grimes Field, or how much my small camera’s battery had charged, I was extra conservative with picture taking. This was my home airport, I had taken many pictures from this flying machine last year, so there was no need to duplicate earlier work. Still, the view of the State Capitol building, as we turned onto 31 as irresistible . . . . . .
As was this glimpse of the control tower during initial climb above the runway.

I expected that as we gained altitude we’d gently turn from the initial heading off the runway  of northwest to east, maybe a little southeast. So I was surprised as I saw downtown Springfield through the windows on the other side lf the cabin. The view indicated Chuck had continued the turn to a westerly heading. For a few seconds I wondered if there were red lights glowing on the panel up front, even though the engines were running at close to maximum power . . . .  Then I realized the gents had decided to make a low pass down Runway 31 for the aviation school students watching where we had left them down below! I also realized I was on the wrong side of the airplane to photograph that scene! I was on the control tower side of the airplane, and  with us pulling moderate “g” during the continuing turn, it would have been totally UNSAFE for me to lung across to a waiting bucket seat on the other side! Even if I had maintained my balance during that antic, I could not have buckled in and taken pictures during a unique opportunity that would have lasted probably 30 seconds! I was disappointed, but I was also thrilled. It was clear Chuck has added some power during his low pass, and it was great to be aboard for the ride! . . . . THEN the course was set for Urbana, Ohio.

To ensure maximum safety in flight, I determined I would remain seated on the left side– pretty much the north side —  of “Spooky ” for the entire flight instead of crossing, reasonably safely, to the other side — the south side — for pictures for two reasons: Every picture taken would be taken looking the same direction for future reference, AND the sun was perfectly positioned in the sky at this time of day to provide the  best light for the pictures I would be taking from that side of the airplane. Again, I was playing conservative with camera resources.  Even so, I could not resist distant airports and a “cloud shot” or two. The first picture was taken at our maximum altitude during the flight, about 9.000 feet. Later Chuck asked me if I had been a little chilly in back, and I replied I  had. He explained he and Keith became the  same, so he reduced cruise altitude later in the flight to warm us up. The lower picture was taken after our descent.
If I had been better prepared, or understood what I’d find after landing in Urbana I would have taken a few more in transit.

Since I considered it only natural that if I took  my cell phone with me to Urbana  I would manage to leave it there . . . I left the device in my airport office. And I regretted doing that for the same reason I sometimes regret not wearing a wrist watch. With my NON-aptitude for anything electronic, I consider my cell phone more of a pocket watch. I  probably make use of three percent of what it can do for me. Net result: I had absolutely no feeling for TIME passing as we flew east. I have not flown enough to estimate distance from flight. Though I had visited Urbana, Ohio’s Grimes Field a few  years ago, I had traveled there by car from a motel in Springfield, Ohio. I did not know how far Urbana is from Springfield, Illinois and had not discussed this kind of thing with Chuck and Keith.

I had, at least folded a piece of blank paper and put it into my shirt pocked for making notes during the flight. Of course (for me) I had not remembered to put a pen into same shirt pocket! Since the air was relatively smooth,  I unbuckled and visited the cockpit, asked Chuck if I could borrow a pen. He passed one to me, and I returned to make some notes. THAT’s when I realize there was no reason to make notes. I had left my “pocket watch” back at the office. By that time I had no idea what  time it was, hadn’t noticed what time we took off, and had not the foggiest idea of when we’d likely touch down at Urbana/Grimes. I had no feeling for time, the way I feel it on the ground. In the course of a busy day, I have a knack for  silently “guessing” what time it is, and when I look at a nearby clock or “cell watch,” usually find my estimate was within 10 minutes of actual time, sometimes exactly on the minute. I wondered if this is now an insect “feels” time . . . . and has no concept of time. He is what he is, does what he does until a hungry sparrow or bat devours him to oblivion.  For that flight I was what I was, enjoyed the view of the  passing countryside below, wondered how it would have looked, say in 1816, if the  lay of that land away from cities, remotely resembled the land as it would have been when James Madison was president. “Spooky’s” engines, in the capable care of the the crew, droned steadily on, timeless in their steadiness.

In my early  rush out the door, I had also forgotten to bring earplugs which are free, right next to the door by the Horizon counter that exits to the ramp. Just forgot to pick up a sealed two-pack! Early into the air I decided my recently-acquired hearing aids, which had been functioning as designed and AMPLIFYING the 47’s engines, would better serve me if I turned them OFF, which I did. Then  I determined my ears would be better served if I took them out of my ears and put them into my shirt pocket with my useless writing paper and Chuck’s pen. THEN I realized I should put SOMETHING into my ears to lessen the audio from the engines. I had no tissue; figured small pieces of wadded note paper would help little if  at all. Solution: I tore off some thin plastic from the grocery bag where I was carrying AeroKnow Museum literature  (to share at Grimes) and crammed as much as I could into my ears. I believe they helped. Later I DID REMEMBER to remove the protection as soon as power was cut after parking.

Then, for the record, I unbuckled and moved forward to photograph Chuck, Keith and cockpit.

on the way back to the cabin I sat in the navigator’s and radioman’s seats directly behind the cockpit and photographed the astrodome from standing below it in the aisle. There was no way to take a picture from inside the astrodome because there were no steps nearby to allow me to ascend that high. NOT a big deal.

When I could tell we had commenced descent to destination (the landscape began getting larger) I began paying very close attention to the view. I soon recognized Grimes Field as we approached though I had seen it only from ground level a few years earlier. SomeHOW I felt like I was coming HOME. I can’t explain  the intense sense of fraternity that came to me like a spring breeze.

Waiting outside the door after it was opened was Lou. He explained he was the airport manager. He explained that “Spooky” would need to  be re-positioned slightly  to optimize aircraft movement from nearby  T-hangars to the apron. Chuck explained he needed to do  that pretty FAST before the engines cooled off . . . .  and he did. “Spooky” seemed somehow happy to feel grass under his feet during the short taxi.
We had arrived!

Part 3 of this saga will describe our time of the ground at Grimes and my brief return visit to the FABULOUS Champaign County Air Museum at one end of the airport. I had visited the incredible facility  a few years before and only one thing would get in my way.

That thing was lunch.

Thanks for reading this  post.

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AC-47 “Spooky” Flight to Urbana, Ohio

My friend Chuck Midyett shared the news about two weeks ago that he would be flying Spooky Squadron’s  AC-47 (recreation of a C-47 manufactured in 1943) to Urbana, OHIO in the week ahead and it would likely stop in Springfield, Illinois en route. The appearance would happen if the airplane, which had been in the southwest since having an engine issue that prevented it from flying, could be repaired. About June 6 he announced the likely visit on Facebook. I thought Spooky would arrive SPI sometime Thursday, but I was delighted to see it “PROMINENTLY ruling the ramp” when I arrived at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport about 6:30 Wednesday morning. Chuck and his co=pilot Keith had successfully repaired her flown a long day from her temporary residence to SPI the day before, arriving about 10 pm. In minutes I was taking pictures from behind the fence in early morning sun.

An hour later, the director of Lincoln Land Community College’s Aviation School came into my office with the happy news he had come to show his students the AC-47. I was happy to walk out to the plane with him, and since Chuck and Keith had not yet arrived, I gladly shared what I know of the airplane and answered a few questions.

Then some of the students visited AeroKnow Museum’s Welcome Room where we talked about models and aviation history.  They then walked back to their hangar down the ramp, planning to visit again when Chuck and Keith arrived to  share their considerable expertise with them.

Perhaps an hour later, Chuck and Keith arrived and the students returned to ramp. Before heading out to Spooky, Chuck, who had come into my office to say “hello” also said words to the effect, “Job, we’re not going to spend the weekend with  the airplane. We’re going to deliver it, rent a car and drive back to Springfield. Would you like to come along?” You know I said “YES!” We headed out to the plane and students, and I took a few more pictures. Some visited the interior with Keith supervising and then the flight crew began pre-flighting the big bird.

While that was going on, I returned to my office to get ready. Since our model club would be meeting upstairs at AeroKnow, I let club members know I  would be absent, but the key to the room would be left with the line crew at Horizon Aviation. I had earlier set up my camera batteries to add as much “charge” as possible before departing.  I had no idea what would be waiting for  us at Grimes Field. Perhaps other aircraft would have arrived, perhaps not. I would be as prepared as possible and hope the batteries would be good for the duration. I decided since we would not be there for an air show, I would not need my big 300 mm lens for my digital Canon SLR. I would be able to handle telephoto work with my  small Sony Cyber-shot. I did pack extra memory cards for the cameras.  I decided to leave my cell phone in my office. With my luck, I’d likely lose it or leave it behind in Urbana.  I also put several AeroKnow Museum brochures and business cards into a small bag to share with  the local denizens at Grimes. Ever the “cub reporter,” I grabbed a blank sheet of paper for making notes in transit and after arrival. One thing I did not grab was a pen! As things happened in the hours to come, a pen wasn’t needed. I’ll explain in Part 2.

Part two of this story will describe the flight and arrival at Grimes Field, Urbana, OHIO. Stay tuned.

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Long Lost but FOUND

This year I’ve spent a lot of time darn-near devastated (but nominally functioning) over two thefts from AeroKnow Museum. The first one involved the loss of several issues of Der Adler German World War II aviation propaganda magazines. Here are some pictures of a few of them I took before they disappeared from the Magazines Room. Those priceless seven issues will never come back. Even writing about their theft sickens me to the core!

Last week, another item I considered LOST was FOUND. It was a pressure.applied decal of the 18rd Tactical Fighter Group. I noticed the empty space where it had been during a cordial conversation with a visitor in uniform. My surprise and dismay suddenly affected my speech with him, as though invisible hands were wrapped around my neck and choking me. Clumsily I stopped talking mid-sentence, tried to clear my voice and thanked him for stopping by. After he left I almost dashed over to the shelf where the decal had been and looked for it. I should have been able to see it if it had simply slid down the wall, but nothing was visible. A Snoopy astronaut doll which had propped up the decal lay on its side, a sure sign of foul play. I was crushed. Asked the crew at the FBO counter if they had seen anyone enter or leave my office during the brief time I had taken to photograph a Cessna Citation through the fence about an hour before. The answer was “no,” and that led me to conclude, perhaps in error, that an acquaintance I had seen that morning sitting at a table in the TV lounge across the hall from my open door had taken it when I would outside with the camera. A call to airport security to report the theft led to nothing. There was no clue. For the past three months, I’ve mourned the loss of that artifact every time, while sitting at my desk I would look at the empty space on the wall where it had been for years . . . . . until last week.

While re-arranging a shelf near the bottom of my desk-side book case, I encountered a sheaf of about eight single-page documents that had fallen backward and down the inside back of the shelves to the bottom.  As I examined them, I discovered one “document” was the 183rd Tactical Fighter Group decal! It was in fine shape, no folds or creasing or crunching.  Seconds after finding it and saying a silent prayer of THANKS to Divine Omniscience, I photographed it. Then I decided not to publicize my good fortune.  I concluded that I didn’t want the “deletable,  despicable expletive” who had (by my theory) stolen it and then returned it and HIDDEN it where I would not likely find it for months, maybe years . . . . I did not want that “poison” to know I had found it. Didn’t want her to come back and steal it again!  I knew that if she did, I’d NEVER see it again. About a week later I changed my mind.

I began to realize that placing that decal on a shelf, not returning to  it soon after, forgetting I HAD  PUT IT THERE, and then becoming terribly distressed when, and since, discovering it GONE, was the kind of mistake I could have MADE!  The deletable, despicable expletive I had been looking for was ME.

I am fallible.  It’s important for people I know and like, with whom I shared my distress over this, to know it was my incapacity that let to all the hand-wringing. I have the decal “back.”

But just to be on the safe side, I will be displaying it elsewhere here at the museum, and this time . . . it will be under glass and further away from the door than it was before!

Thanks for reading this post.


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Wall Street Journal Presence at AKM

Soon after moving out to the airport, I noticed the FBO host here (Landmark Aviation in 2010) received four copies of Wall Street Journal every day, a courtesy to visiting pilots and passengers who were welcome to read and even take a copy with them as they continued their flights. At the end of the day, often there was at least one copy remaining on the lobby counter, and when there was, I was welcome to take it and read it. . . . . and clip articles I considered important to future AKM researchers. Clips included captioned pictures, snippets of news, large articles, full-page advertisements, book reviews, interviews and more. I personally subscribed to Springfield’s news daily, The State Journal Register, and clipped items of interest. The local aviation-related coverage was generally very good.  After about two years of receiving four copies, the FBO reduced the daily WSJs to one issue, and that was often “gone” by they end of the day, almost every  day.

As AKM nears its sixth year of presence here, sometimes the  line crews save WSJ for AKM and, at the end of the day, put it under my  office door, eight feet from the lobby counter. Sometimes it’s not saved and put under the door, and often by closing time, the fuel-purchasing customers have (absolutely appropriately) taken the copy for themselves. During the prime, multi-issue-delivery times, I often clipped articles from four, or even all six Wall Street Journals.  (Their “weekend edition” comes on  Friday and is good for Saturday and Sunday.) These days, I consider myself lucky to harvest two or three issues every week. The irregularity of saved issues is a matter I cannot solve because the only answer is to personally subscribe, and I cannot justify subscribing because of the cost.

Sometimes pilots and passengers leave copies of USA Today and dailies from far away places with the “traffic director” at the Horizon Aviation counter, where she saves them and gives them to me. That is a MAJOR favor, and I hope she knows how much I appreciate it.

In recent months I have set issues of both newspapers aside, and poured over them on Saturdays, finding articles that will e . . .v. . .e . . .n . . . t . . .u . . . a . . . l . . . l . . . y  be filed appropriately in the Research and Local History Rooms here. On May 14, I poured over the week’s stack of  newspapers. Here is what I saved.

From left to right, top to bottom . . .
1. The jetBlue advert appeared in the middle four columns of a section’s center-spread. It’s newsy (about the award won) and demonstrates an unconventionality about the company and its advertising agency.
2. This full page (A7) ad for the company that mass produced the A6M Zero fighter of Pearl Harbor and Pacific renown, is a “shot over the bow,” so to speak; the rattle sound portending danger. The airplane pictured is Japan’s new airliner. The text doesn’t even mention the airplane or its name, but those in the know, KNOW about it. It’s a clarion wake up call to the  US aviation industry.
3. About an airline wireless firm, it is prime current events for investors and industry watchers. Some day, when an AKM researcher wants to know about wireless companies in dire straits, this article may be a first step in greater understanding of the providers.
4. WSJ reports the most interesting news for everyone who travel by air in any way: aircraft ownership, charter, airlines vacation travel. This is a superb article that continues on page D2 of the May 12 issue.
5. Airbus, major competitor to US aviation industry, is diversifying. You can  be sure everyone in the US av industry read this excellent article. That’s why it belongs here at AKM.
6. The same May 12 WSJ that had the center-spread advert for jetBlue also had the newsy picture here. It shares additional information which was not part of the ad. The excellent picture alone must have drawn interest from airline flyers.
7. Apologies for the fuzzy picture, but the headline gives the major point of this snippet, now part of the airline files at AeroKnow. Often, The State Journal Register shares much more aviation-related news. This was just a slow week for aviation news.

The terrific part of newspaper coverage is the immediacy, ink kissing the newsprint and getting to readers in a day or less. Newspaper coverage is important here. If you agree, please consider DONATING a subscription to Wall Street Journal or other major newspaper (New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune,  Los Angeles Times) to AeroKnow Museum.

Thanks for reading this post.

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