August 2009

THE FIRST DAY OF US MILITARY AIR POWER

Two Jennys over Columbus 121107

The Cradle of US Military Air Power – Columbus, New Mexico – 1916
The original painting hangs in the office of the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force in the Pentagon.

  • Peter Westacott, whose depiction of Jennys in flight over Columbus in March, 1916, graces the First Aero Foundation’s web site, will be visiting Columbus. The Foundation and the Village will celebrate a special “Peter Westacott Day”, Wednesday, September 16th, in his honor. A reception will be held in the American Legion Hall on E. Broadway from 3:00 until 5:00 PM. Light refreshments will be served. All Foundation members are cordially invited to join us on the 16th and to meet Peter. We can meet flights to EI Paso, and would delight in greeting you if you’d like to fly into our airpark. It is designated First Aero Squadron NM09 (no connection the Aerodrome itself). We monitor 122.9; suggested landing to the west on either of two gravel runways. If you prefer hard surface, Hacienda sur Luna is located just north of us. Again, advise on 122.9. If you are driving in, give us a call at 575-531-7044 or 505-660-1112 Gene Valdes, Foundation President, announced that a feature of Peter’s reception will be the offer of Jenny prints, authenticated by the artist, for a donation of $50 or more. In addition, the Artist has made available a small quantity of prints of his rendition of the Wrights’ first flight entitled “The Dream Fulfilled” as bonus for those who donate $100 or more. Only 750 prints were made of this painting. The Jenny original hangs in the Pentagon in the office of the Air Force Chief of Staff.
  • A Gathering of Eagles -The week of September 14th will witness a true gathering of Eagles in tiny Columbus, New Mexico, as Peter Westacott joins reunion of sorts with other key figures in aviation. Among them will be Jim Greenwood, former Gates Lemjet Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, government executive, author, journalist and pilot. Bill Lafferty is retired from the US Air Force after flying the Berlin Airlift and the very last B-36 mission. Sandor (Alex) Kvassay served Bill Lear as Vice President for International Marketing, and flew to several international speed records with famed race pilot Clay Lacy. Dave Clemmer is a highly decorated retired Army pilot who flew the FAA’s N-l Gulfstream before retiring from that organization. Dave had Attorney General John Ashcroft as a passenger on board when the 9/11 attack took place. Jim Davis, who simply describes himself as a “retired government clerk”, led the FAA’s Administrative Command Post which job it was to represent the FAA Administrator in responding to large emergencies-highjackings, crashes and the like. First Aero Foundation invites you to meet these aviation icons prior to the reception for Peter. All will be present at the Legion Hall from 1 :00 PM, Wednesday, September 16th. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit with folks who have been so deeply involved in the history of US Aviation.
  • Our faithful Treasurer, Pete Oesper, is an engineer, so he must be forgiven as he struggles to get us current on Quick Books, and to try to organize our membership list. In spite of continued “good natured’ ragging from the rest of the board (myself excepted, of course), Pete has been able to (mostly) maintain a smile throughout the ordeal. One of the most difficult things he is dealing with is the task of validating membership expiration dates. I tried to do that as an addendum to the last Aerodrome and proved woefully off in a few cases. Apparently, when we started this foundation our record keeping was not of the highest order in spite of the best efforts of then treasurer Tom Willmott who was trying to track things from his home in Santa Fe. Please don’t hesitate to yell if you find errors in our communications.
  • At a board meeting a few months back, I invited the Trustees to submit at least two names to me of folks who might be interested in our project of memorializing the intrepid airmen of First Aero Squadron. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I extended that challenge to the Advisory Board. Now, I’m going to issue that same challenge to the membership at large. It goes like this: send me the names and mailing address of men and for women who might fit the above description. I will then send a low-pressure letter to them saying that you suggested I might contact them. I will include an outline of what we are all about, and a back issue of the AERODROME. If you’d like to see a copy of the letter, email me at wehner@vtc.net and I will email a copy back to you. In order to just maintain ourselves as an organization, we must keep expanding our membership base. Eventually, we’d like this base to be somewhere around 1000, with a retention rate in the 95% area. In spite of the recession, we can do this.
  • With great reluctance, President Valdes accepted the resignation of Trustee Ruth Smith last month. Ruth is an idea person who worked with this writer on public education projects; she will be missed. However, life goes on and at the August Board meeting the name of Ken Emery was placed in nomination by Valdes to replace Smith. Ken is a Columbus resident, and a Cultural Archeologist by profession. I have had the privilege of working with him on our local Historic Preservation Commission and know he will be a decided asset. It was Ken who reminded us that the first actual military flight over foreign territory took place at Vera Cruz by recon planes from battleships anchored in that harbor. First Aero Squadron launched the first unit sortie into an enemy airspace, and was fully involved in all facets of the Punitive Expedition-including getting shot at from time to time.

Contact us at Box 1516, Columbus NM 88029 or email me at wehner@vtc.net

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