December 2012

The Aerodrome

The Journal of the First Aero Squadron Foundation

December 2012Columbus, New Mexico

Inside the FASF

By President Bill Wehner

image001I    am    happy   to report  that  FASF is still ‘on the grow’  and that enthusiasm for the immediate  future is   running   high. With  elections  in the     offing, I hought it appropriate to give you some insight   into   how   we   run   as   an   organization.   Administration  here  has  two  tiers: the  Board of Trustees and the Advisory Board.  Most of the day- to-day matters are handled by the Trustees who meet 10  to  12  times  a  year  to  make  and  implement policy.  The nine trustees serve two year terms (four elected  this year, five next). Immediately after the annual elections, the  trustees  elect  officers  from their group.

The Advisory Board keeps us on track by acting as an idea source and sounding board. In many cases, the Advisory Board pitches in to help with projects, as  did  Lyn   Benedict,  Pete  Adolph  and  Tom Willmott  during  the   runway  dedication.  Most everyone on the Advisory Board has been helpful at one time or another.

As President of the outfit, my job is to coordinate efforts,  keep things moving and to try to maintain contacts, not always as successful as I might like it in this day of instant communications.  Probably the most  important  single  office  is  that  of  Treasurer Martha Skinner who collects the money and pays the  bills.   She  works  hand  in  hand  with  James Efferson,   our   resident   accounting   genius   who actually   keeps  the  books  and  files  the reports. While we are presently without an official secretary, Debbi  Evans  does  a  terrific  job of  keeping  the minutes of various meetings.

image003First Vice President Ric Lambart, shown on the left, is local press liaison.  He has arranged  for  several of the speaking programs offered to the public, the most recent being the one given  at  the conclusion of the NM Centennial Flight at Santa Teresa.

Second  VP  Ken Emery shows up regularly on these pages with his well researched accounts of parts of the First Aero history.    Speaking  of  these  pages,  you  have  no doubt noticed how much better the Aerodrome has been the last several  issues.   Those improvements are entirely due  to  the  efforts  of  Immediate  Past President Gene Valdes, who, in spite of our urging, has yet to put his name on the masthead.  Over the next year we hope to expand the newsletter to a bi-monthly publication.

Jim Davis is retired from the FAA where he last served  as the head of their Rapid Response Team. He splits his  time between Columbus and the DC Area where he can most often be found hip deep in someone’s  historic  aviation  files.   It  would  not surprise us if he slept at the National Archives.

Scott Schmid lives in Deming, 30 miles north of Columbus.   He is fairly new to the board and as such  gets assigned some of the more onerous odd jobs.  Most recently, he succeeded in having one of our damaged information signs repaired in time for the runway  dedication, a task that had previously had several of us baffled.

image008We      recently      welcomed Bud Canfield (on the left) to our Board.  Bud, a native Wisconsinite,   has  been locally involved for several years  with  the  Historical Society, President  of  the Friends   of   Pancho   Villa State Park, and as a former Village Trustee.         Bud was deeply  involved  in the actual   physical  preparations  at  “zero NM zero” (the new runway’s official FAA designation), including getting the  hole dug  for  the  new windsock mast.

John Orton has just been appointed most recently to the Board.  He brings us a strong legal background and  is  an active  pilot as well as one of the Santa  Teresa  Airport Commissioners.  Bud, John and Scott are appointees who are now running for their own two-year terms.

Where to Next?

The dedication of the “new” runway on October 6th of this year marks a milestone for your Foundation. While we  now  own 60 acres of the historic site, have signage, and  a  permanent windsock, there is still a great deal to do.  First and foremost, we must retire  the  balance  owed  on   the  property,  still $45,000.  While donations have been generous this past  year, it would appear that we will not have quite enough to pay the planned $5,000 installment to Mrs. Pat Walsh, the seller.  Until this point, Mrs. Walsh  has  not  been  charging  us  interest  on  her $15,000 loan.    We have, of course, paid the note down to $10,000, but we need to pay the rest. We have sponsored several historical programs this past  year.  We  need  to  expand  that  program  and develop a  classroom teaching series.    We need to start planning the memorial and lay the plans for an active  airport operation.   Then, of course, there is the  flightline   recreation,  purchase  of  additional portions of the historical site, museum design, and on and on.

Runway Dedication

I look back now with no little amazement at how the   dedication  weekend came  together.  On Thursday afternoon, Advisory Board co-chair Tom Willmott arrived with wife Cathy from Santa Fe, both of them saying, “Put us to work.”  They were followed  shortly by Ad Board co-chair  Pete Adolph of  Albuquerque with his wife Christine, and by Floridians  Lee and Jeanne Plant (the late Jim Greenwood’s daughter), all with the same line – “Put us to work.”  We did.

On  Friday,  my  wife  Mary  had  planned  to  cook dinner  for the Advisory board, but it soon became obvious  that  our  sun  porch  would  not  hold  the multitude, so dinner was moved to the dining room at  Treasurer  Martha  Skinner’s  Martha’s Place Hotel (Thanks. Martha!) where Mary, Cathy and Christine whipped up lasagna with an  antipasto and all the trimmings.   They  fed  over  two  dozen,  including Board   of  Trustees   couples  and four slightly bewildered young truck drivers who had just checked into Martha’s.

image010Saturday – the big day – dawned bright and clear and a bunch of our people kicked things off with an excellent breakfast at the American Legion.  Some time after 10 AM, the annual Columbus Day Parade cranked   up   from   the Old  School  led  by  an ancient   6 X 6  and including a band, folk dancers  and  just  about all  of  the  village emergency rolling stock. There is nothing quite like a small town parade.   Somewhere around 11 AM I had the privilege of introducing Paul  Salopek,  our speaker  for  the  day  (pictured  to the  left). Paul and his professional artist wife, Linda  Lynch,  are restoring and live in the nearby historic Hoover Hotel, which figured heavily in the story of the Pancho Villa  raid on Columbus in 1916. Paul,  who  has  been  awarded  two Pulitzers for his work at the Chicago Tribune and National Geographic, told us about his next project for  the Geographic  and other  sponsors.    He  is planning to  walk around the world!

Beginning early next year, he will walk the route of Homo Sapiens  (man)  out  of  Africa, through the Middle East,  into Asia and then to the Americas. He plans to walk approximately six months out of each year and to take  seven years to complete the project.  Walk through Syria?   Iran? China?  “We will see when I get there,” he said.   Paul held the standing-room only  crowd  in  the  Columbus American Legion Hall spellbound.  Keep abreast of Paul’s greak trek here.

image015The actual runway dedication took place at 2 PM in front of the new windsock and mast made by Larry Benedict’s skillful hands and installed that morning.  With the American Flag donated by James Efferson flying behind her, Jeanne Plant parted the ribbon held by a group of First Aero volunteers. The 50 or so onlookers then recited the Pledge of Allegiance led by Jim Davis,  and then broke into cheers and hugs all around. To the left are President Bill Wehner and Jeanne Plant, the late Jim Greenwood’s (Jim was our first FASF Advisory Board Chair and the man who virtually made the “Learjet” a household word) daughter, following the ribbon cutting.

I am also happy to report that the weekend resulted in  additions  to  the  FASF  treasury. The  noon serving of subs with the trimmings actually came to within  a  couple dollars of breakeven, and sales of tee shirts, patches, decals and the like amounted to several hundred dollars more.

It’s that time of year again”

As  the  year  end  approaches,  please  keep  your Foundation in mind.   There are a lot of deserving causes  out  there,  and  after  you  have  written  the checks  to  them,  if  you  have  a buck  or  two  left, consider sending  some our way.  We need to get this land paid for and we can’t do it without your help.  How about this for a serious memorial for someone  deserving:  the Trustees have offered runway naming rights to any donor of ten thousand or more!

And finally, if you find yourself traveling down our way this winter, give us a holler – we’d be pleased to show you around.

Bill Wehner

501(c)(3) Block

FASF Sponsors Author

John Deuble at Fly-In

By First Vice President Ric Lambart

image017John L. Deuble, Jr., (on the left) noted author and historian, made a special presentation to the New Mexico Pilot’s Association’s Centennial   Fly-In   celebration   at   Blue Feather Aero,  Santa Teresa  Airport, on September  29, 2012. Santa Teresa, NM is about 70 miles east of Columbus on the Texas border.   Deuble was  sponsored by the New Mexico State Historical Society and the First Aero Squadron Foundation.

Deuble, an Environmental Scientist and Engineer, has  been  a life-long history buff.   Since he retired and moved to New  Mexico, he  has  become  an expert in the history of his new home state, with a special interest in its numerous military installations and  the  many mining  camps  that  have  existed throughout  its  colorful  history.   His  forthcoming new book,  “Camp Furlong  1912  through 1926”  was  the  focus  of  his  presentation  to  the  visiting pilots  gathered  at  Santa  Teresa.  Deuble spoke primarily about the famous “Punitive Expedition” launched from Columbus by General John J. “Black Jack”  Pershing, in March of 1916. The Expedition was  a  response  to  the  surprise raid  against  both Camp Furlong and the adjacent town of Columbus on March 9th  of that year.  The attack by Villa’s forces of  several  hundred  revolutionaries  left  18 Americans  dead, mostly  civilians.     In  retaliation, President  Woodrow  Wilson  ordered  Pershing  to launch  his  “Punitive  Expedition,”  which  quickly saw  U.S.  Army  troops  pour  across  the border  at Columbus in pursuit of the infamous Villa.

Historian Deuble not only described in vivid detail the  exploits  of  the  U.S.  Army  troops,  but also illustrated his talk with numerous photographs taken at the  time of the action.  These photos included many   of   the    famous First Aero Squadron’s pioneering  aviators,  along  with their  supporting ground   crews  and  equipment.  The  famous  but notably unairworthy Curtiss JN-2 and JN-3 “Jenny” biplanes  flown by  these  aviators  were  the  first airplanes  ever  deployed   by  the  U.S.  Army  in combat.   Deservedly,   the   tiny   border   town   of Columbus, where the planes were based, has become known  as  “The Cradle  of  American  Air  Power.” Deuble also displayed a number of archival photos of the numerous ground vehicles dispatched in that enterprise, including both cars and trucks, which also represented the first use in actual combat of mechanized vehicles by the U.S. Army.

The speaker also described in some detail how a number of those early intrepid First Aero Squadron pilots became  the backbone of the American  Air Forces when America entered World War I in early 1917.    General Pershing’s commanding officer in charge  of the First Aero Squadron’s operations at Columbus,  Captain Benjamin Foulois, went on to become the commanding General of the U. S. Army Air  Corps,  retiring  under  President  Franklin  D. Roosevelt  in 1935.   A  former plumber  from Connecticut, Foulois first enlisted in the Army, after lying  about  his  age,  as  a  foot  soldier.  He  soon worked his way up from an enlisted man to become a   commissioned   officer—all   without   a   college education.

 About fifty guests, members and pilots attended the Fly-In celebration  and  historical  presentation  at Santa Teresa, some from as far away as Indiana.

Looking for a Grant Writer

The FASF is looking for someone who can research and  apply  for  grants  related  to  the Foundation’s mission  and  goals.  It  isn’t  necessary  that  such  a person with grant  writing experience be a member of the FASF although we would certainly welcome a member who would like to take on this task.  It could be someone in the member’s household or other acquaintance. The nice thing about this job is that you can do it from home. If you are interested or  know someone  with  grant  writing  skills  who might be interested, call Bill Wehner at (575) 531- 7044 or email him at

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