June 2009

To preserve and protect the cradle of American Airpower



April 30th 2009 certainly will be recorded as a red-letter day for the First Aero Squadron Foundation.  That morning, President Gene Valdes sat down in the offices of Southwest Escrow and put his signature to the documents closing the purchase of Parcel #1 of the Landmarked Historic Site of the first air unit operations into foreign territory.  While a number of folks made this purchase possible, the Foundation would like to thank those in particular that put up the cash to make this transaction possible:

  • C.E. “Pete” Adolph, Albuquerque NM (Advisory Board)
  • Lyn Benedict, Roswell NM (Advisory Board)
  • Jim Davis, Sterling VA (Trustee)
  • Sharon Maxwell, Columbus NM (Trustee)
  • Patricia Walsh, Long Beach NY (Seller)
  • Bill Wehner, Columbus NM (Trustee)
  • Susan Wehner, Davenport IA (Member)

The essential details are: purchase price, $50,000 ($15,000 loan from Mrs. Walsh, $35,000 in loans from the others); loans secured by property mortgage; terms are 3 years at 0%, then 2 years at 4%.  Now we just have to raise 50 grand to pay off the mortgage…

The actual transfer of the parcel will have to wait a few days while contract language is clarified and the lawyers earn their fees, but these are formalities as of this writing.

Next steps: With the acquisition of Parcel #1, the Foundation has gained more legitimacy in the eyes of potential contributors.  We need to reach out to these folks and plead the case for preserving and memorializing an important part of American history.  By creating a memorial to airmen involved in the earliest days of aviation and the Punitive Expedition, the First World War, and the Golden Age that followed, we will have insured that America will not again forget them.  An important part of this memorial will be recreation of the early flight lines and a museum to tell the story and house important relics.  As we are able to acquire more land, we can recreate the actual aerodrome itself with an operational airport.

We need your help, again:  As you know by now, this organization is entirely run by volunteers (some would say rank amateurs).  We have yet to spend a dime on salaries, so you know that you are getting a pretty good bang for your dues buck.  However, local talent can only be stretched so far.  We’ve often said how much we need your cash, now we need your mind and body as well.  We are in real, serious need of folks who can (and will) write press releases; we need folks who can get our message on the internet; and we need help from you if you have any knowledge of grant writing.  We can use help on one-time projects, or on a continuing basis.  And to tell the truth, we need all the advice and help we can muster in legal areas- for instance, it is looking like we will spend close to a thousand dollars in attorneys fees just to close on Parcel #1. We are certainly not looking to put any lawyers out of work, but at this time when cash is so hard to come by, we would sure welcome any aid we can get.

Do we have any experienced fund raisers out there?  Oh, boy, can we use your help!

Writers- this is your chance to help get the First Aero story out to the world, and maybe pick up a submission check or two along the way.  We have had at least one request from an aviation slick, and we need to submit to the broad spectrum of aviation press, as well as to the historic and landscape preservation press as well.  Can you–will you–help?  We can load you down with briefing material if you are interested.  Contact Bill or Ruth (our public education committee) at wehner@vtc.net for more information.

Articles dealing with the First Aero Squadron itself or on its impact on modern warfare, on Benjamin Foulois and his dealings with Billy Mitchell, the process of saving the Aerodrome, and restoring a historic landscape are all grist for the mill.

This years dues cycle has begun.  We need you.  Our dues pay the cost of doing business day-to-day, stuff like the costs of paper, printing, mailing and so on.  Also the purchase of a laptop and printer and Quick Books for Treasurer Pete Oesper and file cabinets and folders, etc.; and for fees involved with our tax exempt status and corporate registration.  This last year’s start-up was especially costly, and we’ve had to rely on donations to cover shortfalls.  Had not President Gene donated the legal fees involved in the Parcel #1 transaction, the Foundation could not have pulled it off.  The date of your renewal is written on this newsletter, and you can use the application form on the back sheet to update us if wish.

Protect your Charter Member status… renew!

Here’s the thing- we are a very small group for a national organization. Don’t get the idea that your 20 bucks don’t count, because they do, big-time.  For instance, instead of having a professional mailing service do the AERODROME, my long-suffering wife and I sit at the table on our porch and stick the labels and stamps on the envelopes in order to get it into your hands.  Mary says that we are a “kitchen table” operation–and that’s how this newsletter gets into the mail.

The country needs landmarks like the First Aero Squadron Aerodrome more than ever.  If the First Aero Foundation is to survive, we have to keep your interest as well as recruit new members; and while recruitment is important, we feel that it’s even more important to keep members on board.  You.

Brochure.  The Board of Trustees has authorized Marge Myers, Lake Valley NM, to design a brochure to be used as both a fund raiser and a recruiting piece.  Marge is an imaginative professional, and her husband Tom flies a Glassair based in Deming NM.

Some have expressed opinions (pro and con) on the paperwork we have been using to date and this is your chance to have input on the new production.  If you have opinions and/or ideas, please send them on to Bill Wehner at wehner@vtc.net, or mail to Box 215, Columbus.  He and Ruth Smith will see that they are run past the Board and passed on to Marge.  A budget range of $3500 to $5000 was suggested as a starting point.

Next steps.  At the request of the Foundation, Village of Columbus Trustees are taking up the question of airport zoning.  Without enacted height restrictions, for instance, we could easily find ourselves looking at a cell tower on final approach, or something equally delightful.  A few years ago, a strip three miles away on the border had power poles installed on the runway, well within 100 feet, so stuff happens.  Next, we will take the zoning request to Luna County since while the Aerodrome abuts the Village, half its boundaries are in the county.  By the way, do we have a member or connection versed in airport law?

Important donation: Artist (and Advisory Board Member Peter Westacott) has very generously donated 100 prints of his work showing Jennys over Columbus, The Cradle of American Airpower, and 25 prints of his painting The Dream is Fulfilled, The Dawn of Powered Flight (a limited run of 750 prints) to the Foundation for use as fund raising incentives.  The Advisory Board and the Trustees are considering how best to utilize these gifts.  How about letting us know what you think?

Visit Peter at westacottart.com and enjoy the work of this very talented man.

Lt. Billy Schauffler: Stanley Walsh has notified us of a very interesting project that he has under way.  He is writing a biography of Lt. Schauffler, who was one of the so-called “dirty five” in the First Aero Squadron–the five pilots who were not grads of West Point.

Does anyone have any pictures or information about Schauffler they would like to share with Stanley?  If so, he can be reached at stanslog@dslextreme.com .

Odds & Ends.  We really need your input, this is your organization.  Your Board of Trustees is starting to build a learning curve and your thoughts and ideas will be a great help.  We are learning to utilize the various talents on the Board, but have yet to effectively tap into the energy and resources of the Advisory Board.  We don’t know much about you, either.  Note the “interests” line on the application form below and help us out.

The Board is about to have a sign erected on Parcel #1 noting the it is part of the aerodrome from which the first military unit sortie into foreign airspace was launched, and plans are underway for a permanent memorial to be separate from the planned museum .  Have you a suggestion as to how these pioneer airmen could be best honored?  If so, please let us know.  All suggestions will be evaluated seriously.

Also being explored are insurance needs, and a standard set of financial procedures.

Donation.  We are pleased to acknowledge the recent donation of $100 from Mrs. Marion Good of Columbus.  Thanks to Mrs.Good, and to all of you who have contributed to the Foundation since its inception.

You have no doubt noticed that an awfully lot of space in this issue of the AERODROME has been devoted to requests for your input and help in various areas.  It is simply because we cannot accomplish what we’ve set out to do with just a Trustee Board of 9 people or an Advisory board of a dozen of so.  At this writing we have about seventy or so members across the country (actually, internationally if we count Peter); We must expand this membership base- and the best way to do that is for you to pass on a copy of the application to someone you know has an interest in aviation history.

Please protect your Charter Membership and help keep the Foundation alive; your dues are due by: __________

Thank you very much! 


Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr (F)____________________(MI)______(L)________________________



City-State (Province)______________________________________________________

Postal code-Country_______________________________________________________


Dues- Gold: $1000______Silver: $500______Bronze: $250______At large: $20______

New_____Renewal_____  Sponsor (not req’d)__________________________________

May we get in touch about help with activities (writing, grant research, publicity, etc.)?

Areas of interest__________________________________________________________



Address all mail to: FAF, Box 1516, Columbus NM 88029

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