November 2009


Ballot – Enclosed with this issue is the annual ballot and proxy for 2010. Please fill in and return by December 31 st. Actually, do it NOW, that way you won’t forget. Annual Meeting – Elections will take place as usual in December, followed by officer installation on Monday, January 11 at the Annual Meeting. This year’s Annual Meeting will be a relatively low key affair because of festivities planned for the visit of Dr. Roger Miller, Air Force Historian in April. Miller is an Air Force Historian who will be presenting a highly entertaining program at our first ever Fly-in Conference.

Fly-in Conference – Mark the date of April 24, 2010 on your new calendar in red ink. In addition to the presentation by Dr. Miller, we are planning the “official” ribbon cutting ceremony at Parcel One, First Aero Squadron Aerodrome as well as other events. More on this important date in the February issue of the AERODROME.

Peter Westacott Day – The week of September 14th will not soon be forgotten in Columbus. The Wednesday event featuring aviation icons Jim Greenwood, Dave Clemmer, Alex Kvassay, and Jim Davis helping to celebrate the work of artist Peter Westacott culminated that afternoon when all but Greenwood sat down to regale the crowd in American Legion Post 1916. G4 pilot Clemmer described his flight on 9/11 while airborne with Attorney General John Ashcroft aboard The FAA’s Nan One. Davis (retired FAA Rapid Response Chief) and Westacott talked about aviation philosophies and personal experiences.

Kvassay’s reminiscences centered on day-to-day life with Bill Lear. He recalled that the Learjet offices were a stone’s throw from the Wichita Air Terminal and the resident car­rental counters. Someone noted that Learjet had paid several monthly invoices from Hertz, and that same someone asked around to see who had the car out. Nobody knew.

It finally came to light that Bill Lear had decided that he didn’t care to walk from the terminal to his office one day, rented a car, parked it in the lot, and promptly forgot about it … Alex noted that he stays in touch with Lear’s daughter, Chanda.

Final accounting is not yet complete for the print sale but it looks like a total of about $1500 was raised for the Foundation treasury, with the Wednesday afternoon event resulting in a little over $1200. At this writing, we have a few (six or less) signed and embossed prints- both First Flight and Jenny- left for sale. Prices for signed/embossed prints are: Jennys over Columbus, $60; First Flight, $100. One print of each is offered as a special for $125 total.

Unsigned prints are available too, at $35 and $60. Please add $6.00 per order for shipping.

To Peter, Alex, Dave and the Jims, our profound thanks for your generosity; and to those who purchased prints or otherwise contributed, thanks again.

Advisory members added- The September board meeting saw the election of two new Advisory Board members. Sandor “Alex” Kvassay, besides being a successful author, has had a career that has spanned the better part of seven decades including the German and Russian occupation of his homeland, Hungary. Freed from his captors, he was whisked to the Pentagon in an intelligence role and served in the US military. He eventually hooked up with the peripatetic Bill Lear and became Lear’s Director of International Sales. He now splits his time between home in Wichita and traveling worldwide with his grandchildren and their parents.

Bob Worthington is retired from the Army where he served multiple roles; currently he serves as President ofthe New Mexico Pilots Association and VP of the US Pilots Assn. Bob is a retired journalism professor, was an FAA Safety Counselor, and now a F AAST rep. A prolific author – over 1800 articles and books – Bob has just finished a documentary movie on Viet Nam. He is also an amateur historian and gun collector.

Logo selected- You will note that we have a new logo, reproduced on the enclosed Application Form. “1916” and “1917” represent the years the First Aero Squadron spent here on the border before being shipped to Europe. The Jenny depiction is taken from Peter Westacott’s painting. Peter has been especially generous to the First Aero Foundation and we deeply appreciate it.

New website- Go ahead, Google up and share our delight in Kris Lethin’s latest version of the website. Assisting Kris were Ric Lambart, Ken Emery and Sharan Maxwell. This same committee has been working to develop language for a 4×8 sign to be erected on the recently acquired Parcel One.

Noted in passing- It is certainly interesting to realize that this patch of sand and gravel desert we are trying to save for posterity has seen everything from IN-3 Jennys to the biggest prop driven passenger planes.

On December 3fd, 1948, with Capt. Murwin D. Ator in command, a DC-6 was cruising at 18,000 feet when the #4 engine blew, then started to bum. The Douglas was 25 miles NE of Columbus, New Mexico, at the time and the flight crew decided to set the craft down ASAP. A return to EI Paso was ruled out, as was a landing at Deming, so they headed for Columbus. AA Flight 183 made a “normal engine-out landing” at 2010 MST. As the DC-6 rolled to a stop on the 4100 foot gravel runway, the stewardesses initiated an emergency evacuation. However, one passenger who had insisted on making a parachute jump from 18,000′ now refused to make the 6′ jump to the ground … It is reported that Capt. Ator later took up bullfighting “for excitement.” (Nov./Dec. ’95, American Airlines company magazine). The complete story is on our website,

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