The Aerodrome is the Journal of the First Aero Squadron Foundation
By FASF President Bill Wehner
I am more than pleased to report two important actions by your Board of Trustees, as well as progress in other areas. As noted in the last Aerodrome, the quarter-section (160 acres) immediately to the east of us went on the market in early August; we have been able secure its use for the Foundation. This means we have control of all historic lands associated with the First Aero Squadron as well as all the land associated with the Columbus Municipal Airport (Zero NM Zero).
The second very important action by the Trustees is to retire the portion of the debt to Mrs. Pat Walsh incurred in the purchase of the original 60 acres of historic land. The original loan by her was $15,000, and $7500 of that amount had been paid, leaving a balance of $7500. Past President Gene Valdes led this effort, and reports that so far $7000 has been pledged, and that all of your Trustees chipped in to make this payoff.
As if things weren’t interesting enough around here, Gene, who is also the valiant editor of this newsletter, discovered a couple of months ago that the second payment to Walsh, authorized and drawn in February, had not yet cleared the bank. He finally traced the problem to the escrow company, where the check lay buried under the reams of paperwork generated when Deming’s other escrow company bellied up. As of this writing, the check (for $2500) has indeed cleared. This is a public apology to Mrs. Walsh, who had kindly agreed to carry our note for $15,000 when we purchased the property from her.
You will also recall that Member John Moore, of St. Louis, donated an office trailer to the Foundation. This generous donation solves a serious problem – that of consolidating Foundation property and files in a single location. However welcome as that was, it also created a problem: how to get the trailer from Missouri to Columbus. Up stepped Trustee Bud Canfield, who has had much experience moving stuff like the trailer around the country. Bud offered to fetch the trailer and bring it home. He will donate all his travel expenses on the week-long trip if we can give him help on fuel purchases for his dually. This time several Trustees and Advisory Board Members chipped in enough to fund that expense. Donors include:
Jim Davis, Alexandria VA
Scott Schmid, Deming NM
Ken Emery, Columbus NM
Gene Valdes, Columbus NM
Martha Skinner, Columbus NM
Lyn and Tom Benedict, Dexter NM
John Deuble, Albuquerque NM
Tom Willmott, Santa Fe NM
Steve Watson, Albuquerque NM
Harley Pickett, Lake City FL
Bob Worthington, Las Cruces NM
Velvet Fackeldey, Lebanon MO*
*Some of you may have seen the recent Larry the Cable Guy episode featuring Ms Fackeldey’s employer, Cackle Hatcheries of Lebanon. Velvet reports that she ended up on the cutting room floor in favor of seven minutes worth of Larry sexing chicks…
We always encourage visitors to Columbus and the Aerodrome. While there is not much evidence left of the First Aero Squadron’s activities, there is plenty else to see of Pershing’s Punitive Expedition. Pancho Villa State Park has an excellent display featuring a full-size diorama of a portion of Camp Furlong and a full scale Jenny. The Columbus Historical Society Museum also has some very interesting exhibits and artifacts. In addition, we are surrounded by remnants of the “Old West”: the Gila Wilderness and Cliff Dwellings; Ft. Bayard and Ft. Apache; the Chiricahua Mountains and Cochise Stronghold; the remains of the headquarters of the Palomas Land and Cattle Company; Kilburn Hole; the Pony Hills and Mt. Cooke; and on and on. If you would like to visit, give us a heads-up at 575-531-7044.
Last week, Mark D. Van Ells dropped in to continue research on his book on World War I. Mark is a military historian and the author of several books on World War II. He is a Wisconsinite and a Packers fan who received his Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. He now teaches at Queensborough Community College in Bayside, Queens, New York. Mark asked many very perceptive questions and we were happy to welcome him.
Wife Mary and I make an annual pilgrimage to the convention of the Cessna 170 Assn., this year in Bardstown KY, the bourbon capitol of the world. Members of the 170 Club were among the earliest supporters of FASF and remain steadfast in their loyalty. Velvet Fackeldey is the retired Executive Secretary of the 170 Club. Several 170 members belong to our Advisory Board. FASF member Charlie Beyer of Fayetteville TN flew into Bardstown, and camped with his friend Dan across the road from us. We shared some friendly libation over the campfire and discovered that Charlie’s grandfather served on the border with Punitive Expedition, and before him, his great grandfather served as Sergeant with a “Buffalo Soldier” troop. We are pleased to tell you that Charlie won Best Original 170B with a ’52, N2320D.
One of the neatest experiences this pilot has ever had was flying to the annual Antique Airplane Association’s (AAA) fly-in at Blakesburg IA. This is a truly grassroots aviation event. In August 1953, Bob Taylor gathered antique and classic airplane enthusiasts in Ottumwa, Iowa and formed the AAA. A few years after that, the group moved to Antique Airfield in nearby Blakesburg where each August the air comes alive with old airplanes (along with some newer ones). Bob and son Brent (now president of AAA) will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the group at this month’s fly-in. One has to be a member to access the celebration, but that can be done at the gate, or when you land.
A while ago I realized that it had been some years since I’d last renewed my membership, so I sent $40 to the group to rectify the situation. Bob responded with a letter of welcome, and since FASF and AAA have similar purposes, I thought you might want to be aware of the “antiquers”. I am also pleased to welcome Bob to membership in First Aero Squadron Foundation. The AAA website is: www.AntiqueAirfield.com
Protecting our Legacy:
The Untold Story
By FASF Past President Gene Valdes
FASF President Bill Wehner mentioned in his foregoing report that the 160 acres east of the FASF property has been secured for use by the Foundation. As Bill noted, the 160 acres include the remainder of the 1916-1917 landing field used by the First Aero Squadron as well as the rest of the old Columbus Municipal Airport, itself steeped in history. Bill is a very modest, unassuming yet extremely effective leader. What he didn’t mention is that he and his lovely wife Mary recognized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect our historical legacy and purchased the land themselves out of their own resources. The sudden, unexpected availability of the 160 acres called for immediate action, as land speculators are currently buying up acreage in and around Columbus. Bill and Mary stepped forward and right away made the land available to the FASF until the Foundation can raise sufficient funds to repay them and assume actual legal ownership of the land. They are not asking to make any profit whatsoever. All of us interested in protecting and preserving our historic aviation beginnings owe Bill and Mary our gratitude.
Trustees Pay off Debt on 1st Parcel
As President Bill noted in his report, the remaining debt on the first 60-acre parcel will soon be paid off. All of the 9 FASF Trustees came forward with individual contributions which totaled more than $7,000. The remaining debt owed to the former property owner will now be paid off as soon as the escrow process is completed. Once that occurs, the FASF will have clear and unencumbered title to that historic land, thus ensuring its preservation for the future. Thanks, Board Members! You’ve done an outstanding job!
Stan Walsh Steps Up to the Plate
By FASF Board Member Ken Emery
Stan Walsh, pictured to the left, is a civil engineer, pilot and film producer hailing from Rancho Palos Verdes, California. He has been a member of the FASF for some time. When Stan read the article in the July 2013 newsletter noting that the 160-acre parcel east of the FASF’s original 60-acre tract was the on the market, he decided to help out by “buying an acre,” sending $250 for that purpose (the total purchase price of property divided by 160 comes to roughly $250 an acre). Stan recognized the historical importance of the acreage, containing as it does much of the 1916-1917 airfield used by the First Aero Squadron during the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries.
This isn’t the first time Stan has helped out, even though he may be unaware of the chain of events he initiated. Five or six years ago, Stan visited Columbus and the Columbus Historical Society Museum. My wife, Sheila Emery, was the docent on duty at the museum that day. They apparently had an interesting discussion about Columbus history because in 2009, Stan sent a copy of the First World War aviation journal “Over the Front,” (Summer, 2008) to us. In it was his article about “Billie” Schauffler who flew with First Aero Squadron in Columbus in 1917. The article was a prequel to Stan’s book “First, Over the Front,” published in 2011 (reviewed by Bill Wehner in The Aerodrome, in March, 2013 and available through Amazon). The book is a collection of Schauffler’s letters written during WWI. Stan knew Billie Schauffler and is a friend of his daughter who provided the letters for publication.
The magazine “Over the Front” is the publication of the League of World War One Aviation Historians. It so impressed me that I (and several other FASF Board Members as well) decided to join the League. Stan, in turn, joined the FASF as did a number of other League members. After communicating with Stan for several years, we finally met at the League’s Field of Dreams Seminar held in October 2011 in Monterey, California. FASF was invited to provide a speaker at the event and I was assigned the task. Stan attended. We chatted and got to know each other. Stan graciously videotaped my presentation and provided me with a copy.
Postscript: Stan’s $250 contribution was made in honor of the early aviator Billie Schauffler. At its September 2nd meeting, the FASF Board acknowledged and thanked Stan for his contribution by unanimously concurring in the erection of a brass plaque on the site of the 1916-17 Aerodrome inscribed with the names of all past, present and future donors who help in the purchase of both the original 60 acres and the new 160-acre tract. Thanks, Stan for the acre! We hope that other members will follow suit and ensure that our historic aviation past will preserved for all posterity.
FASF Reaches Out to ROTC Units
One of the challenges facing many non-profits is getting youth involved in the organization’s activities. Some non-profits try to involve young people by appointing youth representatives to their Board of Directors. Others establish specific programs aimed at attracting young men and women participants. Non-profit sponsored educational programs for high school and college students are often part of the effort. Prime purposes of these endeavors are to educate young people about the group’s mission, goals and values; encourage youth to support the group’s activities as advocates and volunteers; and identify young men and women who will be interested in staying with organization and ultimately become its future leaders. The First Aero Squadron Foundation is initiating its own efforts in this regard.
FASF 1st Vice President Ric Lambart, pictured at the left, has had meetings with Major Jason Adams and other officers of the Air Force ROTC Detachment 505 at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Both Ric and Major Adams believe that a dynamic and productive relationship between the AFROTC Detachment and the FASF would give cadets a better understanding of their Air Force heritage, including the challenges those early airmen faced. Cadets selected to serve as representatives to the FASF Board could help the FASF with some of its projects and in turn receive valuable board experience and leadership credit. A whole host of ways such a relationship would benefit both the AFROTC Detachment and the FASF were identified for future discussion.
In addition to the New Mexico State University AFROTC Detachment, Ric has made contact with the Jr. ROTC Unit at Deming High School, and its Senior Army Officer in Charge, Colonel Gary Stewart (who joined the FASF!). The Jr. ROTC Unit also has a strong potential for a mutually beneficial relationship with the FASF. Finally, Ric met with the local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Command Staff in Las Cruces to discuss ways of involving both their Adult Corps and their younger members in FASF activities. More meetings with the ROTC and CAP units and brain-storming sessions at the Board level are in order to help identify the full potential of these relationships and the policies and procedures to get them underway. While this is just a beginning, all of us on the Board of Trustees are firmly dedicated to having an active, engaged FASF youth component.
New FASF Members
Since the July newsletter, three more people have signed on as FASF members:
- Demetrius “Todd” Montes, Columbus, NM. The FASF is especially honored that Todd has Joined the Foundation. He is reportedly the youngest acting U.S. Postmaster in the country! Todd has been at the Columbus Post Office for over 11 years, and has been on his own as the Senior Officer in Charge of the facility for more than two. He gets an A+ in customer service. I remember a letter from one of my grandchildren simply addressed to “Grandpa Gene, Columbus, New Mexico” which found its way into my PO Box!
- Robert L. Taylor, Ottumwa, Iowa. Robert is President of the Antique Airplane Association. The Association has chapters in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. Check out their website at: www.AntiqueAirfield.com and see some great planes, read fascinating articles, and note upcoming fly-ins and other events.
- Marc Coan, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Marc is a pilot, flight instructor and Owner/President of SkyMachines, USA, an aircraft brokerage and sales company. Check out the website at www.skymachines.com.
Interested in becoming a member? Send $20 (active military or students $10) with your address details to FASF, PO Box 1516, Columbus, NM 88029. You will receive a confirming letter along with a top-grade quality First Aero Squadron patch and decal plus a year’s subscription to the printed copy of the FASF newsletter, “The Aerodrome.” Just go to the menu item above entitled “Membership” on this site, click on the Membership Application, and you can directly print the application out on your printer.
The following members have recently renewed their annual membership in FASF:
- Keith R. Beasley, Albuquerque, New Mexico;
- Michael Kihntopf, Schertz, Texas;
- Pete Oesper, Columbus, New Mexico;
- Robert Correia, Warwick, Texas;
- Terry Drew, Aptos, California.
- Allen Rosenberg, Columbus, New Mexico
Thanks again for your renewals. If you have received a renewal reminder and haven’t done so yet, President Bill and the whole organization looks forward to and truly appreciates your continued support! Thanks!