Hickory Aviation Museum lands P-3C sub hunter

The Hickory Aviation Museum added another piece of military aviation history to its collection when it accepted a recently retired P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a submarine hunter.

The aircraft was in service 48 years and was flown into Hickory by a U.S. Navy crew Wednesday. It is only one of four at a museum.

Navy veteran Jim Munday remembers the aircraft from working on them in 1968 during the Vietnam War. He lives in Caldwell County now but visits the Hickory Aviation Museum every couple of months. He’s always had a love for airplanes.

“When I was younger I used to come to the Hickory airport and watch the DC-3s take off,” Munday said.

The P-3C Orion is a land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft. Its mission includes surveillance of the battle space, either at sea or above land with a long-range and long loiter time. The P-3C has proved to be invaluable during overseas contingency operations, according to It has a crew of up to 12 and a variety of armament: AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84K SLAM-ER, AGM-65F Maverick missiles, Mk46/50/54 torpedoes, rockets, mines and depth bombs.

Hickory’s P-3C Orion (156515) was accepted from Lockheed Martin in 1969 by the U.S. Navy. The turbo prop aircraft is 116 feet long, 33 feet high and has a wingspan of 99.6 feet.

It has been attached to the following squadrons: VP-30, VP-31, VP-48, VP-46, VP-1, VP-62, VP-92, VP-4, VP-40, VP-9 and VP-10.

The P-3C Orion in Hickory actually belongs to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., which loans out assets to other museums.

Retired Senior Chief from the Navy, Stan Lenharr is in charge of the demilitarization of the P-3C, working for PMA 290 out of Patuxent River, Md. The organization manages the acquisition, development, support and delivery of the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft, according to

Lenharr and Kregg Kirby with the Hickory Aviation Museum worked together to coordinate things with the museum in Florida to get the P-3C, which was last attached to VP-30, the P-3C Fleet Replacement Squadron.

What excited Lenharr the most about bringing the aircraft to Hickory was the chance to use it as an educational tool.

“When Kregg and I talked about this and he told me he could have thousands of kids a year go through these airplanes, I said, ‘you don’t know what’s in that kid’s mind at 6 or 7 years old and they’re inside that airplane,” Lenharr said. “They could be potential academy grads flying the future fighter planes or other future aircraft for the U.S. Navy down the road because of the experience they had in that airplane.”

Lenharr said it’s an honor to know the legacy for the P-3C is going to be able to stay here in Hickory for years to come.

Navy veterans, Wayne Vaughn and Skip O’halloran will be part of the team to help demilitarize the aircraft and prepare it for the museum as well. They both worked on P-3C s when they were in the service.

“It’s as dependable as a hammer,” Vaughn, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1964-69, said. “We’d go 12-hour flights over the ocean. Our whole mission was over the ocean.”

O’halloran remembers coming off missions with the aircraft white, covered in salt from flying over the ocean. He was a flight engineer in the Navy reserves for 17 years and got out in 1999.

Hickory Aviation Museum hands-on with military history

John Bailey – Hickory

From a Fury to a Tomcat to a Phantom, if it flew for the U.S. military, it’s probably represented on the Hickory Aviation Museum’s flight line.

The museum opened in 2007 with the help of the Sabre Society of North Carolina in Hickory, a volunteer aviation historical group focused on restoring and preserving vintage military aircraft. It has more than a dozen aircraft on display at the Hickory Regional Airport.

“These airplanes were defending our freedom for a long time and they deserve something better than being put into a scrap heap,” Jeff Wofford, president and director of the museum, said.

 Wofford is a Navy veteran and said the idea for the museum had its start in 1990 when the group was trying to save a FJ-3 Fury, the Navy’s version of the F-86, which was a Korean War-era jet.

“It was sitting up at a ballpark in Taylorsville and was severely abused. It had been shot at, beat on,” Wofford said.

The society members knew they had to save it if they could. One thing the members of the society wanted from the museum was for it to be a true, immersive, and hands-on experience for visitors.

“These things are more than just chunks of metal. People spent their lives flying these things,” Wofford said. “They flew in defense of our country in these airplanes. They’re a piece of history.”

A good example of being able to touch history at the museum is the F-14 cockpit placed on a trailer and outfitted with all the flight instruments. Visitors can even sit in it. The cockpit has the paint scheme of the squadron it was actually a part off in the early 1970s and is one of the few F-14’s to see action during the war in Vietnam.

“We want kids to come out here and be able to touch stuff,” Wofford said. “It’s one thing to sit here and look at but it’s another thing to walk up and put your hands on it and be able to get in it.”

The museum recently received a SH-3 Sea King Navy helicopter. It was designed for anti-submarine warfare with the Navy and as a transport between carriers and support ships. Visitors are welcome to walk into the aircraft and check out all of its stations.

The Sea King is one of eight-year-old Watts Rogers’ favorites on the flight line. His father Matthew Rogers said his son is always finding something new to learn about every time they visit.

“The passion the volunteers here have is one of the reasons, from a parent’s standpoint, I like bringing him here,” Matthew Rogers said. “It’s because of their passion they have for what they’re doing and the fact they enjoy passing it on to someone else that makes it special.”

Preserve, honor and educate

Along with preserving each aircraft, the museum focuses on preserving the history of each one, recognizing those who flew them and worked on them.

“These are the people, who during a very difficult time in our history were defending us,” Wofford said. “The F-4 we have was part of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was on one of the carriers that was out there during the blockade.”

The A-7 Corsair on the flight line also has some significant history.

“We dedicated this airplane to Lt. Commander Scotty Greiling several years ago. We hosted Attack Squadron (VA) 82’s reunion,” Wofford said. “The airplane is painted up in their paint scheme. The Lt. Commander was the only combat loss on that cruise. His airplane was shot down in Vietnam.”

It was eventually discovered the museum’s A-7 was one actually from the same squadron, VA-82, so it was decided to name it in his honor.

In 2006, the U.S. Navy approached the society and said they had another F-14 available if the museum was interested. It was the last of its kind to fly for the Navy before the model was retired from service. This also sparked the need for the museum.

The Hickory City Council agreed to let the group take over the old flight service room at the Hickory Regional Airport. It had been closed down for years. The city also gave the society a third of the ramp for their aircraft. The museum first opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend in 2007.

Eric Beckler is the museum board chairman and a U.S. Navy veteran pilot. He first got involved with the museum in 2002. In the Navy, he flew several aircraft including the A-6 Intruder off a carrier. Beckler recently got to lead a tour of a group of local STEM students and got to share his knowledge about the aircraft from a practical point of view.

“There are three airplanes out there that I went through flight school,” Beckler said. “The T-2 Buckeye was the first one I landed on a carrier. I’ve got that personal connection with these airplanes.

“Those airplanes were very good to me. They taught me a lot, and I got to serve with some of the greatest people in our country, and I try to pass that on with these groups we have come through.”

Retired Air Force Brigadier Gen. Larry Huggins served with the F-105F Wild Weasels in Vietnam and said the museum is the place to come to experience U.S. aviation history because of the volunteers.

“There are two purposes for this museum, show respect for the veterans and educate the young kids on what went on,” Huggins said. “The history here is unbelievable. You can’t put a price tag on it, and it’s run by all volunteers.”

Admission to the museum is free and is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4p.m.; and Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

For more information, visit or call 828-323-1963. The Hickory Aviation Museum is at 3101 Ninth Ave. Drive NW, in Hickory.

Crowds fill N.C. Transportation Museum for aviation day

Josh Bergeron – Salisbury Post

Maleek Littlejohn has dreams of flying.

Littlejohn, a 10-year-old ball of energy, couldn’t contain his excitement on Saturday as he was surrounded by planes, flight simulators and other aviation activities. Inside of the N.C. Transportation Museum, Littlejohn bounded from table to table to see what each had to offer.

The N.C. Transportation Museum is best known for its displays of trains, but on Saturday the museum showed off aviation-related displays.

Littlejohn said he wants to be a pilot when he grows up. In particular, he’s got his sights set on becoming a military pilot who flies fighter jets. His reasoning is simple.

“They’re cool and they’ve got guns on them,” Littlejohn said.

He said flight simulators were his favorite display. Littlejohn said he also liked remote controlled airplanes being flown inside of the N.C. Transportation Museum’s backshop. Later, he became engrossed in an activity that challenged museum visitors to build a device that could float between two red lines in a wind tunnel.

Littlejohn and his family members were just a few of the many people who filed into the N.C. Transportation Museum’s aviation-focused event — Learning to Fly. One day earlier, more than 900 children and teachers filed through the museum to get a sneak peak at aviation day exhibits.

A replica Wright Flyer was among the many displays. Elizabeth Duncan, dressed as aviator Amelia Earhart, and Theresa Pierce was dressed as Katharine Wright, a high school teacher and sister of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright. In their costumes, Duncan and Pierce spoke with museum visitors near the Wright Flyer. WWII aviation uniforms were also on display. Peter Meyer donned the 1940s-era uniforms and told stories about his father, a pilot during WWII. Wake Forest Baptist Health AirCare landed a helicopter at the museum for visitors to look at.

A Piedmont Airlines plane, known as the Potomac Pacemaker, was the largest single item on display. For the past several years, volunteers have worked carefully to assemble and restore the aircraft, which was manufactured in 1942, retired in 1965, obtained in 1978 by the Museum of Life and Science in Durham and purchased in 2004 by the N.C. Transportation Museum.

Walt Ryerson served in the Navy as an aircraft electrician and also flew airplanes professionally. On Saturday, Ryerson was among a number of volunteers working to restore the plane as museum visitors passed by. Twice per month, volunteers gather to restore the aircraft.

Ryerson said the plane won’t ever fly again, but the goal is to restore both the interior and exterior to the glory of its flying days.

“We want to get to the point where a mechanic who comes in here and is retired says ‘OK, that looks like it should,” Ryerson said.

He said working to restore the plane is fun and compared it to tinkering with classic cars.

“Some people have their fun working on a hot rod, but I get mine working on an airplane,” he said.

For others who volunteer to restore the plane, it’s a learning experience.

High school sophomore Delaina Yancey, from Cornelius, says she wants to be a commercial pilot for Emirates — an airline company based in Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates. Aviation is her happy place, Yancey said.

“When I was 14, I went up in the air and just thought, ‘this is it. This is where I want to be,’” Yancey said.

Working nearby was Anthony Eugene Paupaw, a 58-year-old who is scheduled to graduate from Guilford Technical Community College this year. For years, Paupaw was a truck driver. When he was laid off in 2013, he decided to go back to school. Helping assemble the plane provides real-world experience, he said.

Once complete, Kevin Cherry, Deputy Secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said the Potomac Pacemaker will be a representation of a historically significant airplane.

“It’s one of the most significant artifacts we have here because it is a signature piece of the Piedmont Airlines story,” Cherry said. “Piedmont Airlines was not just for North Carolina but the whole country, truly significant for the development of commercial air. Because of the innovation of Piedmont Airlines, regular people could fly.”

North Carolina Transportation Museum Director Kelly Alexander said the Potomac Pacemaker eventually will be part of its own permanent exhibit about the importance of flight.

The museum may be known for its trains, but it’s not the only kind of transportation Alexander said she hopes visitors can experience.

“Everybody knows us for trains, but we want people to be able to experience all kinds of inland transportation here,” she said.

Heat does not keep people, planes from annual Fly-In at KHBI

By Judi Brinegar

HBI Fly In

Ryan Dunn of Winston Salem cools himself neath the shade created by the wing of an FG-1 Corsair with a P-51 Mustang in the background at the NC Aviation Museum Fly-In 6-11-16. Dunn was on hand as a part of a WWII reenactment group that had set up camps and also had some skirmishes with German reenactors.

The higher-than-normal heat index did not keep people away from the 2016 Fly-In at the Asheboro Regional Airport on Saturday.

A cool breeze helped keep it a little cooler for attendees at the fly-in, which is sponsored by the N.C. Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame, and is its annual fund-raiser. The event celebrated its 20th year.

War planes from the 1940s and newer models alike were on display and flying in and out at the airport all day, solo and in formation, to the delight of those watching from below.

David Alvarez of Siler City and his family were enjoying the air show and keeping cool with ice cold water and lots of sunscreen.

“We have never been to this before,” Alvarez said. “My little boy wanted to come so here we are. To think that some of the planes are from the 1940s and 1950s and still flying is really nice. It makes me want to go visit other places where they do this too.”

Ramon Alvarez, 7, was tugging on his father’s hand, wanting to go see a plane taxiing along the tarmac.

“It’s landing, let’s go see it,” he said excitedly. “Hurry, let’s go!”

The N.C. Forest Service, which has a county ranger office in all 100 North Carolina counties, had a plane on display. To look at it, you would think it was a vintage plane from the 1960s or 1970s, but this ugly duckling was a 1996 Melex M-18 Dromader Single Engine Airtanker (SEATs) aircraft. A Dromader can drop up to 500 gallons of water or fire retardant chemical.

Weston Vandenabeele is the Forest Service’s assistant county ranger for Randolph County. He said when they are battling forest fires the airport is one of the bases for filling up with water.

“We can fill up (it holds 500 gallons of water) and we work a 100-mile radius,” he said. “People want to know how much horsepower it has. This plane has a 1,000-horsepower radial engine. It’s good for us to be here — to provide information and education and to let people know we are here in Randolph County.”

A big draw was a group of World War II reenactors in a field near the runway, where they had camped out Friday night. Richard “Doc” Meyer of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was one of the reenactors dressed in vintage apparel and explaining the meaning of each part of a World War II uniform. A veteran, he served 20 years in the Navy, Army National Guard, Army Reserve and, at 37, joined the U.S. Army as a paratrooper.

He became involved with reenacting because he has a passion for history.

“When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be in third grade, because they taught history in third grade,” he said. “For me, there was no turning back. As for reenacting, I started doing it about 25 years ago. For about 20 years, I would also go to a friend’s class once a month and teach her class lessons about history. They don’t teach enough history in school today.

“We need to get kids in school going, we gotta teach them what these men sacrificed for in World War II.”

Michigan Marine’s squadron featured in North Carolina Aviation Museum

Malachi Barrett, MLive Muskegon Chronicle

Hickory Plane

A Ludington Marine’s name will be forever painted on the side of a newly dedicated historical aircraft.

The Hickory Aviation Museum in North Carolina accepted the EA-6B Prowler in May. Painted on the aircraft is the squadron lineage, the aircrew’s names, the maintenance department’s names and the squadron’s banshee logo.

“I was (at the dedication ceremony), we demilitarized the aircraft and it was a good event,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ki Kimball. “It will be nice when my kids can see it. It’s a part of history. Everyone was happy to know that something we flew and worked on will be a piece of history forever.”

The Prowler has been in service since 1975, Kimball said. The EA-6B’s primary mission is to protect U.S. and coalition forces through electronic attack and suppression of enemy air defenses. Kimball said the Prowler interrupts enemy electronic activity and obtains electronic intelligence within the combat area.

“In other words, their job is to jam enemy RADAR and missile systems to protect our forces,” said Jeff Wofford, director of the Hickory Aviation Museum. “These guys were the first in to blaze a trail for the other aircraft to follow. During recent missions, the aircraft was able to jam cell phone signals to prevent the enemy from using cell phones to detonate IEDs.”

The aircraft on display in Hickory has been in service since 1991 and has been involved in most of the combat operations that the United States has been in since that time. All EA-6B will be removed from service by 2019.

The Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 — also known as VMAQ-1 — was first established during the Korean War and saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Their last combat deployment was in 2013.

Upon returning to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, Kimball’s squadron was tasked with training pilots and Naval Flight Officers to operate the EA-6B Prowler. The Quality Assurance Chief of his unit, Kimball is responsible for making sure the aircraft is properly maintained and safe to fly on missions.

Kimball has served in the Marine Corps since graduating from Ludington High School in 2000. In total, he has served four tours of duty — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Italy.

“At a young age I knew I wanted to be a Marine,” Kimball said. “In my experience the camaraderie, being around all guys and the traveling keeps you young, you get to serve your country and work with a lot of people. I enjoy it. It has a challenge.”

He completed boot camp at Camp Pendleton, San Diego. Kimball was in the same unit as his half-brother Chad Lawton during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“We had a fascination with the Marine Corps and how high their standards were,” Lawton said. “If we were going to go in, we wanted to set the bar high.”

Lawton retired in 2009 and is now Medical Control Authority coordinator for the West Michigan Regional Medical Consortium.  

“I miss being a Marine quite a bit, I really value my time and if you ask anyone I think you would get mostly the same response,” he said. “I was not the best student in high school, at that time I was pretty young and I knew that I needed to do something drastic or I would end up somewhere bad. I never would have been able to get this far without the Marine Corps.”

Kimball remains in North Carolina with his wife and two children.

“We’re very proud of him, he’s done a good job of hashing a name for himself and he’s a dedicated Marine,” Lawton said. “He’s always been a go-getter.”

Wofford said the museum is honored to receive the aircraft from VMAQT-1. Originally, there were plans to display a Navy plane from Washington, but plans fell through.

“We had a great time hanging out with the guys from VMAQT-1,” Wofford said. “They are a tribute to their squadron, the Marine Corps and our country.”

Likewise, Kimball said the museum has done an “outstanding job to represent the Navy and Marine Corps.”

North Carolina Native Flying High as Director of Aviation Museum


Wally Coppinger never planned to run a museum, or meet Clint Eastwood and Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger for that matter.

In fact, the Bluefield native said he never in his “wildest dreams” thought he would be doing what he is doing now.

But a lifelong interest in aviation has led him from what was once a volunteer position to the full-time job of executive director of the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C.

“I grew up around airplanes in Bluefield,” he said. “My dad, Bud Coppinger, was in the Civil Air Patrol. We grew up around airplanes because of my dad’s love of aviation.”

His father and Terry Childress were the only two in the Civil Air Patrol who had a pilot’s license.

“He and Terry would fly the T34,” he said. “They would fly that plane all of the time.”

During that time, he also got to know local iconic pilot and photographer Mel Grubb.

“I grew up knowing Mr. Grubb,” he said. “About two years ago when I went to Bluefield over Christmas we went out to the Mercer County Airport together.”

Although he caught the flight bug and wanted to be a pilot himself, his poor vision got in the way.

“I had bad eyes,” he said.

But he said he spent countless hours flying with others and, as a boy, enjoyed visiting Mercer County Airport.

“They (the airport) used to have a little restaurant in there and we would go up Sunday after church and eat and watch the Piedmont planes landing and taking off,” he said. “We really enjoyed doing that as kids, standing behind the fence, seeing the planes, smelling the aviation fuel. Those are fond memories.”

After he graduated from Bluefield High School in 1976, he attended the University of Kentucky, majoring in allied health sciences with a minor in business.

Staying in Kentucky and starting a dental laboratory business, Coppinger finally left and moved to Raleigh, N.C. in 2002, again starting a business, selling it in 2005 and moving to Charlotte to start yet another business.

“When I sold my business here, I volunteered at the museum for a little while,” he said. “After eight months of volunteering and being the volunteer coordinator, they decided to make a change in direction.”

That change was creating a paid position of director of the museum, a job they offered to Coppinger.

“I thought it would be a temporary position, not something I would do long term,” he said. “That was four and a half years ago.”

For Coppinger, it turned out to be a natural fit. Destination of the Week

General Aviation News

If there’s an aviator’s bucket list item that needs to be checked off for every pilot, it’s First Flight Airport (KFFA) at Kill Devil Hill, N.C.

Visit the first flight memorial monument that looks out over the site of the Wright brothers actual first flight.

Wright_Brothers_MemorialAfter landing, head to the south side of the airport and head into the pilot facility.

As an added benefit for overnight visitors, a short 20-minute walk brings you to the Outer Banks Brewing station, the first wind powered brewery.

Get the details at

Two young men work to preserve artifacts at N.C. Aviation Museum – See more at:

By Chip Womick

A pair of fellows who were not born until some 50 years after World War II ended have set their sights on preserving memorabilia from that war — and other military and aviation artifacts — at the N.C. Aviation Museum.

The museum began as the Foundation for Aircraft Preservation, created by Asheboro businessmen Jim Peddycord and Craig Branson in 1996. Peddycord and his son, Rick, died in a mid-air collision in 1997 while practicing for the foundation’s second air show. Branson died in 2006.

The museum occupies two hangars at the Asheboro Regional Airport. It features a number of planes, extensive displays of artifacts and memorabilia from World War II through the Vietnam War, and a museum shop.

Next month, plans will be unveiled to build a new terminal building at the airport to replace one that dates to the 1970s. The new facility, approximately 12,000 square feet, will have a restaurant, meeting space, and an area devoted to a Hall of Fame.

North Carolina legislators tapped the aviation museum as the future home of a state aviation Hall of Fame in 2001. Letters on the exterior of one of the hangars note that it houses the North Carolina Aviation Museum & Hall of Fame, but there is only a museum. A Hall of Fame has never been developed. The vision is to fund the terminal project with local, state and federal funds, as well as private donations.

The plans do not include museum upgrades. The city of Asheboro owns the hangars, and the museum has a 30-year lease on them.

Dalton Bequette, who is 23, and Patrick Lawrence, 19, say their immediate goal is to install air conditioning in the hangars to preserve decades-old items — uniforms, firearms, period newspapers, and more. A less-expensive, but effective alternative, they say, would be to purchase sealed cases to better protect the fragile artifacts from dirt and temperature changes.

“This is our heritage,” said Bequette in a recent interview. “This is North Carolina’s aviation history and that’s what needs to be preserved.”

Young history buffs

Bequette listened to his grandfather and other veterans tell “war stories” as a child. His grandfather instilled in him a love of aviation — and of his country.

“I’ll never forget it to this day,” Bequette said, “he could not listen to the national anthem without crying.”

Bequette and his wife, Katie, got married a year and a half ago in one of the museum hangars. The setting coupled his passions and her fascination with the 1940s.

Lawrence is a history buff, like his father, Reid. His grandfather served in Korea, three of his grandfather’s brothers in World War II. His father started taking him to the aviation museum when he was just 4 or 5.

“I grew up with the B-25 being restored,” Lawrence said. “This museum is one of the reasons I started collecting.”

Branson purchased a B-25 for restoration in 1998; restoration was completed in 2004 and the plane made limited flights for a time.

Lawrence was in the fifth grade when he started his own collection of military memorabilia. He was dismayed when the B-25 left the Asheboro museum for a museum in Ohio in the late 2000s. He dreamed that one day, when he grew up, he would lend his efforts to the museum.

He thought that day would be many years down the road.

That was before he met Bequette.

Chance encounter

The pair met when a winter storm was bearing down on Randolph County in February. They both wound up on the same aisle in an Asheboro store, rushing to buy supplies so they could work on models if they got snowed in.

They talked for 45 minutes in the store and remain fast friends today.

Bequette, a museum volunteer since May, said the idea of air conditioning hit him like a heat wave when he stepped into one of the sweltering hangars last June during a break from activities at the annual fly-in, a museum fund-raiser. Bequette was in uniform, along with his buddies who are part of a World War II reenacting and living history group.

It would feel good if the museum was cool, he thought.

He realized that museum visitors probably would appreciate a cooler space, too.

Later, he started thinking about the toll fluctuating temperatures had on the museum’s artifacts — from freezing (or below) in the winter to 100 degrees (or higher) in the summer.

Uniforms and some related gear are in cases with plexiglass fronts, but the cases are not air-tight. There are gaps around the edges of the plexiglass.

Bequette and Lawrence have kicked off an online fundraising effort at gofundme ( The goal is $80,000. As of Friday, donations totaled just $131, but Bequette and Patrick are not discouraged.

They are brainstorming other ways to raise money — among them, a concert and contest to create “nose art” (the term for personalized airplane decorations) — as well as exploring the notion of bringing more warbirds back to the museum.

* * *

The museum is off N.C. 49 about west of Asheboro. From Asheboro, turn left onto Tot Hill Farm Road and then right onto Pilots View Road. Hours are 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. For more information, call (336) 625-0170 or visit

– See more at:

Model of Wright brothers’ flyer lands at NC Air Museum

By  – Times-News Staff Writer

Don Buck, with the Western North Carolina Air Museum, talks about the three-fourths size replica of the original Wright Flyer, the world’s first powered plane designed by the Wright brothers, which was recently assembled by members of the museum. The plane will remain on permanent display at the museum located on Gilbert Street.


After 20 months of diligent work, 84-year-old Donald “Rube” Waddell brought his three-quarters scaled model of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s Flyer to the WNC Air Museum this past weekend.

The original flyer made its first successful flight on Dec. 17, 1903, and while it only went about 120 feet, Don Buck, former president of the museum, said its longest run went closer to 750 feet.

Buck said he is overjoyed to have the replica at the museum, hoping it will attract residents to come check it out with their families and infect children with “the flying bug.”

The model of the world’s first powered plane was created by Waddell, a WNC Air Museum member, using plans and measurements sent from the air museum in Washington, D.C., which he had to personally scale back to three-quarters size.

“They were trying to do the 2003 original flight at Kitty Hawk and about 10 years later I wondered how in the world did they build it and how in the world did they make it fly?” Waddell said.

The retired Air Force pilot, who served in Vietnam flying RF-4 Phantoms doing aerial reconnaissance work, enjoys making planes and working on antique cars, according to Buck.

Currently, Buck said Waddell is working on a 1950s Jeep from Korea, which Buck got to see when they went to pick up the pieces of the plane before assembling it at the museum.

“He has always had that love for aircrafts so he built this one, then built another one and gave it to another museum,” Buck said.

Hanging on the left side of the museum is a replica of the Curtiss “Jenny,” first introduced in 1915, which Waddell created and has logged 150 flight hours in.

While Buck said they’re not quite sure where the Flyer’s official home will be within the museum, he’s glad to have it and commends Waddell’s craftsmanship. Made from a pinewood frame and covered in ceconite, a rayon polyester blend, the aircraft is lightweight and was designed for the pilot to lay across the mid-section, turning the plane with a swivel of the hips.

With a 12-horse power engine, Buck said its average speed was roughly 12 to 15 miles per hour, depending –of course –on the wind.

While the Wright brothers may have been the first, Buck said they spent so much time taking others to court over patent disputes that they missed the boat on a lot of the major manufacturing deals that others were able to obtain during the same time.

“They started this madness because they had planes in England as well, but they were not powered per se like this one was,” Buck said.

Over the next few months, Buck said the museum is looking forward to the addition of a display about Amelia Earhart made by local Girl Scouts and a new installation about the late Dorothy Hoover, a Mills River woman who served as a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot in the midist of World War II.

For more information on the WNC Air Museum, call 693-4317 or visit

Fantasy of Flight reopens; plans for Act III underway

By Meg Godlewski, General Aviation News.

After a year of dormancy, Fantasy of Flight, Kermit Weeks’ vintage aviation attraction in Polk City, Florida, has reopened to the public in a limited fashion.

“We have opened a small scale museum housed in our former maintenance hangar,” explains Kandice Stephens, operations and events manager for Fantasy of Flight. “We will have 11 to 15 aircraft on static display, rotating in and out of the facility. In addition, we have our main facility, where we host special events like corporate galas and launch parties.”

Aircraft on display include a B-24, the Grumman Duck, and the ever-popular P-51 Mustang (pictured below). In addition, Waldo Wright’s Flying Service will offer biplane rides for a fee.

P51 Mustang_2_Fantasy of FlightFantasy of Flight is the world’s largest private collection of aircraft, with more than 100 aircraft ranging from the beginning of powered flight through the 1950s.

When Weeks closed Fantasy of Flight’s doors last April, he told the aviation world it was so he could “re-imagine the attraction” to what he is calling “Act III.”

It was a necessary move, he says.

“Although we are located just 20 minutes west of Walt Disney World, we’re currently outside the center of mass tourism and not perceived of as a destination,” he said. “After 18 years of being in operation, it’s time we close the attraction and move forward toward creating the vision for what I know Fantasy of Flight can become.”

According to Weeks, the development of Act III is well underway.

“I hired the lead designer for all three Universal Studio parks, Bob Ward, as my right-hand guy. We then hired the ex-Disney ideas crew led by Bob Allen to do a market research and feasibility study that will be completed sometime in April,” he says.

Kids enjoy the simulators at Fantasy of Flight.

The decision to reopen the museum in a limited fashion was made for several reasons, according to Weeks.

Foremost is that is a means “to stay connected to past supporters of Fantasy of Flight and to have a place to display some of the airplanes,” he explains. “It has the potential to be used in the future as a preview center and possible beta test site for future attraction elements.”

“The long-term goal for Act III is to come up with a compelling product that will be appreciated and loved by everyone that comes through our doors,” he continues. “The longer term goal will be to expand on what we create in Act III.”

Weeks hopes the reimagined attraction will help people reimagined themselves.

“Our future goal is for people to first take away a smile by enjoying the entertainment we offer,” he explains. “If we deliver that well, the second thing will be for people to take away a shift in perspective and how they see themselves on their own personal journey and — if we really do our job well — the third thing we hope to deliver is our mission statement, which is to light that spark within! Fantasy of Flight will not directly deliver this, only create the environment with which our future patrons create that spark within themselves. No one will tell them anything, but by the way we deliver our product they will discover it for themselves.”

“I am very passionate about what we are about to create as there is nothing like it,” he continues. “I believe it has tremendous potential to touch people in profound ways.”

The timeline for the completion of Act III is four to five years out.

Meanwhile, the museum will be open at what have been traditionally peak visitor times, according to Stephens.

It is open now Fridays through Sundays until April 26, which is the last day of the annual SUN ’n FUN Fly-In in nearby Lakeland, Florida. It will close again until June 19, opening up for the summer until Aug. 2, when kids go back to school, she notes.

“We will reopen again around Thanksgiving,” Stephens adds.