The Liberty Gazette
August 4, 2009
August 4, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: I’m interested in all kinds of history and I love old airplanes, hangars and airports. In January we wrote about flying to Wichita Falls to watch a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” fly. It didn’t fly due to the winds being beyond what it could handle but they did start it up and we enjoyed the chatter emitted from its OX-5 “sewing machine” engine.
This past June as Linda was nearing the finish line of the Air Race Classic, I was flying up to Atlantic, Iowa in our Cheetah to meet her and cheer her on. Leaving mid-afternoon, I flew five and a half hours, with a stop for fuel in Fort Smith, Arkansas and spent the night in Topeka, Kansas. There I spied a magnificent old hangar.
The large hangar was built between 1937 and 1940 as a Works-Parks Administration project. All the walls are heavy stone with a large arched wooden roof. Linda and I dropped in on our way back to Texas and from what we’ve learned so far is that in 1938 a pilot named Dan Meisinger arrived at the field and eventually located his flight school inside the hangar. His flight school won a Civilian Pilot Training program in 1940 and later trained Navy pilots in Aircraft Naval Factory produced and owned N3N aircraft during WW II. Mr. Meisinger had a 63 year career as a pilot, aviation business owner and was given the Kansas Governor’s Aviation Honors Award in November of 1996. The old stone hangar has a commemorative inscription dedicating it the Meisinger Hangar.
In Bethany, Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City, another old hangar will be going though reconstruction and restoration over the next few years. The Curtiss-Wright/Wiley Post Hangar is considered the most historically significant structure in all of Oklahoma. The list of tenants of the hangar, since it was first built in the late 1920’s include not only Oklahoma’s world famous aviator Wiley Post, but also Charles Lindberg, Amelia Earhart and Will Rogers. Aircraft were built here. It was Braniff Airlines’ headquarters from 1932 to 1937. And the first autopilot was mostly developed here by Curtiss-Wright. Later it was a church, and still later an auto dealer named Jackie Cooper purchased the land the hangar stood on for his dealership. He had the building taken down and stored, later donating it to the University of Oklahoma who in turn gave it to the Aerospace Science and Technology Education Center, an Oklahoma charter school located in Oklahoma City. Eventually AeroSpace America became the recipient of this legacy. The plan now is for the hangar to be reconstructed at the airport as part of an education center.
No timeline has been made public as yet, but the new location of the hangar in the middle of the airport’s new aviation business park has already been established. The reconstruction of the hangar “is to be a link to the past and a bridge to the future,” according to the project’s website.
Closer to home here in Southeast Texas, you might want to check out the 1940’s Air Terminal Museum located on the west side of Houston’s Hobby Airport. It is now open 6 days a week and provides a great window to the area’s aviation heritage.
Linda: Using aviation in education is not new in many parts of the country. What a great avenue for encouraging math and science; to incorporate the aviation industry into education programs.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.