By  Lon Smith
Executive Director, KAM

 Kansas Aviation Museum Continues Success of Multi-Phase Capital Campaign

The Kansas Aviation Museum has been engaged in a phased capital campaign for approximately five years, with Phase I—the exterior restoration of the historic terminal—complete and work ongoing on subsequent phases that will secure 16.74 acres to the north of the facility, complete interior restoration of the building, construct new restoration and display hangers and upgrade the museum grounds. We have visitors from around the world who come here hoping to learn more about Wichita aviation heritage. The KAM is a reflection of our community and, as such, we want it to be as good a reflection as possible. With that in mind, we call upon community members to get on board with us as we build excitement and energy about the Kansas Aviation Museum. Memberships are always available and at a variety of levels. Corporate and personal contributions are welcomed and will help move this project along at a pace commensurate with our moniker: Air Capital of the World. Join us in making this the world class facility that Wichita deserves and one about which we can all be proud. For more information, call 316-683-9242 or toll free, 877-683-9242.

 Historic Wichita Air Terminal Tower Comes Back to Life

As many of you know, the historic Wichita Air Terminal tower is a Wichita icon and the highest point in the Wichita area at approximately 1500 feet in elevation. Unfortunately, it has been in a state of decline for many, many years. All that has changed however. With the help of a wide array of individual, corporate and foundation donors, the historic tower now has a new roof, ceiling, a fresh coat of paint, tinting for the windows, carpeting at grade, new and safe vinyl treading for the stairs, an exhaust fan and a door at the top of the stairs to eliminate heat from below. To complete the tower, on August 5th of this year, the Kansas Aviation Museum opened a wonderful new exhibit that outlines the history of the tower, how it has been utilized over the years and stunning panoramic photos that detail and identify various landmarks that are within view of the tower. One final step to complete the tower is the outdoor restoration of the catwalk. Anyone wishing to contribute to this endeavor please contact Lon Smith at 316-683-9242 or toll free at 877-683-9242.

 Shanda Lear to Be Keynote Speaker at Annual Kansas Aviation Museum Gala

Aviation great Bill Lear struggled with the perfect name for his baby daughter. It took Ole Olsen, partner in the vaudeville comedy duo “Olsen & Johnson,” to come up with the right name for his granddaughter. “Call her Shanda. People will always smile when they say ‘Shanda Lear!’” And smile they did. Her dry wit was developed in kindergarten having to fend off the teasing about her unusual name. From the beginning, Shanda seemed headed for the spotlight. From her “Hell-za-poppin” grandfather she learned the importance of comic timing; how to get laughs or jerk a tear from the audience.

Growing up as the daughter of the genius Bill Lear was anything but dull. It was not unusual to find the likes of Frank Sinatra, Art Linkletter, Danny Kay, Buckminster Fuller, Igor Sikorsky, Judy Garland, John Glenn, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater, or various Generals and diplomats in their home. “Dad was always scribbling ideas and designs on restaurant napkins and table clothes, all the while telling jokes and discussing the infinite possibilities of the mind. His charismatic presence would always turn heads when he entered a room,” says Shanda. From her father (developer of the Learjet) she learned that impossible dreams come true — with determination!

Shanda earned her Swiss pilot’s license at seventeen. Due to the mountainous topography of Switzerland, runways there were extremely short. One learned to always land at the very beginning edge of the runway. While getting her American license she found this technique could mean a very long taxi at the huge U. S. airports. After a long stint in Italy, Shanda is now very happy to be back in her homeland. One of her first priorities, of course, was to get her biennial flight review.

Now the Kansas Aviation Museum is proud to present Shanda Lear as our keynote speaker for the Kansas Aviation Gala on Saturday, November 6, 2010. Tickets are on sale and are $75 dollars each. Table sponsorships are also available at $1,000 each along with a host of other sponsorship opportunities. For more information or to purchase tickets call 316-683-9242 or toll free at 877-683-9242.

1920 Laird Swallow Takes Flight

Okay, it didn’t actually fly, but after 19 years of painstaking replication, the 1920 Laird Swallow, which is the only one known to exist, was completed. On April 8th—the 90th anniversary of the Swallow’s first flight—the Kansas Aviation Museum held an open house and dedication ceremony honoring the plane and the amazing volunteers who made this project possible. These loyal volunteers began with six wing brackets, using these to scale photographs from which they created drawings and then built the plane. This step forward enables the KAM to better present the history and heritage that makes Wichita the Air Capital of the World. Come by and see the old bird next time you have the opportunity.