REPORT: SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS IN OMAHA by Gary Carlson (tour coordinator Omaha)
Saturday morning started with many Chapter 80 members arriving a Eppley Airfield to set up for the “Spirit’s” arrival. A crew placed signs on the routes to Eppley while another crew set up tables, placed fence posts, and strung banners, set up the PA and Speaker’s stand. The Amoco people set up for the free hot dogs and pop.
At 9:30 AM, Blythe Kubovc showed up in his Cessna 180 and picked up Mile Kelly of WOW radio. They took off to meet up with the “Spirit” and Stinson chase plane to broadcast over the radio position reports of the “Spirit’s” arrival. The PA system picked up WOW radio station (not that it was equipped with a tuner), so it was turned up full volume to hear the broadcast. Surely thousands were listening to WOW while it was reporting live as “Spirit” flew over Omaha. It could have been 1927 looking at the “Spirit” and listening to the radio. WOW radio broadcast the Lindberg event in 1927.
Adding to the event Saturday were several display aircraft: Roger Babutake in his Stits Playmate, Floyd Derry in his Stits Playmate, Rollie Woodruff in his Curtiss-Wright Junior replica, Gary Carlson in his Davis DA-2A, Dick Smith in his Luscomb 8A, and Ron Kennedy in his Citabria.
After flying over the city and a fly-by at the Omaha Eppley Airfield, the “Spirit” landed right on schedule at 11:00 AM. As the “Spirit” pilot Jimmy Leeward followed by Jim’s two sons, Tony Goatz, builder of the “Spirit” and Dick Hawker, pilot of the Stinson. The reporters quickly mobbed Jim for pictures and interviews. Jim shortly broke loose and was officially welcomed by Omaha Mayor Al Veys who presented Jim with a key to the city before about 1,500 persons. Speeches, questions and answers, picture-taking, etc. continued for the rest of the day.
The “Spirit” and Stinson were put away for the night in the hangar donated by the HDR Engineering firm and many retired to Anthony’s Steak House for a large steak dinner with our guests, Tony Goatz and Dick Hawker. Dick with his years of experience with the airlines did some real “hangar flying”. Tony also told about some of the experience at the other tour stops. Afterwards, the newest EAA fly-in film was shown.
The weather threatened Sunday, but even so there were several hundred out to view the “Spirit” from 9:00 AM to about 12 noon as the rain started and the “Spirit” left to make their arrival at 1:30 PM in Lincoln.
I want to thank all of the Chapter 80 members and officers as well as sponsors, Ron Grear and his staff at Eppley and to the media that made the Omaha stop a real success.
After several months of planning, coordination, and work by the staff at EAA Headquarters and the members of Chapter 80 the “Spirit” came, but a lot of “Spirit” remained for many people in Omaha.
(Reprinted from 12 September 1977 EAA 80 Newsletter)
Spirit of St. Louis Details (from 7-28-1977 EAA 80 Newsletter)
Gary Carlson – Tour Coordinator
Larry Quigley – Master of Ceremonies
Paul Kanka – Commemorative Tour Item Sales
Dick Ross – Publicity
Assistants – Jerry Adams, Andy Illes, Rick Niedergeses, Bill Durand, Mike Howard
Appreciation for their interest and help goes to:
Amoco Oil, Omaha Office
Ron Grear, Omaha Eppley Airport
Air Kaman, Eppley Airport
Ramada Inn, Central, Omaha
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE (from 9-12-1977 EAA 80 Newsletter)
Elsewhere in this issue you will find a report by Tour Coordinator, Gary Carlson, on the visit of the Spirit of St. Louis Replica to Omaha. I want to add my thanks to Gary’s to all of the members who turned out and made the “Spirit” visit an outstanding success. Several thousand of the public had an opportunity to view the “Spirit” replica and visit with the “Spirit” crew. Sales of commemorative items to help finance the tour totaled nearly $950.
I will try not to name all those who helped with the visit, but I do think everyone deserves to know who put in the planning and work to make the “Spirit” visit a success. Too many times too many of us feel these things “Just Happen.”
Gary Carlson as Tour director, put in many hours and a great deal of effort. It was through his efforts that Nebraska Governor Exon issued a proclamation declaring the week of August 13-19, 1977, as “Aviation History–Charles A Lindberg Week” and Omaha Mayor Veys proclaimed August 13-14 as “Lindberg Spirit of St. Louis Days.” Gary was also liaison with Amoco and was responsible for the appearance of the City and Airport dignitaries at the “Spirit” welcoming. he also secured the cooperation of the City in lending equipment for our use.
Gary was ably assisted in the publicity work by Dick Ross who was responsible for a lot of radio and TV publicity, radio interviews, etc. that we received. Without this publicity I’m sure we would not have had the enthusiastic response form the public.
Jerry Adams was interviewed on radio for pre-appearance publicity and shouldering the responsibility of chauffeuring the Spirit and Chase plane crews during their stay. It was Jerry who arranged the outstanding “Spirit” dinner at Anthony’s which was enjoyed by all who attended. Jerry also ran the movie projector at the dinner—but heck, nobody’s perfect!
The signs that were painted on the road in both directions from the “Spirit” appearance had to be designed and made. Bill Durand took several hours of time from work on the Mark V to design the signs.
Rick Niedergeses obtained the material and painted the sign leading the public to the “Spirit”. It was also Rick who was responsible for procuring the use of the HDR hangar for the Spirit and Stinson for their overnight stay.
The last man on my list cannot be adequately thanked. Paul Kanka is the “Workhorse” who took charge of all financial details of the “Spirit” visit. From sales of commemorative items to collection for dinner—from arranging the sales display to providing a wife to stall the sales table for a day and a half—it was Paul who laid out and (with the help of his family) painted the 4’ x 8’ sign marking the entrance to the “Spirit of St. Louis” display. Paul provided the table for the sales area, hauled all the signs and paraphernalia around for two days—-and on and on—-THANKS PAUL AND SHIRLEY!!!
This was not intended to a long harangue—but I feel that the people who put forth the kind of effort that these people have, deserve to be recognized and thanked by the membership who benefit from their efforts. Signed Larry Quigley, President EAA 80