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Ann Kathleen Otto


Oshkosh AirVenture Adventure

This weekend is the Oshkosh AirVenture's annual "world's greatest air show".  Spouse David and I recently visited and learned a lot about aviation history and some things about Milwaukee, too. Bill Zierdt, a former engineer, was our knowledgeable guide for the Pioneer Airfield at the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) museum.

Historical Notes

According to Bill, pictured at right in the Whitman hangar, Steve Whitman is one of the reasons that Wisconsin is so well known in aviation. Steve was a test pilot, race pilot and aircraft owner, and tributes to him in the main museum and in the Whitman hangar at the Pioneer airfield show why.

I didn't realize how many early airplanes used Ford automobile motors. One example we saw (pictured with Bill above) was the Engine Air or Sky Camper by Bernard Pietenpol which was featured in the 1932 Modern Mechanix (sic) Magazine. 

Weather Station Women

Pioneer Field has one of the few remaining examples of early weather station buildings. These were the first air traffic control–type operations, and according to Bill, when first in use for early air mail pilots there were approximately 400 around the West and Midwestern United States. Interestingly, they were primarily 'manned' by women.

There are only 12 similar air route traffic control centers left in states like Montana, and by 2020 it's predicted that there will be only four.

Willis 'Bill' Allen

Bill Allen of Allen Airways Flying Museum co-author of Looping the Loop with Henry Serrano Villard, furnished many early posters for my Yours in a Hurry research. He collects many wonderful things. In addition to airplanes and posters, he collects art, including James Dietz's WWI aviation works. Many are on display at the EAA Museum now.

When I saw three books by Bruce Orriss in the museum shop, I was also reminded that Bill has an extensive collection of original posters from films with stories based on aviation. The Orriss volumes cover different periods When Hollywood Ruled the Skies. Bill should probably hook up with Orriss and my friends at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.


I hope you all get to see the EAA Museum sometime. It's a day well spent. And spend some time in interesting Milwaukee. Bill shared some of the history including how the various immigrant groups—Belgian, Irish and German—each played a part in its development.

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