RR Patch



CNA staff reporter

GREENFIELD — As someone once said, “If God had intended for human beings to fly, he would have given us wings.”

The board of directors of the Iowa Aviation Museum in Greenfield inducted four men into the Aviation Hall of Fame Saturday who have contributed to the age of flight. 

Those inducted include Walter Cunningham, formerly of Creston, Iowa’s first astronaut and America’s second civilian astronaut, and Louis Schalk, an Iowa test pilot who was the first to fly the A-12. Orville and Wilbur Wright were inducted as honorary members in the Hall of Fame.

“It’s fascinating a 12-second flight has done so much,” said Lee Ann Nelson, executive director of the museum. “It’s incredible how much has been done.”

Local roots Cunningham said it was very nice to be included in the Hall of Fame. “It’s quite an honor to be here on the 100th anniversary of the first flight,” he said. “Wilbur and Orville Wright are in a class by themselves. 

     When he was 8 years old, he moved to California with his parents. After graduating from high school in Venice, Calif., he joined the U.S. Navy and commissioned as a Marine Corps fighter pilot in 1951.

He worked as a scientist for the RAND Corporation, and was chosen by NASA as the second civilian in astronaut training. He was chosen to be lunar module pilot of Apollo VII in 1968, the first manned flight of the Apollo program.

He worked with NASA for eight years specializing in electric-power and systems analysis. During this time, he contributed to the design, development and testing of major operating systems of the Apollo spacecraft. He was also chief of the Skylab astronauts.

“I’ve spent my whole life in love with aviation,” he said. “I still am.”

Today, Cunningham spends his time lecturing, serving as a venture capitalist for 25 start-up and early-stage technology companies and radio host for a call-in talk show. He is author of “The All-American Boys,” an “honest and candid look” at the human side of astronauts and changes in the space program Flight.

Louis Schalk was born in Alden and attended West Point Military Academy. He entered the United States Air Force and graduated first in his class in 1954 at the USAF Experimental Test Pilot School.

In 1957, he joined Lockheed Aircraft as an engineering test pilot. He helped design cockpits, and made refinements to the high-speed, high-altitude A-12 which eventually became the SR-71.

On April 26, 1962, he was first to fly the A-12 Blackbird. The Blackbird was a reconnaissance plane used to collect photos and electronic intelligence.

The first four flights Schalk took in the A-12 exceeded mach 3.0, with top speed of 2,287 miles per hour flying above 90,000 feet.
Schalk’s wife, Louise of Arlington, Va., and his sister, Barbara Thomas of Marion, were at the induction to accept Schalk’s award. He died in August 2002 at the age of 76.

Louise Schalk said he would be very happy about his induction, especially since he loved Iowa.

“He made a full circle and accomplished much,” Louise said. “I was delighted, as was the rest of the Schalk family.”

Spread your wings

The Wright brothers conducted seven experiments with flight before developing a wind tunnel which helped them fly.

The wind tunnel was a box with a fan at one end blowing a stream of air over model wings mounted on a special “balance” inside the tunnel. With this discovery, the brothers were able to design wings for gliders and powered aircraft.

On Dec. 17, 1903, the Wright 1903 Flyer took off with Orville as pilot. The aircraft flew 12 seconds for a distance of 37 meters. Three more flights were attempted that morning, and Wilbur took the longest flight for 59 seconds traveling 260 meters.

According to Nelson, the brothers have a connection to Iowa. Their father Milton, a bishop with the United Brethren Church, was assigned to a church in Cedar Rapids for several years. He also owned property in Adair County.

“They need to be a part of this,” she said. “We wanted to commemorate the centennial of flight, and felt it was an appropriate way to do so.”


Jennifer Main can be reached at 782-2141, ext. 233 or JMain@crestonnews.com

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