At a time when some clubs and organizations are folding due to lack of members, The Aviation Club at Hithergreen Senior Center is thriving.
Bill Speyer, who started the club with five members 13 years ago, said the roster carries 125 members with an average of 80 attending each month. “Many members are veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam; some are ex-commercial pilots; others have worked or still are working in the aviation industry,” Speyer said. “We all have one thing in common, a great love of aviation and a desire to learn everything about things that fly.”
Speyer himself spent four years in the U.S. Air Force. With a Private Pilot License, he flew many different types of aircraft for more than 50 years. He completed building his own fiberglass Glasair airplane in his garage. After four years of constructing this high-speed, high performance plane, he flew it in 1990 to Alaska and back, an 8,000-mile trip taking seven days and that included encircling Mt. McKinley.
Member Bob Beck flew Bow Gunner on a PVB104 aircraft in the Pacific looking for enemy ships and other targets. He was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. Another member, Don Eastman, flew a helicopter in a rescue mission of 61 American prisoners at the Son Tay POW Camp in Vietnam near Hanoi. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross. That distinction also went to member Jack Hobday who flew one of the four B-17 Flying Fortresses into Hickam Field on Dec. 7, 1941, while the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor.
Member Herb Stachler flew 103 combat missions in a P-47 Fighter Bomber over Europe during WWII. During the D-Day invasion an enemy shell exploded in his cockpit forcing him to land for repairs.
These are just a few of the many fascinating stories The Aviation Club members share with each other. Female members also contribute, including Beth Hill, a registered nurse who during her career flew lifesaving missions aboard the Miami Valley Hospital’s Careflight helicopter.
For more information about The Aviation Club held at the Hithergreen Senior Center, contact Bill Speyer at (937) 672-9866 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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