New Stearman Prop

Now that we have several flight hours on the museum’s Stearman C3B, its time to start taking care of the squawks that have turned up on the airplane. One of those was the propeller. On take-off, the Wright J-5 engine wasn’t turning up to the proper RPM, only about 1,500 instead of the expected 1,800. Also, in cruise flight, the airspeed was a bit higher than expected, about 105 MPH instead of 95. Those symptoms point to the wrong propeller.

The prop that was on the Stearman was put on after it’s only previous flight in 1997 and had never been flown. In fact, it had never even been ground run. Our “first flight” back in August was its first time in the air and that’s where the problems turned up. With too course of pitch, there is a bigger load on the engine, sort of like when you’re starting off on a bicycle in high gear. It’s tough pedaling! Its also difficult to slow down on approach to landing. This isn’t always a big deal, but the Wright J-5 is notorious for cracking pistons in this situation and new pistons are virtually non-existant. On the advice of several J-5 experts, the search was on for a new prop.

Luckily, we have another J-5 in the museum on our 1927 Travel Air 4000. Since this aircraft is still technically under restoration and will not fly until next summer at the earliest, we pulled that brand new prop to try it out on the Stearman. Everything was much better on the test flight, with take-off RPM at 1,700 and cruise speed of 95 MPH.

The new prop had a varnished natural color hub though, and the Stearman’s was painted along with the spinner or “beanie cap” on the nose. Leaving the beanie cap off ruined the lines of the airplane, so we decided to paint the new one to match. Jim Weeden fabricated a small wooden adapter and painted the hub today. It all looks great and we will fly it again next week after the prop is hung again.

New Spinner

New prop hub

New prop and hub with beanie cap.

Stearman C3B Return to Flight

Almost 19 years to the day since it last flew, our 1928 Stearman C3B returned to the skies over Brodhead today.

Shearman Take-Off

Pilot Greg Heckman and our team of mechanics have been working on the old girl for several weeks, fixing several minor squawks and making sure everything turned in the right direction. Since it was restored in 1997, this aircraft has only flown once and we have been eager to get it back in the air and show it off a little.


Greg completed two flights of about 45 minutes each today with no major problems. We look forward to flying it more in the coming weeks.


Be sure to visit us during the Grassroots fly-in Sept 9-10 and see the Stearman fly in person.

$200,000 Donation from William S. Knight Trust

Many people in the Midwest vintage aircraft community know the name Bill Knight. He was a long-time presence at Brodhead Airport where the Kelch Aviation Museum is based, and flew several different restored aircraft for many years. He owned a Waco UPF-7, Waco RNF, Taylorcraft, Airmaster, Cessna 180, two Pietenpols and probably a couple more I can’t remember. He was a founding member of the Midwest Antique Airplane Club and participated in many other antique airplane clubs and organizations. His vintage auto collection was impressive as well, with dozens of varied models.

Bill Knight

Bill was also a successful businessman, leading the manufacturing facility in Brodhead that was started by his father, Stan. Knight Manufacturing has been the largest employer in Brodhead for years and Bill had a reputation for treating his employees fairly and producing quality products for area farmers and the Ag business worldwide. Knight Manufacturing was sold to Kuhn North America several years ago and continues to be a key business presence in Brodhead.


We talked to Bill several times about the plans for the new Kelch Aviation Museum over the summer of 2015 and he helped guide our early ideas into the museum building that we now hope to build. Those of us who knew him were very saddened to learn of his illness in early 2016, and shocked when he passed away in March.

Shortly after his death, we received word that the William S. Knight Revokable Trust had named the Kelch Aviation Museum, Inc. as a beneficiary in the amount of $200,000. We were floored when we opened the letter, and deeply honored to know that Bill had faith in our project to that degree. Such a significant donation gives our new building campaign a level of legitimacy not only in the aviation community but in a local area as well.

We are proud to announce this gift and know that it will help bring in other donors to get us to our $1 Million goal.

Thanks, Bill. Blue skies and tailwinds, sir.

Stearman First Run (in 19 years)

After a lengthy condition inspection, we were able to start the Wright J-5 engine on our 1928 Stearman C3B today. This is the first time it has run since August 22, 1997. We have a few more squawks to fix and it should return to the skies soon!

A big thanks to Greg Heckman, Mike Williams, Kent McMakin and Eric Berens for the work and expertise.


Memorable Flight

On Friday, July 1, we had the pleasure of taking 87-year old Bonnie Jeanne Scholes for a flight in our Travel Air 12W. Jean visited our museum back in May at the airport’s pancake breakfast and mentioned that she was, “…the first woman to land at Brodhead Airport. In 1945!”

Cindy Heckman helps Jeanne Scholes buckle in to the 12W

Cindy Heckman helps Jeanne Scholes buckle in to the 12W

Jeanne told many stories of her flying career that started at age 15 at the Beloit Airport flying PT-19s, Stearmans and many other aircraft. She stopped flying after she got married in the late 1940s but continued to fly throughout the years with her husband Al, who was a corporate pilot.

Jeanne flashes a thumbs up after the flight with Greg Heckman.

Jeanne flashes a thumbs up after the flight with Greg Heckman.

We invited her to take a ride with us, and she very enthusiastically accepted. We haven’t seen anybody as excited for an airplane ride in a very long time. Check out the video below and watch the big smile and thumbs up at the end. What a hoot!

Brodhead Area Foundation $30,000 Match Grant

We are excited to announce that the Brodhead Area Foundation has awarded the Kelch Aviation Museum a $30,000 match grant! We have one year to raise $30,000, which will then be matched dollar for dollar by the Brodhead Area Foundation.

This will be a tremendous boost toward our $1 Million goal for the new museum building, not just from the financial aspect but form having the support of the community of Brodhead and an organization that funds many local projects. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the directors of the foundation.

Donations may be sent directly to the Brodhead Area Foundation at the address below or they may still be sent to the Kelch Aviation Museum to be counted against the match grant.

Brodhead Area Foundation Inc
P.O. Box 7
Brodhead, WI 53520-0007

Hamburger Social – June 15

Join us on Wednesday, June 15th as we try something new at the museum. We will be hosting a Wisconsin Flying Hamburger Social, starting at 5:30 p.m., featuring the usual Wisconsin cook-out fare, hamburgers, bratwurst and all the fixings.

Fly-in or drive-in for a friendly evening cook out. The meal is a free-will donation and we will have several of the museum aircraft out on display.

Drive in directions…set your GPS for N2463 Airport Road or if you fly in to Brodhead Airport, be sure to park at our new museum property at the northeast corner of the airport. Look for the big yellow building.

Kelch Museum

See you on Wednesday evening, June 15.

2016 Pancake Breakfast

Our display at the EAA Chapter 431 Community Pancake Breakfast on May 22 attracted a lot of attention and we were able to talk to a lot of folks curious about the new museum project. Thanks to all who came out for the events around Brodhead Airport and who took the time to visit with us.

IMG_6086 adj 01

Our new tow rig for the airplanes comes in handy. Here, we’re moving the Franklin Sport 90 over to the new property.

The Franklin Sport 90 is seen through the wings of the Stearman C3B.

The Franklin Sport 90 is seen through the wings of the Stearman C3B.

The Travel Air 12W cockpit looking great!

The Travel Air 12W cockpit looking great!