Doing the Biplane Shuffle

With the arrival of spring, its time to begin maintenance on some of the Kelch Aviation Museum airplanes ahead of the flying season. We will again fly the Curtiss-Wright Travel Air 12W, but we decided to bring one more aircraft back to life this season. After some discussion over the winter, we selected the 1928 Stearman C3B.

Al Kelch’s Stearman restoration was completed over 20 years ago by museum director Kent McMakin, but amazingly has only about 20 minutes of flying time on it, with the first and last flight taking place in 1994. Al apparently thought it was too valuable to operate. The directors and trustees have run the engine over the years to keep it loose and even told Al shortly before he passed away in 2004 that it would fly again some day. It has been a hangar queen for too long. Time to fly!

We decided that all future aircraft maintenance would be done in one of our new hangars at the north end of the field on the new museum property, so today was a day of Musical Airplanes, or as we called it, the Biplane Shuffle. The Butler Blackhawk was moved out of storage and the 12W and C3B were moved in. Next is to assemble tools and such to create a real shop, then the work can begin in the next few weeks.

Doing the "Biplane Shuffle" with the Stearman C3B, Butler Blackhawk and the Travel Air 12W, May 13, 2016.

Doing the “Biplane Shuffle” with the Stearman C3B, Butler Blackhawk and the Travel Air 12W, May 13, 2016.

Here’s a short video of the 12W startup today. As always, it belched little oil (ok, a lot of oil) then purred like a kitten…a kitten named Warner.

Article in the Janesville Gazette

Reporter Andrea Anderson and photographer Angela Major out together an outstanding article for the Janesville Gazette in Saturday, April 9th edition. It’s behind a paywall, but can be accessed through the Gazette’s Twitter feed at this link:

Thanks you Andrea and Angela!

Capital Fundraiser for New Building

Monday, April 4, 2016

A big day here at the Kelch Aviation Museum, as we officially launch our capital fundraiser for our new museum building!

kelch-museum-renderingOver the past year, the Alfred & Lois Kelch Charitable Trust has helped fund the property purchase next to Brodhead Airport and we have made continual updates to our collection of vintage aircraft and automobiles. We’ve made improvements to the property itself in anticipation of launching this capital program. In total, over $300,000 has been spent to get the Kelch Aviation Museum to this point, where we can confidently begin the fundraising process in earnest. The Kelch Museum directors have pledged or donated significant funds themselves, which is a testament to their belief in this project.

The new museum building, along with interior outfitting is expected to cost right around $1 Million. With the investments already made by the Trust and other significant donors, we believe we can raise the remainder by the end of 2017 and begin the building process at that time.

We have structured the fundraising process around several themes, including sponsorships of certain areas of the building and particular displays, including:

  • Main Hangar Door $25,000
  • Staff Offices and Equipment $25,000
  • Aviation Art Gallery (Pat Packard and other artists) $50,000
  • Landscaping, Fencing & Gardens $25,000
  • Library (Manuals, Books, Artwork Storage) $50,000
  • Brodhead Airport Exhibit $50,000
  • Travel Air Exhibit (4000, 12Q & 12W) $50,000
  • Pietenpol Exhibit (Scout, Aircamper, Fords & Corvairs) $50,000
  • Monocoupe 70 Restoration $60,000
  • Automobile Display Wing $100,000
  • EAA Chapter 431 Meeting Area $125,000
  • Main Hangar Space $250,000

Also, donors may elect to “Buy an Orange Cone.” This is our twist on the ubiquitous “Buy a Brick” fundraising program. Al Kelch created the process for manufacturing the classic orange traffic cone and we honor that invention with engraved, personalized cones for donors of $250. Donations of $1,000 are recognized with the donor’s name engraved on our Leadership Wall, and $2,500 donors may choose an engraved Charles Lindbergh statuette.

We invite you to read about the museum’s history and future plans in our fundraising brochure, which you can request HERE.

Join us in making the Kelch Aviation Museum a reality at Brodhead Airport. And please contact us with any questions you may have.

Building Plans

Over the winter, we have been making some changes to the proposed building plans for the new Kelch Aviation Museum. Our architect is a good friend of the museum and understands what we want to build to showcase our collection and provide a center of activity for Brodhead Airport functions, as well as educational and archive facilities.

The plans shown here represent the third revision to the basic design, which now features a large, west-facing hangar door and an enlarged area for automobile and artifact display.


As you can see, the building fills out our property east & west, but provides room for future expansion to the north. A large meeting space for EAA Chapter 431 is on the south side to facilitate large gatherings during the many fly-ins at Brodhead Airport throughout the year.

Of course, the building comes at a price and we will be launching a capital fundraising campaign to help with the construction of the building very soon. Stay tuned for information!

A Step Back in Time: MAAC Grassroots Fly-In

For all of the nonsense that can be found on the internet, every once in a while, you find something that is just….well, cool! The video below was forwarded to us yesterday and it falls squarely into the “cool” category.

Published by EAA, the footage was taken during the 2015 MAAC Grassroots fly-in at Brodhead Airport and it captures the mood and atmosphere of the event quite nicely. Take a look:

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Kelch Aviation Museum’s Travel Air 12W is featured in several scenes.

Thanks to EAA for the work that went in to this production.

Early Aviation in Wisconsin

Hi all! We’re hoping that everybody is having a wonderful holiday season.

This week, I have been scanning several albums of photos that were recently donated to the Kelch Aviation Museum showing early aviation in Wisconsin. Some of these are really fascinating and while I haven’t fully researched the photographer and whether or not these have been published elsewhere, I find myself wondering how many of these have been seen widely before. The albums are from George Hardy via the the Dick and Jeannie Hill estate. I thought I would share a couple here.

John Kaminsky of Milwaukee, the youngest aviator in the world.

John Kaminsky of Milwaukee, the youngest aviator in the world.

Aviator Barlow and mascot Jack. Rhinelander, Wis.

Aviator Barlow and mascot Jack. Rhinelander, Wis.

Tomahawk, Wis., July 4, 1914.

Tomahawk, Wis., July 4, 1914.

Unknown pilot, Tomahawk, Wis., July 4, 1914.

Unknown pilot, Tomahawk, Wis., July 4, 1914.

Wreck of the Aeroplane at Tomahawk, Wis., July 4, 1914.

Wreck of the Aeroplane at Tomahawk, Wis., July 4, 1914.

If anyone has more information on these images from northern Wisconsin in the very early days of powered flight, please let us know. E-mail or comment below.

Brodhead Fire & Ice Festival Display

On December 4-5, the city of Brodhead will hold their annual Fire & Ice Festival on Exchange Square in downtown Brodhead. The Kelch Aviation Museum will be bringing our 1936 Russell Lightplane downtown for display on Friday, Dec 4th from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., weather permitting.


Also, we will beholding our first ever raffle! For a $2 ticket, you can win a gift certificate for a ride in a vintage biplane courtesy of Biplane Rides of America or Gypsy Air Tours. Other prizes include Kelch Aviation Museum t-shirts and other items.

Get your tickets in person at the Kelch Aviation Museum or at the Fire & Ice Festival on Friday evening, December 4th. Due to state law, we are unable to mail raffle tickets.

Many thanks to Ted & Kim at Biplane Rides of America and to Josh and Kerryann at Gypsy Air Tours for the donations!

Vintage Airplane Cover

The November/December, 2015 issue of EAA’s Vintage Airplane magazine features our Curtiss-Wright Travel Air 12W in a night shot taken at Oshkosh back in July. The aircraft is sitting in the new Bill and Myrt Rose display area in front of the Vintage Aircraft headquarters. Photo by Phil High.

Vintage Airplane Magazine

Doug Holt

We received word over the weekend that Douglas Holt of Mequon, Wis., “Flew West” on Wednesday morning, October 7th, 2015. Doug was a trustee of the Alfred & Lois Kelch Charitable Trust and a mentor and advisor to the Kelch Aviation Museum, Inc.

Lucky-Dog-coverMany people in the aviation community knew Doug because of his book, “Lucky Dog” that chronicles his remarkable career as a young pilot over Germany in WWII and also his experiences stateside flying various aircraft for the Army Air Corps. Doug has appeared at many aviation events over the years, giving interviews, signing his book and speaking to anybody interested in his story. He willingly gave his book free to any WWII veterans.

Doug and his wife Carol were close friends of Al and Lois Kelch, and when they created Alfred & Lois Kelch Charitable Trust, Doug was one of the original trustees. Later, Doug was instrumental in using the Trust to create the Kelch Aviation Museum and very recently, has helped guide the plans for the new museum building and with long-term financial planning. Most importantly, he wanted the museum to be something that Al and Lois would be proud of. Doug has been a mentor to this curator and an inspiration to everybody involved.

Doug visited the Kelch Aviation Museum just a few weeks ago, during the MAAC Grassroots fly-in on September 12th when the Kelch Trust and Kelch Museum held a joint, annual meeting. As usual, Doug held court on a few items at the meeting and made us all laugh on occasion.

We had arranged for Doug to take a flight in our Curtiss-Wright Travel Air 12W after the meeting, since he helped Al Kelch with the restoration and mentioned more than once, “I did a lot of work on that airplane but never got a ride in it.” (or words to that affect). Greg Heckman, our director and pilot, tells the story from here.

I had the honor and privilege of giving Doug his last airplane ride during the MAAC Grassroots fly-in on September 12 in the Museum’s Curtiss-Wright Travel Air 12W. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. Since May, when I flew the airplane for the first time, I have given many rides, and you have to be pretty limber and spry to get both in and out of the front cockpit of the 12W. I had to laugh as I watched Doug, wearing his WWII flying helmet crawl in with no difficulty at all. I’ve seen people half his age struggle getting in.

Now Doug is short, so once he was in, all I could see was the top of his flying helmet sticking out of the front cockpit. We got airborne and I flew around the area at about 500 feet, thinking he’d like to enjoy the scenery. It wasn’t long until I saw his hand come up like he was pointing at the stick, and then he grabbed the stick and shook it. I thought, OK, this should be interesting, so I shook it back, indicating he had control. Doug proceeded to make gentle S-turns, gradually getting steeper as he maneuvered around the area south of the airport. I sat there amazed as he made perfectly coordinated turns with the altitude never changing more than +/- 25 feet. Now keep in mind, there are no instruments in the front where Doug was flying! He was flying the airplane like he had never quit and it was a thrill for me to be a part of it.

Doug continued to maneuver around for about 10 minutes, and shook the stick once again to give control back to me. We went back, I landed the airplane, and Doug got out – again with no difficulty. He briefly mentioned a story while flying a Stearman as a Cadet, and then walked off to our new museum building. In my 30 years of flying, I have forgotten many of the rides I have given, but this is one I’ll never forget. Rest in peace, Doug!

Doug Holt in the front seat of the museum's Travel Air 12W, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of Nigel Hitchman.

Doug Holt in the front seat of the museum’s Travel Air 12W, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of Nigel Hitchman.

Speaking to Doug on the phone just last week, one of our directors commented, “…he was still buzzin over that 12W ride and that he “still had it.”

Kelch Trustee Larry Harmacinski sends these pictures of Doug and Ilse Harmacinski at the Museum’s open house shortly before Doug’s flight. Pictured is the museum’s 1928 Stearman C3B.

Ilse Harmacinski and Doug Holt in front of the Stearman C3B at the Kelch Aviation Museum open house, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2015

Ilse Harmacinski and Doug Holt in front of the Stearman C3B at the Kelch Aviation Museum open house, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2015

Ilse Harmacinski and Doug Holt in front of the Stearman C3B at the Kelch Aviation Museum open house, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2015

Ilse Harmacinski and Doug Holt in front of the Stearman C3B at the Kelch Aviation Museum open house, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2015

Doug requested no formal ceremonies upon his death, but donations may be made to any of these organizations; MDS Foundation, Kidney Foundation or Alzheimer’s Foundation. He is survived by his wife, Carol, and two daughters.