Aeronca L-16 Memorial and Trainer
In 1960, at Vance AFB my instructor, George Henry Albrecht, (Gus) as he was known, invited Jim Tassie and myself to his home for Thanksgiving dinner. His wife, Jo Anne cooked us a fine meal, one that neither one of us will ever forget.
I often wondered what happened to Gus and some where along the line I learned that he had died in Vietnam. I made up my mind to find his family to tell them just how much I thought of this great guy. Long story short, I searched for twenty years! I’m a little fuzzy on exactly how I did find them but somehow I was told that his wife had remarried and his son was adopted by the step father. Ding! Name change! I was told the son’s name. One thing led to another and I did find Eric. From him I found his mother and two other siblings, his older sister had been present at the Thanksgiving feast, not that she would remember, she was about two years old at the time. After more than twenty years I got to talk to Jo Anne on the phone. When she answered I said: “This is one of your Thanksgiving day guests from back in 1960.” She was shocked but she remembered! We had a wonderful visit going over the last fifty some years.
Now, the rest of the story. As many of you know we are moving in a slightly different direction than just a museum and attraction. That is still our main focus, to teach the legacy of the Flying/Aviation Cadets. However, tourism being as bad as it has become lately, we are going to enhance what we do here. We are going to build the “30th Aero Squadron” hangar where we will teach anyone who will buy a reproduction WWI kit aircraft to build it, and how to fly it. If they don’t have the necessary flight experience, we will have an instructor available to teach them. Then once qualified our fledgling airmen and women will be able to participate in a WWI airshow, similar to that conducted in Rheinbeck NY. It is more of a fun melodrama with aircraft as a moving backdrop. We think this will really help the tourist industry in this area. One problem with this type aircraft is that the first time up, it is just YOU and God! So we had talked for some time about whether we should invest in a trainer. The Aeronca Champ was recommended by Robert Baslee who owns Airdrome Aeroplanes, Holden, MO, the company that builds the kits. Sorry the story keeps going on, but hang in there, it gets even better. I had been looking at training aircraft but had no intention of buying one. Well in late June, 2015 our phone rang and there was a young lady asking if I could help her price an Aeronca L-16. I asked her why she had called me and she said: “I saw on-line that you were an Aeronca restorer. Well, I am not! The aircraft was located in northern PA. After several days of prayer and discussion, we called her back and asked what she would take for the aircraft. It belonged to an aero club that she was the president of. We settled on a price of $23,000 and it would cost about $1000 to get the aircraft here. A week to the day since she had called, the aircraft was here!
I wondered just how we were going to pay for this aircraft as we had to borrow the money against our home (second mortgage which we had recently paid off). I called Eric and asked if he or his company would like to buy this as a memorial to his dad. I also called Jo Anne and told her about what we were doing and that it would have an:”IN MEMORY OF:CAPTAIN GEORGE H. (GUS) ALBRECHT 1st AIR COMMANDOS, 6th FIGHTER GROUP, USAF. KILLED IN ACTION, NOVEMBER 19, 1964, VIETNAM” on the door. She was most excited about it and donated a large amount to help pay for it! I’m still not sure exactly why God set all of this up, but I know He did and it will be a blessing for many.
Photos of the new hangar with the L-16 living inside: (July 2016)