Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1218 in Willow Springs will host its annual fly-in and open house 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.
This year’s event will pay tribute to Kitty Middleton, her pioneering spirit and bravery.
On Aug. 5, 1951, during the Willow Springs Memorial Airport Air Show, Mountain Grove native Pansy “Kitty” Middleton performed her first wing-walking act. Billed as the Skylarks, with Carl Ferris, Lansing, Mich., piloting the Stearman, Middleton was strapped in the harness on the top wing. They performed dives, barrel rolls, Cuban 8s and snap rolls. This was the first air show of this caliber that many of the 2,000 in attendance had ever seen. Middleton at 17 years old was an instant sensation. Following the Willow Springs show, the Skylarks continued to the Ozark Empire Fair, starting Aug. 11 in Springfield.
There too they were a big success. Their next scheduled event was the Minnesota State Fair as the featured afternoon grandstand attraction. Labor Day, Sept. 3, 1951, was the final day of the fair and would complete their air show season.
As they began the last maneuver, the grand finale, the spectators watched as the plane dived from the sky, hitting the ground with such force it spread the landing gear out flat. Pilot Ferris was killed instantly; Kitty pulled from the burning wreckage died the next day.
Sixty years after that fateful day, EAA Chapter #1218 will pay tribute to Kitty.
On hand will be chapter member Don Nevels author of “Wings, Dreams and Memories,” the story of Kitty Middleton, the Skylarks, the early days of aviation in the Ozarks and the sequence of events leading up to that fateful September day.
Copies of the book will be available for sale and autographed by Nevels.
Video clips from the Skylarks performance during the Minnesota State Fair will be shown.
EAA Chapter 1218 was formed in 1998 with 18 charter members. The chapter has grown to more than 130 members in a seven- county area. In October 2006, the chapter dedicated the meeting room/hangar facility, 810 Bryan, on the west side of the Willow Springs Memorial Airport. The chapter’s goals are to provide aviation educational opportunities, an atmosphere for recreational aviation activities, promote and encourage aviation safety in the design, construction, restoration and operation of all types of aircraft. Members and guests have fun being around airplanes, flying and other related aviation activities such as the scheduled fly-in Oct. 8.
The public is invited. For more information call EAA Chapter #1218 President Tom White, 417-252-0332, or visit the chapter website: www.eaa1218.org.