Unique Aircraft In Storage For Six Years Needs A Home
An antique American Eaglet (file photo of type below) on display
in Kansas City's Charles B. Wheeler Downtown during the 1990's now
sits moldering in a garage since 2000. The city disassembled it for
storage to make room for expansion of one of the airport's
After six years, city Councilman Bill Skaggs (also chairman of
the council's Aviation Committee) is pushing an initiative to find
the old flyer a new home.
Skaggs told the Columbia Daily Tribune, "It is part of Kansas
City history. It was manufactured here, and it needs to be brought
out and put on display."
Originally designed by American Eagle Airplane Corporation in
the late '20s, the two-seat Eaglet was intended to
be "everyman's" airplane. The plane's designers, Douglas
Webber and Noel Hockaday, used a 25-horsepower two-stroke engine in
the prototype, which was damaged during a crash landing. The
aircraft was refitted with a 30-horsepower Szekely three-cylinder
radial engine and became the Model 230. Other models of the
aircraft used a 45-horsepower Szekely, and a 40-horsepower
American Eagle Airplane Corporation closed its doors during the
great depression. It's rumored the Eaglet's type certificate was
purchased by another company intending to bring it back into
production, but so far that hasn't happened
Kansas City's example was built in 1930 at American Eagle
Airplane's factory at the now closed Fairfax Airport across the
river from Wheeler Downtown. The airport languished during the
depression years before it was bought by the US Army during WWII.
Eventually, the airport closed in 1985 when GM bought it and built
an assembly plant on it.
According to its last owner, retired American Airlines captain
Gene Morris, the Eaglet now in a storage garage in Kansas City
crashed shortly after it was originally purchased in Syracuse, NY
back in 1930. Morris saw it years later rotting on the roof of a
chicken coop in Montana. He bought it, restored it and flew it for
a number of years before giving it to the city in 1991.
Wheeler Downtown airport director Mike Roper says Morris asked
only that the aircraft be displayed publicly indoors.
Now, says Roper, "We have no" public "facility here that is
large enough to hold it."
Because the aircraft is no longer on display, Morris, now 77 and
living in Roanoke, TX, is considering taking the aircraft back.
"A museum is where it belongs," Morris said.
The city is considering displaying the aircraft in Union
Station, an option that Morris says would make him happy. But,
engineers must determine if there is room enough and if the
structure can support the aircraft's weight.
Photo courtesy of Denis Arbeau.