Flap Over Loudenslager Stephens Akro Laser 200 Display
The Loudenslager Stephens Akro Laser 200 can remain on static
display at the National Air and Space Museum's new Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport (VA). But a
group of 20 Congressional members has written the head of the
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum demanding that the Bud Light logos
"The display of the plane with the Bud Light logos would
needlessly commercialize the plane's exhibition while marginalizing
its true historical significance. The logos are nothing more than
an advertisement that would constitute an implicit endorsement of
Bud Light by the Smithsonian Institution," said the letter. "Having
a historic plane covered in gratuitous beer advertising sends
misleading and dangerous messages to the millions of annual museum
visitors who will be under the legal drinking age. As you may know,
alcohol is the leading drug problem among American youth. . . .
Alcohol-related advertising has no place in one of our nation's
premier public museums. We respectfully request that you remove the
Bud Light logos and restore the Laser 200 to its original color
scheme prior to displaying it."
Leo Loudenslager was a legend in sport aviation. Beginning in
1975, he won seven US aerobatic championships. In 1980, he won the
World Aerobatic Championships -- all in a plane of his own design
and construction. Loudenslager retired in 1983. He died after a
motorcycle accident in 1997.
The aircraft was repainted that year to reflect the Bud Light
sponsorship. Prior to that, it sported a blue paint scheme without
sponsor ID. The Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a
letter co-written with a group of governors' spouses that the
Budweiser paint job was "gratuitous."
"The Bud Light insignia has nothing to do with the championship
years of a well-designed, well-flown plane," said George A. Hacker,
director of the CPSI Alcohol Policies Project. "It is almost
historically inaccurate. It is emblazoned much as a NASCAR race
But the director of the Air and Space Museum, General John R.
Dailey, stood firm in his exchange with the CPSI and the governors'
spouses. He said the Anheuser-Busch paint scheme came with the
airplane when it was donated.
The Loudenslager family donated the aircraft to the Smithsonian
in 1999. For two years, it was on display at the Air and Space
Museum on the Mall. The Washington Post reports it was the first
aircraft moved into the Udvar-Hazy facility, which is scheduled to
open December 15th. It hangs nose high, suspended from cables
attached to the top of the 10-story display hall. Loudenslager flew
the aircraft as it's painted now on the airshow circuit. Dailey
told the spouses and the CPSI, "It was during these air shows that
the plane gained its popular fame and became familiar to a mass
audience. The current paint scheme thus has legitimate historical
Enter the beer company.
"With all due respect, the main proponent behind this attempt to
rewrite history is an anti-everything advocacy group that would
like to tell all Americans -- young and old -- what to eat and
drink," said Anheuser-Busch Vice President John Kaestner. "If they
are truly interested in doing something meaningful to fight
underage drinking, they should put down the decal scraper and get
General Dailey has yet to answer the Congressional letter. He
may well take his time, given the touchy nature of this particular
display. On one hand, The Anheuser-Bush Foundation donated $1
million to the new museum facility. On the other hand,
Congressional members who signed the letter include Rep. Zach Wamp
(R-TN) and Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY). Both sit on the House
appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Smithsonian's