Rural Missouri - February 2012 - (Page 32)

N E I G H B O R S by Kyle Spradley kspradley@ruralmissouri.coop F loating down the Castor River on a lazy summer afternoon in southeast Missouri, you notice a man walking along a gravel bar. His warm and inviting smile prompts you to stop. At first glance, this codger comes across as just another old-timer who has made a life on the farm. But once you begin talking to 92-year-old Apostle Paul Vance — who simply goes by Paul — you find out his life is deeply rooted in history. From his days serving in the Navy, to spending time with famous pilots such as Charles Lindbergh and Jimmy Doolittle, to pulling off an emergency landing in West Virginia and envisioning countless aeronautical improvements, he has earned the nickname, “Mr. Aviation.” Long before he logged more than 23,000 hours in the air — the equivalent of nearly three years flying — Apostle Paul Vance was born in 1919 on a farm near Zalma in Bollinger County. He was the middle child in a family of 11 children. His father, Benjamin Vance, owned three sawmills, but the income wasn’t enough for the family. The Vances were forced to move to St. Louis, where they settled on a small farm four miles south of the emerging Lambert Field. After graduating from Wellston High School in 1938, Paul married his high school sweetheart, Sue, and fathered the first of five children while studying to be a chemistry teacher at Southeast Missouri State University. Oddly enough, this was the beginning of his life in the sky. “One day I was in the office of my professor, W.A. Buckner, and he asked me, ‘Would you like Paul Vance stands inside his aviation museum in Fredericktown’s old train depot. He started the museum to showto fly?,’” recalls the Black River Electric Cooperacase a collection of aeronautical artifacts and to highlight Missouri’s contributions to aviation history. tive member. “I said ‘yeah,’ but I couldn’t even He pushed to have city names on water towers resistant hydraulic fluid. afford the $15 for a physical to get accepted.” and call numbers painted on the roofs of airport Fifteen years later, while en route to Maryland Buckner was in charge of the Civilian Pilot terminals to help pilots with navigation. For with a vice president of a company on board, Training Program at SEMO, helping train civilians decades, he has served in leadership positions for Paul’s skills as a pilot were put to the test. to fly. He kindly donated the money to get Paul several national aeronautical organizations with “My engines just stopped,” recalls the aviator. enrolled to earn his pilot’s license. He even offered some of the nation’s top leaders in aviation, and The twin-engine plane descended rapidly as Paul a job at the university. he remains a prominent name in the industry. he was forced to perform an emergency landing “Since I was a married man, they put me in He owns several aviation-related businesses. near Elkins, W.V. The only option was to land the charge of cleaning the dorms — even the girl One of them is the sole manufacturer of Durette, a 49-foot-wide aircraft was on a two-lane highway. dorms,” says Paul. “I guess they figured I wouldn’t flame-retardant fabric used in clothing for NASA. To avoid flipping over upon impact, Paul get into any trouble.” “In fact, we just made some in my barn on my did not lower the landing gear as he guided the After graduating in 1942, Paul left SEMO with ranch last month,” says Paul. “It’s hard to believe aircraft through a 30-foot-wide gap in the trees, a degree in education, his pilot’s license and his that something made in Fredericktown has been around utility wires and onto the pavement of Ground School Instructors license. He went on to on the moon.” U.S. Route 33. The plane came to a stop after skidbecome a chemistry teacher in Jackson. Shortly after his successful crash landing in ding more than 400 yards on the sloping curve of It wasn’t long before the skies were calling West Virginia, Paul moved back to the country. the highway. The only damage was to the belly him back. He taught for only one He still calls his nearly 1,000-acre ranch nestled of the aircraft and a broken wing tip from semester in Jackson and enlisted amongst the St. Francois Mountains near Fredercontact with a pole. in the Navy as a pilot. He flew for icktown home. Here he enjoys riding his horses When reporters on the scene commore than four years as a transport and spending time on his land. mented that he came out of the landing pilot and flight instructor during Although he quit flying in 2009 at the age of World War II. Fredericktown with only a scratch, Paul responded, 90, “Mr. Aviation” is still living up to his name “If you’re referring to the cut on my “I never shot at anyone,” says Paul. • and enjoys sharing his stories at the Vance Avianose, I got that last Sunday while “Had plenty of people shoot at me.” tion Museum in the former Fredericktown train riding my horses.” Paul remained in the Navy reserves depot. Rumor has it, the name of the first man to The next day, Paul refueled, sucfor another 19 years, training airmen fly through the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is kept cessfully took off from the highway across the country. After the war ended, secretly inside. and reached his final destination. The accident he attended graduate school at St. Louis UniverStepping inside the museum, you are drawn to not only allowed Paul to showcase his skills, but it sity and accepted the position of director of aviathe historic photos and old newspaper clippings. also helped improve safety standards in aviation. tion for the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce. DurBut it’s that warm, inviting smile that compels “When I got out of the plane, I noticed I was ing his tenure, Paul helped turn St. Louis from a you to pull up a chair and soak up a lifetime of missing my gas cap,” says Paul. “I then helped river and train town to a worldwide aviation hub. history through one remarkable man. create a new style of cap that wouldn’t allow this In 1951, Monsanto hird Paul as a corporate to happen again.” pilot, but he quickly added chief sales engineer to If you would like to visit the Vance Aviation MusePaul left Monsanto in 1970, but he continued his list of duties and was largely responsible for um, call Paul at 573-783-5885. his efforts to improve the safety of air travel. the aviation industry’s adoption of Skydrol, a fire- Mr. Aviation Pilot Paul Vance has spent a life in the skies 32 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2012

Rural Missouri - February 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Better together
Outdoors
A plague of enmity
Out of the Way Eats
Rink redemption
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Radio revivalist
If the shoe fits
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Mr. Aviation
Neighbors
Just4Kids

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