Great Aviators Gone West!

Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2017 issue

Ron R. Alexander, EAA Vintage Aircraft Association Director, was killed November 17, 2016, while flying his Curtiss Jenny near the Candler Field Museum/Peach State Airport in Williamson, Georgia.

Born in 1942 in Bloomington, Indiana, Alexander soloed an Aeronca Champ at the age of 16. From there Alexander climbed the ratings ladder by instructing ROTC cadets before entering the Air Force in 1964. While serving our country Alexander flew the de Havilland Caribou, supplying Special Forces troops in Vietnam and earned the rank of captain before leaving the Air Force in 1969. He started flying for Delta Air Lines in 1969 and retired as a captain in 2002.

Alexander founded the Alexander Aeroplane Company in 1979, supplying materials to aircraft builders and restorers. In 1993, he created the “SportAir Workshops,” which have opened the doors to countless homebuilders and restorers by giving them hands-on educational experience in the art of building an airplane with an assortment of materials. In 1999, Alexander sold SportAir Workshops to EAA, which carries on that tradition and Alexander’s vision today.

In 1992, Alexander purchased Stits Poly-Fiber, Inc., manufacturing the Poly-Fiber covering process and remained president of that company until 2002. He was also a regular contributor to EAA Sport Aviation and EAA Vintage Airplane magazines writing technical articles for homebuilders and antique aircraft restorers.

Alexander founded the Candler Field Museum in 2004 at his home airport, Peach State Aerodrome (EAA).

Gene Chase, longtime editor of EAAVintage Airplane magazine and later a member of the Vintage Aircraft Association board of directors, died January 2, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at age 92. His death comes less than two months after the passing of his wife of 70 years, Dorothy.

Chase joined the EAA staff in 1973 as part of a remarkable aviation career that included service as a naval aviator on aircraft carriers during World War II and service in the Naval Reserve before retiring as a lieutenant commander. He was also a corporate, charter, and cloud seeding pilot at various times, and maintained his flight instructor rating for more than a half-century.

Chase also held several other positions on the EAA staff, and wrote hundreds of articles about vintage aircraft, the people who owned them, and flying those airplanes. After retiring from EAA in 1987, Chase joined the antique/classic division (now Vintage Aircraft Association) board of directors in 1989 and served as co-chairman of the antique aircraft judging committee at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for many years. He was inducted into the Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame in 1999. Most recently, Chase was a member of VAA Chapter 10 in Tulsa.

Chase’s strong interest in vintage aircraft included restorations of a 1929 Church Midwing, a 1933 Davis D-1-W, and a 1935 Taylor E-2 Cub.

Gene Chase was a regular contributing editor to Midwest Flyer Magazine in the 1980s with his “Mystery Airplane Contest” in which he would feature aircraft unfamiliar to most readers (EAA).

William F. “Bill” Bordeleau, 84, of Menomonee Falls, Wis., died January 8, 2017, but he leaves a permanent footprint on the air show entertainment industry, and among the millions of spectators he entertained as one of the top air show announcers of all time!

Bordeleau was the owner of Continental Air Show Productions for 47 years, serving as narrator/producer and providing sound systems. He earned numerous awards and was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001. Bordeleau was also a lifetime member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA #39) and International Council of Air Shows (ICAS #4).

Bordeleau was an entertainer, leader, mentor and an inspiration to many in the air show entertainment industry. He and his wife, Darlene, managed the ICAS office for many years, and started its magazine, which continues to be published to this day. If anyone had a question about the air show entertainment industry, chances are Bill Bordeleau knew the answer.

A man of vision and great wisdom, Bill Bordeleau realized early on in his career that the air show entertainment industry would be going to great places, and in his own words, “I wanted to go along for the ride!”

Bordeleau’s first performance was a one-day show in Monroe, Wisconsin on September 7, 1951, in which he did a comedy act with the late Skip Flannery of Monroe, who flew a 7AC Champ.

Also performing at the Monroe show were the “Cole Brothers,” featuring the late Duane and Marion Cole from Kankakee, Illinois. Duane Cole flew his Taylorcraft, which he later flew at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for many years, and Marion Cole flew his Stearman, which he later sold to another air show icon, Bill Adams of Menomonee Falls, Wis.

Beginning in 1961, Bill Bordeleau began doing skydiving exhibitions with the Wisconsin Skydivers. It was through this work that he became good friends with Bill Adams. Adams was killed during his final maneuver at an air show in Valparaiso, Indiana in 1966.

Bordeleau really did not get started announcing air shows until 1967, when he went to Dodgeville, Wis., and Bill Sweet’s National Airshow was performing. Bordeleau ended up narrating for the skydivers at that show because he was managing skydiving teams at the time in addition to working full-time for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Bordeleau did not officially start announcing full time until 1969, when he decided to print brochures and name his company “Continental Air Shows/Sky-O-Rama.” He added sound systems to his business in 1971.

A celebration of Bill Bordeleau’s life will be held in the spring at the EAA AirVenture Museum.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • RSS
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Reddit
This entry was posted in February/March 2017, People, Sections and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply