The Senior Project That Is Opening Many Doors

Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine October/November 2022 Digital Issue

Hannah Shickles, 18, of Brodhead, Wisconsin, first got involved with the Kelch Aviation Museum, located at the Brodhead Airport (C37), through a project at her high school. At Brodhead High, to graduate, students are required to do what they call a “senior project,” which entails 20 hours of community service of the student’s choosing, writing journals of their work, and a 15-minute presentation about their project.

Originally, Hannah planned to volunteer at the retirement center in town. “Fortunately, those plans fell through when the pandemic hit,” said Hannah. “The Kelch Aviation Museum reached out to the high school for volunteers, and although I had never been there, I thought it would be better than picking up trash on the side of the road. To my surprise, I was the only student who answered the email.”

Hannah was invited to the museum in September 2020. “That day will be one I will never forget. The huge 60 ft. hangar door was open, displaying nearly a dozen one-of-a-kind vintage aircraft. The scene looked like a dream. It was sunset, and the sun cast a beautiful orange glow across the wings of the aircraft.”

Hannah was then given a tour of the airport by some of the local pilots. The following day she started logging volunteer time, cleaning oil pans and polishing airplanes. “I didn’t mind… I really liked being around the vintage aircraft.”

That same day the executive director of the museum, Patrick Weeden, asked Hannah if she wanted to go for a ride in the museum’s 1932 Curtiss Wright 12W Travel Air biplane.

“What an opportunity! The chance that the pilot who is on the museum’s insurance policy was in Brodhead (he lives across the country), and this beautiful vintage biplane is recently annualed and ready to fly. The evening was beautiful, and I just happened to be there! It was as if the stars aligned.

“But to everyone’s shock, I said ‘no.’ But Pat, the pilot, and other pilots would not take no for an answer, and I am so glad they didn’t. The second I sat in that biplane, something clicked inside me, and I knew then what I know now… aviation would forever be a part of my life.”

Hannah continued: “This brings me to present-day me. My savings are for my education, but last summer I worked hard at the museum and made enough money to take one lesson a week, make my tuition payment for college, and pay for gas in my car. I had a surplus of $4 a week. I swear, this is a true story! I did the math.

“This is how I knew I was serious about becoming a pilot. When I saw my paycheck and thought about how many lessons it would get me, I knew then I had caught the aviation bug!”

Today, Hannah is the curator, events coordinator, and archivist at the museum. She also just obtained her private pilot certificate.

Hannah soloed in a 1945 Aeronca Champion 7AC. For her cross countries, hood time, and check-ride, she flew a 1970 Cessna 150K. Hannah’s flight instructor was Elroy Hilbert at Cottonwood Airport (1C8) in Rockford, Illinois.

“Had someone told me that at age 18, I was going to solo in multiple airplanes, and get my pilot’s license, I would have said you’re crazy!

“It’s amazing how life can change in an instant. I have been so blessed by the aviation world. I’ve met incredible people and seen remarkable things. Thank goodness for my senior project!”

Hannah is currently a student at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, working on her Associate Degree. “I am not currently planning on becoming a professional pilot, but that could always change.” Regardless, Hannah’s pilot certificate is sure to open doors in the future. Hannah is the daughter of Angela Olson of Brodhead.

Kelch Aviation Museum

The Kelch Aviation Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission is free! Larger groups requesting a guided tour should call for an appointment: 608-897-1175.

Based around the stunning vintage aircraft that museum’s namesake, Alfred Kelch, collected, the Kelch Aviation Museum brings the story of the Golden Age of Aviation to life.

The aviation legacy of the years between the World Wars changed the course of history, and the Kelch Aviation Museum keeps that legacy alive through education, preservation, and good old barnstormer-style pizazz.

The collection includes 19 vintage aircraft, three vintage automobiles, 10,000 aviation books, 12 original aircraft engines, cabinets of photo collections, and dozens of models, works of art, and one-of-a-kind treasures!

Whether you are a “Snoopy-and-the-Red-Baron” fan, or a researcher sleuthing out original aircraft blueprints, the Kelch Aviation Museum has something to fascinate everyone!

Alfred & Lois Kelch Aviation Museum, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational corporation and donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

This entry was posted in All Headlines, Headlines, Headlines, Oct/Nov 2022, People and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.