OSHKOSH, WIS. – A professional pilot and fixed based operator, a flight instructor and businessman, a World War II veteran and crop duster, and a career soldier and aviation businessman, were inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame at ceremonies held October 24, 2015 at the EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, Wis.
James Igou, Greg Gorak, Darrel Gibson, and Charles Vehlow were recognized for their achievements and contributions to aviation.
Darrel Gibson took his first flight lesson in 1951 and went to work for Badger Aviation, located in Eau Claire, Wis., in 1958. Gibson founded Gibson Aviation in 1961, a family-own and operated fixed base operation in Eau Claire, Wis., where he also served as airport manager from 1961-1976. Gibson Aviation provided flight training, charter, and aircraft maintenance, and was a dealer for Cessna Aircraft and Piper Aircraft. Under Gibson’s watch, the airport saw many improvements. Gibson was also an active member of the Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association (WATA) throughout his career.
Although Darrel and his wife, Cleo, have retired from aviation, the Gibson Aviation legacy continues as son, Darrel, Jr., operates Gibson Aviation at the Menomonie and Osceola, Wisconsin airports.
Gregory Gorak of Milwaukee, Wis., founded Gaits Aviation Seminars in 1977 to conduct flight instructor refresher clinics throughout the United States. To date, the program has graduated more than 18,000 flight instructors.
A pilot since 1962, Gorak has logged 8,600 flight hours as an instructor, charter pilot and chair of the Career Pilot Program at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wis. Gorak was awarded the distinction of Master CFI and named FAA Flight Instructor of the Year in 1977.
James Igou served as a B-29 maintenance instructor and later as a crew chief on B-17 weather aircraft. After leaving the military, Igou attended Spartan School of Aeronautics, earning commercial and flight instructor pilot certificates, and instrument and multi-engine ratings. In 1953, Igou moved to Wisconsin and became a crop duster, amassing nearly 21,000 flight hours throughout his 25-year career. The FAA awarded Igou the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2007, recognizing his 50 years of accident-free flight.
Charles Vehlow was born and raised in Waukesha, Wis., and graduated from West Point in 1968. He received helicopter training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, and completed a 12-month tour in Vietnam. Once home, Vehlow became a professor at West Point, then transferred to the Army Reserve. After 26 years in the service, Vehlow retired as a colonel, and went on to work for McDonnell Douglas as a member of the Longbow AH-64D Apache helicopter design team. From there, he became president and CEO of MD Helicopters, and was later named vice president and general manager of Boeing’s U.S. Army military rotorcraft division.
The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame has inducted 120 men and women since 1985, when Wisconsin DOT Bureau of Aeronautics official, Carl E. Guell, founded the organization. Guell was the first subscriber of Wisconsin Flyer in 1978, which was renamed Midwest Flyer Magazine in 1980.