Criteria for the Spirit of Flight Award

  • Awarded annually to an organization that has made a substantial contribution to aviation in Illinois.

  • The organization's activities must be Illinois based and continuous over a long period of time.

  • The organization's member activities must be above and beyond that of normal paid employment and exhibit a high degree of excellence in their accomplishment.
2016 Spirit of Flight Inductees:
EAA Chapter 277, Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

EAA Chapter 277 - Carbondale

EAA Chapter 277 has served the aviation community and the general public for more than 30 years. Their activities include providing over 1100 Young Eagles flights for children; sponsoring scholarships to Southern Illinois University aviation students, sponsoring airport breakfasts that are open to the public, supporting regional airshows, assisting veterans to enable them to attend events and providing monthly forum speakers for pilot education.

Southern Illinois Airport has hosted numerous airshows over the last 30 plus years, and Chapter 277 members have always assisted to make these events a great success. Beyond displaying their aircraft on the ramp and visiting with spectators, the Chapter helped to promote the events, assisted with set up and airport cleanup following the events. More recently, the Chapter has been involved with sponsoring Commemorative Air Force visits to Southern Illinois Airport. Hundreds of people came out to see the aircraft arrive and tour the planes at each of these events.

While some these activities are normal for an EAA chapter, the volume and quality of activity at EAA Chapter 277 is unusually high. They are the backbone of support for numerous events in Southern Illinois.

We salute you for your commitment to supporting aviation in Illinois.

Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum in Cahokia

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum is an organization that continually gives much to the local community. Located at St. Louis Downtown Airport (KCPS) in Cahokia, the Museum has been the heart of the region’s aerospace education efforts for many years. Museum activities focus on hands-on interactive educational activities. They host frequent fly-ins, aviation career days, school group tours, scout camporees and EAA Young Eagle Rallies. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) recently awarded the Museum their “Civic Service Award” in recognition of the Museum’s efforts with the local community.

The Museum hosts EAA Chapter 461’s Young Eagles program. Young Eagles rides are offered on the second Saturday each month from April through October, with an average of 50 rides per event. While families wait for their turn, they can enjoy the museum. Younger children can ride in “Ground Bound”, the Curtis Jenny replica built by the museum for them.

The Museum’s displays cover the history of aviation, including early balloon races, the 1910 Kinoch Air Meet, the 1923 National Air Races at Lambert Field, Charles Lindbergh, airlines and space flight. In addition to the displays and aircraft, the Museum has an extensive collection of photos and documents which are being used to support numerous book projects with a number of books already published.

We salute the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum their efforts in education and preservation of our history.

2016 Hall of Fame Inductees:
Lt. Col. Charles Boyle CAP

Charles W. Boyle was born in 1929. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1947, and was sent to Air Force Photography School where he was assigned as an aerial photographer. Charlie later joined the Pennsylvania National Guard, and went to work at Pittsburg television station KDKA.

Charlie was doing aerial photography for the station one day in his amphibious J-3 Cub when he saw four capsized boaters afloat in the Ohio River approaching a dam. He landed on the water, approached the swimmers and had them hang on to his floats while he taxied them to safety.

A foster child himself, Charlie actively supports mentoring youth in aviation. Since 1981, he has participated in scores of Civil Air Patrol Cadet Summer Encampments and given hundreds of orientation flights, encouraging young men and women to pursue their dreams in aviation. That involvement continues today. He served as Commanding Officer of the Palwaukee Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol from 1995 to 2004. During this time he participated in two actual, and many training search and rescue missions. Since 2004, Charlie has been serving as the Maintenance Officer for the Illinois Wing of the CAP, overseeing the flight readiness of the fleet of Cessna aircraft used in search and rescue missions.

His professional career has taken him all over the world as a photographer for NBC Television News. His dedication and skill has been recognized with four television Emmy Awards. With 5,000 hours in seaplane, land and multi-engine aircraft, he has also received numerous honors from the aviation community, including five Civil Air Patrol Certificates of Merit.

We salute you for your contributions and your dedication to aviation in Illinois.

Willa Brown Chappell (1906-1992)

Willa Brown Chappell, born Willa Beatrice Brown, was born in Glasgow Kentucky in 1906. In 1927, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in teaching from Indiana State Teachers College, and in 1937, a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Northwestern University. She studied at the Curtiss Wright Aeronautical University and in 1935 earned a Master Mechanic Certificate. In 1937 she became the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Commercial Pilot Certificate.

Willa and Cornelius Coffey co-founded the Cornelius Coffey School of Aeronautics, the first black-owned and operated private flight school in the United States. In 1939 the school was awarded a federal government contract to train Americans to fly airplanes in case of a national emergency. Brown was the Director of the school and also taught mechanics and ground school. The school trained hundreds of men and women, some of whom later became Tuskegee Airmen.

Brown continually lobbied the government for the integration of Black pilots into the segregated Army Air Corps and the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). The Coffey School of Aeronautics was chosen for participation in the CPTP and Brown became the coordinator for the CPTP in Chicago. Willa Brown eventually became the coordinator of war training service for the Civil Aeronautics Authority. According to records in the National Archives, she was the first African-American woman to receive a commission as a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol.

Willa Brown married the Reverend J. H. Chappell in 1955. She taught aeronautics at Westinghouse High School until 1971. In 1972, Brown was appointed as a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Women’s Advisory Board. She died at the age of 86 in 1992.

We salute Willa for her pioneering achievements in aviation, her advocacy on behalf of integration and her contributions to aviation in Illinois.

Ludwig “Lou” Wipotnik

Lou Wipotnik was born in 1939. He learned to fly at Sally’s Flying School, at Palwaukee Airport and joined the Civil Air Patrol shortly thereafter. He worked for first TWA and later, Japan Air Lines as a Sales Manager.

Lou is perhaps best known as a flight instructor, teacher and seminar speaker. He has actively taught since 1968 and holds instructor ratings for airplane single-engine land and sea, single and multi-engine, helicopter, glider and instrument. Lou also has served as an FAA Accident Prevention Counselor and FAASTeam Representative. One of the most active volunteers in the Chicago area, Lou, shares his passion for aviation, teaching safety seminars, instructing at Wings Weekend and participating in EAA Young Eagles events. Lou has received a number of awards for his service as an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor and aviation speaker.

In honor of his contributions as a flight instructor and aviation educator, Lou was selected as the 1996 National Flight Instructor of the Year. Lou has also attained certification as a Master Flight Instructor Emeritus, after attaining the Master CFI designation for 20 years. Lou is one of the very few instructors nationwide who have steadily maintained this standard of excellence in teaching.

In addition to training students, Lou has been active with the Civil Air Patrol for over 28 years. He has given numerous “O” rides, which are orientation flights for CAP cadets to introduce them to aviation. He has also participated in many tornado, flood or lost aircraft missions as well as counter-narcotic missions with local law enforcement. Lou taught monthly safety programs for the Palwaukee CAP Squadron and the training classes for Flight Observer and Flight Scanner. He has received several CAP citations and awards for excellence.

We salute you for your service to the aviation community in Illinois.