2020 Inductees  

Giles Henderson

Giles Henderson is best known for his contributions to the International Aerobatic Club (IAC). He competed in the Sportsman Class as an aerobatic pilot for many years, winning a number of trophies and awards. In the 1990’s he stopped competing and became a contest judge. Through his performing and judging years, he served as a mentor and advisor to many individual pilots and competition teams.

Henderson paid for flying lessons and his first airplane working after school as a line boy in Great Falls, Montana. He accumulated over 300 hours as a student pilot waiting to take his check ride on his 17th birthday. He worked as an agricultural pilot to help pay for tuition while as an undergraduate student at Montana State University. He later completed a Ph.D. in molecular physics at Indiana University followed by an academic career in quantum mechanics and spectroscopy at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

Henderson started flying competition aerobatics in 1967 in a J-3 Cub. He was recognized by the EAA for having won more Sportsman category aerobatic contests that any other pilot in the world. He has also been awarded the L. Paul Soucy award 4 times, which recognizes the aerobatic pilot that has acquired the highest percentage of possible points in a contest season. Henderson also used his famous clipped wing Cub to fly low level exhibition airshows.

Henderson served as president of IAC Chapter 61 for several years. He provided aerobatic instruction, coached and mentored numerous pilots starting their own aerobatic careers, and was a guest speaker at many aviation events. Skydiving was also one of his passions, and he often volunteered his time and piloting skills to take jumpers aloft. Unfortunately, Henderson lost his life in a skydiving accident in December of 2017.

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame honors Giles Henderson for his contributions to Illinois aviation and offers our condolences to his family and friends.


James (Jim) Klick

Jim Klick is perhaps best known for his support of both the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) and the International Aerobatic Club (IAC). In 1995, Klick became involved with NIFA, the National Intercollegiate Flying Association, when Lewis University hosted a regional competition and he was asked to assist as a judge. He has been judging regional and national NIFA contests ever since. He has worked as a Regional Judge for NIFA’s Region 8, which handles competitions between university flight teams from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. He also volunteers as a judge at NIFA National SAFECON events.

An avid aerobatic pilot who has a significant history of competing in IAC competitions is in his Pitts S1S, he is an expert on the Aresti system that is used to judge competition aerobatics. He has served as a judge for the IAC for many years. He received the Robert Heuer Award for Judging Excellence in 2004. Klick has mentored many IAC Sportsman competitors and university flight teams. He is a past president and officer of IAC Chapter 1.

Klick is also very active with the Boy Scouts and provided major organizational support for the flight activities at the Rainbow Council Boy Scout’s Airfest 2014 at Lewis University Airport. Airfest hosted several thousand scouts at this event which encourages scouts to consider careers in science, technology engineering and math. Additionally, Klick serves as an Aviation Merit Badge Councilor.

The Joliet Regional Port District board is the governing body for Lewis University Airport. Klick has served as a board member for the last 8 years and has also been deeply involved in public events held at the airfield. He is also the airport representative for the AOPA Airport Support Network.

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame honors Jim Klick for your service to the Lewis University Airport, IAC, NIFA and the Rainbow Council Boy Scouts.

Kenneth (Ken) Rapier

Ken Rapier is best known for his years of service as President of the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. (CDCTAI). In this role, Rapier has worked to champion the cause of and advance the legacy of the original Tuskegee Airmen, both in the Chicago chapter and at the national level.

The stated goal of the Chicago Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen is to “preserve the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and promote post-secondary education to your and careers in the aerospace industry”. For Ken Rapier and the members of the Chicago Chapter, this includes numerous public speaking events and special programs to honor the original Tuskegee Airmen and other key Black aviators such as Bessie Coleman. Current educational programs include the Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy, a week long summer camp held at Lewis University every summer to introduce inner city students to flying and aviation related careers. Ken Rapier and the Chicago Chapter are considered “Strategic Partners” in Tuskegee Next, an 8 week summer program based at DuPage Airport that provides, pilot training, life skills and educational assistance to groups of disadvantaged teens.

The Chicago Chapter has sponsored Young Eagles programs for many years, offering flights to young people at Meigs Field, later at the Gary Airport, DuPage Airport and at Bult Field in Monee Illinois. By 2013, the Chicago Chapter had flown over 14,000 Young Eagles rides, and EAA’s Sean Tucker presented Ken Rapier with a leather bomber jacket for personally flying over 1,000 Young Eagle rides.

Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Rapier grew up watching “Sky King”. Related to one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, his interests naturally turned to aviation. He completed an AAS Degree in Aviation from Daley College, and an AAS degree in Electronics from Olive Harvey College, and a Bachelor’s Degree at Governor State University. He holds FAA certified flight instructor certificates and an ATP, and has flown over 5,000 flight hours and is type rated in the DC-9. He is also a qualified formation flight leader.

After painting his airplane to replicate the World War II paint scheme of the Tuskegee Airmen and changing the registration number to match their Fighter Group number, 332ND, Rapier began serving as the Chief Pilot for the Tuskegee Airmen’s Young Eagles Program. His airplane is nicknamed the “Flying Billboard”. His formation flying team has been featured at the last five Rockford Air Fests and opened 8 of the 10 Gary Air Shows. This dedication earned Ken the Tuskegee Airmen Central Regional President’s Award and the highest civilian honor given by the Tuskegee Airmen, the Brigadier General Noel F. Parrish Award. Rapier was recognized as an Honored Role Model at the twentieth annual Heroes in the Hood Awards program in April of 2013.

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame honors Kenneth Rapier for his 25 year plus service to the Chicago “Dodo“ Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen International, his service to the aviation community in Illinois and his tireless efforts to provide opportunity for disadvantaged young people.

Wilbur Louis Smith

Wilbur Louis Smith was an aviation pioneer, inventor, aircraft builder/restorer, mentor and founding member of two Illinois EAA Chapters. He earned his private pilot license in 1939 and in 1942 enlisted in the Army Air Corp. Being 28, he was deemed too old to fly overseas, so he was commissioned to train younger men. At the end of the war, he returned home to Bloomington, Illinois.

A retail store manager by trade, his hobby was designing and building aircraft. He was a master woodworker. He had helped his friends build a Pietenpol Sky Scout, so it was natural that once Paul Poberezny founded the Experimental Aircraft Association in 1953, Smith would become involved.

Smith designed and built his first his first experimental all wood aircraft in the family basement. He later flew his airplane to EAA events in Milwaukee to share his woodworking skills with others. He regularly attended the national EAA events, volunteering and sharing his knowledge of aircraft design and construction at member seminars. The aircraft that Smith designed became known as the Smith Termite. Smith sold plans for the Termite, and built wing and tail assemblies for it as well. These items were sold mostly to other EAA members through his small company, “Wilbur Smith’s Termite Aircraft”. The original Termite is on display at the Oregon Space Museum in Eugene Oregon.

In 1956 Smith, along with other aviation friends, felt a need to establish a local EAA chapter. In March of 1957, EAA Chapter 29 based in Champaign, Illinois was approved. Smith was a charter member, and later served as president of the chapter. As a founding member, he also served as a lead volunteer with the chapter events including pancake breakfasts, fly-ins and fly-outs. When there was a chapter event, Smith was there to help. From 1959 until the late 1990’s Smith volunteered each year to help with planning, setup, fly-in activity and seminars at EAA Air Venture.

Many of the EAA chapter 29 members lived in Bloomington and regularly traveled to Champaign for chapter events and meetings. In 1962, Smith and others from the Bloomington area fulfilled EAA requirements to start a Bloomington EAA chapter. It was designated as EAA Chapter 129. Smith was their first president and served in all leadership positions over the next 40 years.

In the 1980’s Smith, along with Marion McClure, Bob Ryburn and fellow EAA members volunteered their time and expertise to restore the Tilbury Flash Midget Air Racer that had been owned by Art Carnahan. The Flash was designed by Owen Tilbury, a Bloomington Engineer, and with Art Carnahan flying it, took second place in the 1933 Chicago American Air Races. The aircraft was later found stored in a barn in McLean County. Smith was selected to restore the wings because of his expertise in woodworking. The beautifully restored Tilbury Flash now hangs from the ceiling of the terminal building at Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington.

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame honors the memory of Wilbur Louis Smith for exemplifying the spirit of the EAA by designing, building and restoring aircraft, sharing his skills and mentoring others, and supporting aviation events both locally and nationally.

Lt. Col William R. Thompson

Lt. Colonel William Thompson was born in Pennsylvania and served in World War II as a pilot in the 99th Pursuit Squadron (Tuskegee Airmen). He came to Chicago after the war and taught for 25 years in the Chicago Public Schools. He was also well known for his work with the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. as a mentor, public speaker and a past president.

Lt. Col. Thompson received his Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Hampton University in Virginia. During his senior year be became a licensed pilot. After graduation, he moved to Chicago to participate in the Coffey School of Aeronautics. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was assigned to Chanute Air Base in Rantoul as one of six aviation cadets that were trained in flight, aircraft armaments, communications, engineering and maintenance. His specialty was armaments and upon graduation from training was promoted and assigned to Benjamin O. Davis staff as the Aircraft Armament Officer, helping to form the 99th Fighter Squadron.

Lt. Col. Thompson was an avid photographer, and became the unofficial photographer for the 99th Pursuit Squadron. His photography work has given us a unique view of the Tuskegee Airmen in action and at rest, and he worked with others to preserve the legacy through his photographic exhibit which is on display at the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum in Detroit and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

After the war, Lt. Col. Thompson continued his service as a member of the United States Air Force Reserves, completing the Academic Instructor program at Air University, Maxwell Air Base in Alabama for aviation and education. He retired from the Reserves in 1976 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel received a teaching certificate from Chicago Teachers College and taught in the Chicago Public schools for 25 years, mostly at Donoghue Elementary School.

Lt. Col. Thompson’s love of flying never subsided. He shared his joy through a Tuskegee Airmen program that provided airplane rides for children. He encouraged his students to pursue math science and aviation. Eager to share his experience with others, he recruited minorities to attend the Air Force Academy and served as president of the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc (TAI). He helped organize a program that gave young people airplane rides at Meigs Field in Chicago. This program later became part of the Chapter’s Young Eagles program.

He worked actively during his retirement to preserve the legacy and mission of the Tuskegee Airmen in many capacities and made many public appearances in and outside the Chicago area sharing his experiences. Sadly, Lt. Col Thompson passed away in 2006.

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame honors him for his contributions to Illinois aviation and to the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and we offer our condolences to his friends, family and fellow members of the TAI community.


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