Founded in 1966 by charter members, Vladimir “Van” Vana, Harry Witmer, John Bunning; the club started flying out of “Wheatland field” in Naperville, IL. George Kruger brought a crane from work and raised a damaged hangar roof. A gyro glider was built and towed up and down Wheatland’s runways for training in the early years. Gyrogliders were used by the club up until the early eighties when either two-place powered trainers became available or the club got tired of rebuilding wrecks every year.
Gyrogliders were decent trainers but leant themselves to abuse from overzealous fun seekers. Dick Wunderlich has 8mm film of the gyroglider in use and the solo flight by Bob Birt’s 14 year-old daughter. Bob Birt was an active member in the early years of the club. Bob Birt, Bob Pate and Richard Johnson, who also flew at Wheatland, were from the Champaign, IL Area. Tom Angelos (Bloomington, IL) frequently flew his McCulloch powered Bensen up to attend club functions. One day Tom realized his “N” numbers added up to thirteen, not wanting anything working against him, he had them changed. As I recall, Tom was taking off from the Joliet, IL airport after an airshow. His hands started getting cold, so he reached into his pocket to get his gloves. One of the gloves blew out of his hand, over his shoulder and right into his carburetor. The engine quit and Tom made a forced landing in a motel parking lot.