Groups wish Glenview trainer aircraft bon voyage
Updated: January 3, 2013 10:36AM
GLENVIEW — Civic groups bid farewell last week to a World War II training aircraft that was recovered in December from the spot where in 1944 it plunged into Lake Michigan.
They hope the FM-2 Wildcat fighter returns fully restored and put on display in a proposed museum dedicated to the former Glenview Naval Air Station.
The Wildcat soon will be shipped to National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., for three to five years of restoration.
Bring it Home, Glenview and the Glenview Hangar One Foundation have spent time educating the public, nonprofits and local school boards on why the museum would benefit Glenview and nearby suburbs.
The Hangar One Foundation formed in 1995, the year the air station closed.
Foundation President Bill Marquardt said Glenview Naval Air Station trained thousands of pilots who successfully carried out the allies’ war strategy in the Pacific Ocean.
“They had a huge impact in bringing the war to the enemy,” said Marquardt from Wisconsin’s Kenosha Regional Airport where theWildcat was temporarily stored.
“Think how far away Glenview is from the oceans, yet the air station contributed so much in training these pilots,” he said, adding that 17,000 servicemen and women qualified as pilots at the training base.
As a youth growing up in Deerfield, Marquardt said the roar of planes overhead was “the sound of freedom.”
He was unsure if the Wildcat will return to Glenview; it could stay at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
“We need support and a place where the aircraft can be properly displayed. We have to achieve doing that and develop a capital campaign for building a museum.”
The museum’s proposed site would be on three to five acres now owned by the village.
This month in January, the village as seller is scheduled to select developers for the total 41 undeveloped acres, known as Parcel 24.
After the air station closed, the village acquired the 1,100 acres and sold parcels to develop The Glen Town Center for upscale homes and shopping.
In 2007, the village bought nearby Parcel 24 from the U.S. Navy for $24 million.
Glenview resident Kirsten Bergin, committee chairwoman of Bring It Home, Glenview, has approached trustees in districts 34 and 225 at recent public meetings to conceptually endorse the project.
So far, 829 have signed a petition in support of a museum.
Bergin said her organization submitted a formal proposal to the village for using the land.
“We asked the village not to sell the three to five acres to developers. We’re like every other developer showing interest in the land,” she said.
Bergin said in addition to creating tourism, the museum would have educational value for local schools.
“A museum would be an interactive aviation-based learning center and teach science, math and technology.”
Chuck Greenhill, of Mettawa, Ill., financed the Wildcat’s recovery and restoration.
“If the plane had not been recovered this year it would have ended up as junk,” he said.
“A museum will bring history alive where kids can see what remarkable sacrifices were made for them in World War II. People also just seem to love airplanes,” Greenhill said.
According to the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, on Dec. 28, 1944 the FM-2 Wildcat, piloted by Ensign William E. Forbes, crashed into Lake Michigan at 11 a.m. Forbes was making his third training take off from the USS Sable when the engine quit and the aircraft rolled off the ship’s bow and sank.
“The accident was determined to be 100 percent material (engine failure),” stated a report. “The aircraft carriers used for training docked at Navy Pier in Chicago and the airplanes and pilots flew from Glenview Naval Air Station at Glenview, Illinois.”
Marquardt said 50 of approximately 135 war planes that went down in Lake Michigan have been recovered.