People and Planes of Creve Coeur
In the department of flood recovery, Noah and his ark got nuthin' on the folks at this little airport-except that many of the aircraft they saved are ones, not twos, of a kind.
- By Linda Shiner
- Air & Space magazine, July 2005
(Page 4 of 6)
Talk to folks at Creve Coeur for a few minutes, and inevitably somebody will mention Bud Dake. For a man who, his friends say, spoke so little, Dake had a tremendous impact. He was one of the first, there in the early days with Jack Oonk, and he was one of the gurus: Everybody at Creve Coeur learned something about airplanes from Bud Dake. Dake flew Monocoupes and said to an Air & Space/Smithsonian reporter the year before he died: "It's like Ford or Chevrolet. You decide which one you like and you stick with it."
Dake crashed in a Monocoupe on a fine Saturday afternoon in the summer of 2004; he and his friend Kenny Love were both killed.
Not three weeks after Dake's death, Creve Coeur suffered another shock. John Mullen died. The coroner reported that he had been poisoned with arsenic. The crime remains unsolved.
"We all felt like we'd been hit in the stomach," says Don Parsons, a corporate pilot who spends every weekend ("every chance I get") at the airport. "We just couldn't breathe."
In addition to having secured Creve Coeur its reliever designation, Mullen started a project at the airport that everybody felt a little pride in: Where else but at Creve Coeur would you find a 1929 Zenith Z6a being restored? A six-passenger biplane that Mullen bought at an auction in 1986, the Zenith was built at a time when every town seemed to have an airplane manufacturer; this one was in Midway City, California, and it stayed in business long enough to build seven airplanes.
Glenn Peck, who restored the aircraft for Mullen (he had worked on it for eight years and had finished its taxi tests just before Mullen died), believes the Zenith is airplane no. 3, one of two purchased by Bennett Air Transport of Boise, Idaho, and used to haul freight.
A.A. Bennett's nephew Ed Burnett, now in his 80s, was seven years old when he spent time with his uncle at the company in Idaho. Mullen found him while he was researching the airplane's history, and Burnett came to the airport to see the airplane he used to fly in as a kid. He told Peck that the maroon color was wrong. "He said this was much prettier than the original," Peck says. Burnett told Peck stories about the air transport business, including his memory of helping his uncle load a cow in the airplane's cabin. "He'd carry anything he could get through the door," says Peck, who restored the airplane based on nine black-and-white photos. "Mining equipment, groceries, tourists, supplies to the miners. And of course the cow."
Peck, who restores and maintains the aircraft in the airport's museum, has restored 16 airplanes since 1975. He is at work now on a de Havilland D.H. 4, the workhorse of early airmail service in the United States.