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BFC History

BFC 1964-1970 by Lou Drendel
The BFC (Businessmen’s Flying Club) was founded by Vern Finzer at Naper Aero Club Field. Naper Aero was started in 1957 by Vern, who was a UAL Captain, Harold White, who was owner and publisher of The Naperville Sun, and Al Beidelman, who was Naperville Building Commissioner. Aero Drive was the only street and there were not more than a dozen homes when I started flying there in 1964. There was no community hangar, and the runway was semi-improved.

The BFC had a Cub, a Cessna 120, and 15 members. I was checked out in the Cub by Mel Finzer and in the 120 by Vern. I got my Private License the following summer in the 120. The 1960s were a very dynamic period for General Aviation. The Vietnam War created a demand for military pilots, and the airlines were beginning an extended era of growth. Demand for pilots was at a post-World War II high. You could literally get hired by a major airline if you had a College Degree and a Private License. United Airlines would give you a contract, then when you got your Commercial License, they would send you to Denver for training and an Instrument Ticket. ( An Instrument Rating was not required for Commercial at that time.) Then, as now, the airline pilot vocation was much sought after and valued.

The airline hiring boom of the 60s created great demand for basic training venues. Though I wasn’t seriously considering an airline job at that time, I was flying more than any other member. (Over 500 hours in less than 3 years.) The result of that was that I was drafted to become the President of the BFC. The BFC was an outgrowth of the Air Explorer Scouts. Vern had trained many of our members as Scouts. His son Mel and good friend Ken Anderson were charter members who went on to become UAL Captains. They were in the vanguard of many more airline aspirants who flocked to the BFC for their basic qualifications in the mid 60s. Mel and Ken were also instructors, as was Doug White, Harold’s brother and a Naper Aero resident.

When the BFC started getting more members than our two airplanes could handle, we acquired a 1956 172, then another Cub. These were followed by a brand-new Citabria. Within the space of a year, we had grown from two airplanes with 15 members, to five airplanes and 50 members! Some of this growth was painful. One of our members demolished a Cub when he landed on runway 27 on a late summer evening. With the sun in his eyes, he drifted off the runway and into a fence post. He was not injured, and we replaced that Cub with another, for which we paid the grand sum of $1,200! Unfortunately, in January 1966, that same member was flying the 172 and was involved in a mid-air over Rockton in which 5 people lost their lives. Our new Citabria sustained major damage when a student flared 15 feet in the air. One of our better trainees had just received his Private in the summer of 66, and was giving his brother his first airplane ride in the 120. Over the South Side of Chicago, the engine failed. He did a masterful job of dead-sticking it into a cemetery without damage to himself or the airplane. Vern and others removed the wings and towed it back to Naperville. We decided to do a major restoration. Club members stripped the paint from the fuselage and we took the wings to Chuck Stodola for recovering. Chuck was a UAL Engineer who lived on the strip and did most of our maintenance. (Chuck’s hangar was the first structure on Naper Aero. Tom and Roberta Priz are the current residents.) When we had the fuselage stripped, we towed it into town, to Paul Oestry’s body shop. Paul did a beautiful job of painting and striping the fuselage. Chuck recovered the wings and installed a newly-overhauled Continental 85 hp engine. We had a beauty…….for a few months.

Late that fall, one of our Private trainees was practicing maneuvers over the harvested cornfields South of Oswego, when the throttle linkage broke. The engine immediately went to idle, and he was looking for a spot to land. There were plenty of landing spots, since it had been a warm and dry fall. Unfortunately, he was a little too hot and, as he approached the end of the field he had chosen, he realized that he was not going to get the airplane on the ground before running into some power lines. What to do? Over or under? He opted for "over" and ran out of airspeed at the apex of his zoom, stalling and crashing into the field. He was not seriously injured, but our 120 was a total loss. We replaced it with a 140. This was not much of a change, except the 140 was a little heavier, had flaps, and wasn’t as fast. The Citabria was acquired in October 1965. Citabria is "Airbatic" backwards, and I thought it would give us a chance to acquire some additional skills.

John Luebke, another Naper Aero Resident, was designated as a dealer for Citabria. Citabria was an extension of the Champ design, and was being built in Osceola, Wisconsin. John and I took delivery of our brand-new Citabria on November 4, 1965. My checkout was the flight back from Osceola. We departed Osceola about 3PM after waiting for the company test pilot to complete the delivery test flight. This was a very basic airplane, with no radio and no interior lights. Fortunately, it was a CAVU day and night and we navigated by picking out the beacon from Rockford and then the lights of Chicago. John landed the airplane from the rear while I held a cigarette lighter under the airspeed indicator and leaned to one side. My logbook shows that I got my first aerobatic instruction on 20 November 1965. The Citabria was not a great aerobatic airplane. This first model was powered by a 100 hp Continental engine, which made most vertical maneuvers problematic. But it could do rolls, and the controls were the lightest of any that I had experienced. It was a fun airplane! I got 55 hours in the Citabria, and used it to pass my Commercial test ride before we traded it in on a new Cessna 150. (It turned out that I was the only member interested in aerobatics.)

The 172 mid-air occurred the following January. We replaced the 172 with a 1956 Skylane, which we purchased at Freeman Field in Seymour, Indiana. This was a somewhat weary 182, but it served us well. One of our new members celebrated his Private ticket by taking the 182 on a coast-to-coast flight, adding almost 100 hours to his logbook. I used this airplane to haul my Skydiving buddies to altitude in the summer of 66. I also discovered formation flying in the summer of 1966. We had two J-3s, and we tried our hand at formation. Well, we called in "formation", though it was more like "same way, same day" formation.

One of our "incidents" involved a trainee on his first solo cross country. He had landed at Sycamore in one of our J-3s and was taxiing to the airport office when he ran into one of the gas pumps. The wood prop was shattered. He called me and I told him to tie it down and we would see about getting it back to Naper the next day. The following day we removed the metal prop from our other Cub, loaded it into the 182 and flew up to Sycamore. After installing the alternate prop and tracking it to make sure the crankshaft in the Cub wasn’t bent, I propped it and sent our student back to Naperville with instructions to meet me at Stodola’s hangar. Naturally, I beat him back to Naper and waited for him at Stodola’s . He finally landed (to the south) and taxied to the gas pumps, where he shut down. When he didn’t show at Chuck’s hangar, I called the clubhouse. (The new hangar was built in the winter of 65-66.) He said he would be right down. He finally did show……on foot, with a badly cut hand. He had propped the Cub without benefit of tie-down, and the Cub had promptly rolled smartly into the metal locker by the pumps. (Some of you may remember this old locker with the long gash on the top front corner.) Chalk up another prop, and this time the crank was bent! Our intrepid student was not discouraged though and went on to a career with UAL. The BFC survived this period of "in and out" members, and eventually stabilized with an all Cessna fleet of 150s, 172s, and a newer Skylane. I got out of the club in 1970 and did not fly on a regular basis again until the Mentor Flyers were formed in 1974.

Some Additional Observations, 1966-2001 by Bert Toppel
I joined the Club in the summer of 1966. We had two J3 Cubs, a Citabria, and a Cessna 140, 172, and 182. Lou Drendel was the Club president and Vern Finzer was my first instructor. I soloed in one of the J3’s on runway 9 at Naper Aero. Vern mainly enjoyed giving the initial flight training up to solo, and so I switched over to Ken Anderson for the remainder of my private certificate training.

I flew in the Citabria until it was sold when the Club felt it was more than the average member could safely handle, especially during winter conditions with snow and ice on the runways. I finished up my training in the Cessna 140 with occasional flights in the 172, which I thought was the epitome of airplanes! My commercial training was done in the 140 and my instrument training in the 172. Ralph Palmer was my instructor for both of these ratings as well as for the CFIA and CFII ratings. My instrument training was during a winter like the current one and I still can remember Ralph bundled up and freezing in the right seat while I was sweating under the hood in the left seat. Ralph was an outside instructor for the Club and was one of those guys with multi tens of thousands of hours accumulated over a varied career in all sorts of flying activities including pipe line surveillance. Ralph ended up in Hawaii as an FAA inspector, and is probably retired today.

When the Club went to an all Cessna fleet, we had two 150s, a 172, and a 182. With this complement of aircraft and 50 members, the Club was usually financially in poor shape. I recall that the Club financial records consisted of check stubs in Ken Anderson’s check book! After one of our 150 aircraft was totaled, we settled down to a three aircraft Club and from that time on, the financial outlook was much brighter. Dave Eichemeyer who got his private a few months before I did, became the Club president and I served as secretary for his administration. I replaced Dave as president and had Dick Pistole as treasurer. Dick was the minister of the church near West street on Aurora road in Naperville. Although he was the treasurer, his wife Doris who was an accountant actually handled all of our finances including billing and bill paying. Chuck Pugh replaced me as president and I again served as secretary during Chuck’s administration.

My BFC Recollections: 1997-2017 by Mike Pastore
I learned to fly at Hinckley in the early 90’s. For the first few years, I was flying gliders only, then added my SEL rating in 1995. I was flying a Citabria at Hinckley but, sadly, that airplane crashed in 1996 with two fatalities as a result of in-flight structural failure. After that crash, I rented various aircraft from Lumanair in Aurora and the FBO at Clow. It didn’t take long, however, for me to figure out that renting airplanes from an FBO was expensive. Worse yet, aircraft availability for weekend or vacation trips was limited or non-existent as the FBO’s want their airplanes on the line for flight instruction, not weekend rentals.

As is the case with all newly minted pilots, I wanted to use my aviator skills to go places! That’s what it is about…right? So, I needed to find a better way to get in the air. Purchasing my own airplane was financially out of the question and with no clear path forward, I was starting to get discouraged.

I then discovered the two flying clubs at Naper Aero.

At that time, both organizations had extensive waiting lists to join (6 to 12 months, ugh!). I wanted to get flying and was prepared to hook up with either club at the first available opportunity. I went to an NFC meeting first and submitted my membership application. Then, on March 8, 1997 I took my orientation flight with Larry Bothe for the BFC. The orientation flight was required before you could submit a membership application at that time.

Larry was the BFC Operations Officer and I’ll never forget my first flight with him. Larry is the consummate instructor…full of tips and tidbits that are sure to make you a better pilot. After our flight, we sat on the grass under the wing of our C172, N739TU (only our 182 was hangered with the other two tied down outside on the west ramp) and I listened as he filled me in on the history, culture, and comings and goings of the BFC. It was a wonderful afternoon and I was hooked! The BFC was EXACTLY what I was looking for and I wanted in!

Thinking ‘fast on my feet’ (not always a thing for me!), and with the hopes of somehow getting into the club as soon as I could, I offered my services for any task or job that needed doing. Larry asked if I would be willing to serve as the ‘Plane Mother’ for our C150, N66188. No brainer….yes!

Within a week or so after my orientation flight and submitting my application, a membership opportunity became available. Larry told me to make sure to be at the next meeting. He talked me up with the board, cleared the decks somehow, and I was voted into the club at that meeting. I still don’t know how Larry made this happen, but he did.

At the time, Mark Clements was the President; Bert Toppel, Vice President; Ray Kivetkus, Treasurer; Larry Bothe Operations and Jim Williams, Secretary. The plane “mothers” (now called Plane Captains) were not board level positions. That came later when I was President when we first incorporated them into the board as ‘Board Members at Large’.

We had three airplanes at the time. The 150 and 172 as already mentioned, plus our C182, N44WW (double shot). Our fleet was getting ‘long in the tooth’ but except for some “Aviation Grade Duct Tape” here and there (as Ray Kvietkus liked to call it) they were all very well maintained and ready for whatever air adventure our pilots could dream up. Quality maintenance has always been the hallmark of the BFC and I’m happy to see that tradition has carried forward to this day. Nevertheless, the time had come to find a way to upgrade our fleet. Mark Clements spearheaded this initiative and after a couple of years of hard work (I mean this was a massive effort) with often heated and contentious meetings (think near blows!), we managed to put together a business plan that made sense.

Our first purchase was a 1997 C172S, N388ES in 2000. This was followed by the purchase of our 1998 C182, N415RC in the same year. In 2002, we purchased our 1999 C172SP, N983SP. I had the good fortune to fly all three airplanes home from their place of purchase: N388ES (300 hours on the airframe) from Aurora on June 19, 2000 with Mark Clements; 415RC (about 250 hours on the airframe) from Norfolk Virginia on May 14, 2000 also with Mark Clements; N983SP from Naples Florida on December 21, 2002 (about 750 hours on the airframe) with Ed Vogler.

A few interesting stories on the new planes. When we took off from ARR in 388ES to bring it to Naper for the first time, the plane would go into a pretty aggressive left bank when I let up on the right rudder when leveling off after the climb out. It required firm right rudder pressure to stay straight and level. To make matters worse, we were a bit low on fuel. Well…okay, so the fuel annunciator was flashing at us. Don’t ask me why we took off without topping off, but we didn’t. I turned to Mark and said something to the effect, ”This is like flying in combat. Our rudder is shot up and we are bingo fuel!” He told me to shut up and just keep flying. His eyes were pretty big as I recall.

Anyway, we boogied right back to Aurora and landed safely (right rudder all the way!). As it turns out, the right rudder return spring had failed and every time right rudder pressure was relaxed, the left rudder return spring would pull the rudder to the left and the plane would incur a rudder induced bank to the left. Quick and easy fix, but a bit unnerving when you’re not sure what the problem is!

The previous owner of 3SP was one of the flight schools in Florida that trained the terrorists for the 911 attacks. Not sure if that airplane was used in the actual training process for these guys….but maybe so! Probably best we don’t know the full story and just let the thought of it fade away to folklore.

In June of 2000 I flew 5RC to Jackson Hole Wyoming. A week after I got back from Jackson Hole, one of our other members (now my son-in-law) Matt Kenner flew the plane to Jackson Hole too. Neither one of us knew that the other had made or was planning that same trip back to back. What are the odds of that! When he pulled up to the ramp and shut down, Matt got the red-carpet treatment with a resounding “Welcome back Mr. Pastore”. I still don’t think Matt has forgiven me for being upstaged! 415RC was not the original tail number by the way. The owner we purchased the plane from had it changed to a vanity number (RC were his initials).

The early to mid-2000’s was a busy time for the club. We sold three airplanes, bought three airplanes, completely restructured our member class system and dues structure, secured the aircraft loans and long term lines of credit for our operations, got all three planes out of the winter snow and into hangars (no mean feat at Naper at the time), revamped our bylaws, implemented the hourly rate adjustment program based on fuel cost variations, added board positions such as safety officer and the plane captains, implemented the Aircraft Clubs on-line reservation system and a whole host of important but rather mundane bits and pieces related to the daily operations of the club.

One interesting point worth noting about the airport is that in the mid to late 90’s most of the outside tie-downs were occupied at Naper. All the spots on the east and west sides of the hangars were completely full and many of the spots north of the hangar also taken. Over the ensuing years, the tie-downs were slowly vacated leaving us where we are today with only one or two planes tied down on the east ramp. A sign of the changing times in the General Aviation world!

We survived the 9/11 fiasco which, in retrospect, worked out okay for us. However, at the time there was a great deal of concern that we would never be able to operate out of Naper Aero (given its proximity to Chicago) with the freedoms previously enjoyed. We even gave serious consideration to moving the club to Aurora but, as things settled down it became apparent that all was not lost.

The first few weeks were difficult. All operations at Naper were grounded, but by the end of September procedures were put in place that at least allowed us to temporarily reposition our airplanes to Aurora and out from under the TFR. So, on September 20, 2001 we started up the fleet, taxied to 18 for departure and in sequence secured our IFR clearance to ARR…or at least we tried to. The procedure we were instructed to follow was to call up Approach by cell phone once we were in the plane and completely ready to go. But, as usual, ATC had no idea how to handle it. All three of us tried to call up for clearance at about the same time (I was flying 9TU), but Approach was having none of it. In the end, it took over an hour to get all three planes off the ground. A lot of startups, shutdowns and yelling “Say Again!” to try to understand what they were saying over a cell phone in a running airplane. We weren’t able to bring the airplanes back to Naper until early November and we were all happy for it.

In May of 2003 we suffered a major tragedy which set us all back on our heels. Two of our members, Ed Vogler and Carl Price were killed in an accident in a twin-engine Piper Navajo when taking off from an airport in Arbor Vitae Wisconsin. Carl was a retired Chief Pilot, Chicago Station, for American Airlines. Ed replaced Carl in that role when he retired. They both were very good friends with a long time BFC member who was an Instructor Pilot with American and who had learned to fly in the BFC years before (he was no longer in the club in 2003). That is how they came to find the BFC. They both joined about the same time….as Ed always put it when asked why he was getting into GA, “I want to fly low enough so I can see the trees!”

Ed’s favorite saying was “Blue Side Up”. He said it all the time to everyone. It got to where we were all saying it to each other. But, no one in the club that was friends with Ed uses that phrase anymore. Still, it is very nice to see that the tribute to Ed and Carl has carried on with the name of the BFC newsletter “Blue Side Up” which was changed in 2003 from Prop Wash”.

During my time with the BFC, I added my Instrument Rating (with the incomparable Bert Toppel as my instructor). Then my Commercial rating and Flight Instructor certificate. I instructed actively for a few years with the BFC but had to step back from that commitment as work was going nuts. From 1997 through 2004 I was happy to serve as Plane Captain, Operations Officer, and President. Mark Clements preceded me as President, and Ray Kvietkus took over after I resigned my board role.

In 2010 my wife and I moved to Naper Aero and I purchased my 1947 Cessna 140. I was still in the BFC and was also flying a T34 with the Mentor Flying Club. I joined the Naper Aero Club board as Vice President in 2015, then became President in 2016, a position I still currently hold. After a few years, I found that I was spending all my time in my 140 and not flying either the BFC aircraft nor the T34, so I decided to resign completely from both clubs.

The BFC has a long and rich history with the Naper Aero Club. It wasn’t until I left the BFC and joined the Board of Directors for Naper Aero that I came to realize how closely connected the two organizations have been over the years. As Lou Drendel noted in his recollections, the BFC was founded by Vern Finzer, a UAL Captain, in 1957. Vern, who was Mel Finzer’s father (Mel is a retired UAL Captain as well as long time BFC member), was also instrumental in founding Naper Aero Club.

Naper Aero Club originally operated out of a small farm field (Fender property) on South Washington Street for a 2-1/2 year period starting in 1953. In 1955 Al Beidleman purchased the Eicheiberger farm on Rt 59 between 79th and 83rd streets. Twelve acres of this land was subsequently sold to Naper Aero Club Inc., and in August, 1956 the Illinois Department of Aeronautics issued a Restricted Landing Area (RLA) certificate for Naper Aero at our current location.

There were six original shareholders of NAC including Vern Finzer and Harold White (owner and publisher of the Naperville Sun Times). Over the years, ownership was changed to the current structure which includes 105 equity certificate holders for the properties on Aero Drive, Stearman Drive, Skylane Drive and Chandelle Drive.

Over the next 34 years, LL10 became the largest state approved RLA in Illinois and was principally managed by Vern Finzer and Harold White for most of those years.

The Businessmen’s Flying Club has been an integral part of the Naper Aero Club since the very beginning…and still is to this day. Harold White made that point to the NAC membership in an article published in the March 1991 Naper Aero Club Newsletter, that the flying clubs (including the Businessmen’s Flying Club) were a necessary element for the viability of LL10. An opinion still held by the Naper Aero board of Directors and the residents.

BFC: 1992 to 2014 by Ray Kvietkus
When I joined the BFC in 1992, the fleet consisted of a 1975 Cessna 150 (N66188), a 1978 Cessna 172 P (N739TU) and a 1975 Cessna 182 (N44WW). Chuck Pugh was President. Bert Toppel was my instructor and I learned to fly in the Cessna 150, one radio, no DME, no GPS. It was very easy to get lost on cross country trips.

Mark Clements replaced Chuck Pugh as President around 1995. Mark spearheaded the drive to replace the older aircraft with the new fuel injected Cessna aircraft we have today. The 182 (N44WW) was sold in February 2000 and replaced by our current 182 (N415RC). I believe it had about 200 hours time when we got it. Purchase price was about $195,000. I learned that our old 182 (N44WW) was exported to Australia.

The Cessna 150 (N66188) was sold in June 2000 and replaced by a 1997 Cessna 172 (N388ES). This plane had about 300 hours time when we bought it. This was the Sporty’s sweepstakes award aircraft from 1997 which we bought for about $145,000.

Mike Pastore became President in 2001 and N739TU was sold and replaced by N983SP in 2002 for about $140,000. I became President in 2004 and watched us put about 4,000 hours on N388ES. This plane was sold in October, 2014 and was exported to France.

BFC Today
October, 2014 - Ray Kvietkus stood down from President of the board after 9 years of dedicated service. Ray will take an advisory role going forward. Chuck Jaudes also stood down. Replacements Doug Beck and Jim Krzyzewski were elected to take over the reigns.

February, 2015 - The club purchased N884BC, its first C172 with G1000 equipment. This modernization of the fleet was funded internally by club members and through the sale of N388ES (a 1997 Cessna 172R that had a 180hp conversion completed).

October, 2016 - Doug Beck stood down from President and the former VP, Jim Krzyzewski, was elected President. Gevin Cross was elected the new VP.

December, 2019 - The club sold its 182, 415RC, and purchased 1489L. This 2007 182T had 1195 hours with the G1000 avionics and GFC700 autopilot. This added a modern travel airplane to the clubs fleet. Just like 884BC we were able to purchase this plane with internal funding and the sale of 415RC.

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