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Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008 07:45 am

Springfield aviation makes history

New photo book reflects author’s passion for planes

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Job Conger photographed the Cessna Skyhawk in November 1962. The pilot offered young Conger a ride, but before takeoff, Conger was told that he would need his parents’ permission before he could fly.
Photo curtesy of Sangamon Valley Collection, Lincoln Library

To say that Job Conger is into airplanes would be an understatement. In fact, Conger's interest in aviation could easily be considered a love affair. It began with him photographing airplanes during frequent trips to the airport as a young boy. Half a century later, Conger's love for aviation has led to the creation of a newly released book.

From Silas M. Brooks making the first "human" flight to Illinois on July 4, 1855, and the creation of the city's first airport in 1910, to the use of Knight's Action Park as an airport in the 1980s and the start of Springfield's Air Rendezvous, Springfield Aviation is filled with more than 200 photographs and a wealth of information chronicling the evolution of aviation in Springfield.

Conger includes aviation's connection to the city's most famous citizen. President Abraham Lincoln "authorized the creation of the nation's first air force, Aeromatic Corps of the Army," a hydrogen balloon corps charged with spying on confederate troops. He also points out other firsts, including Horace F. Kearney's completion of the first airmail flight to Williamsville on Oct. 9, 1912. That was14 years before Charles Lindbergh made the first "official" airmail flight.

The book also contains photographs of dozens of airplanes, beginning with a Wright plane crafted in the early 1900s, progressing to more modern planes, which we have become accustomed to seeing today. The book highlights the creation of the city's first airport and its growth into what we now know as Capital Airport.

Even those who don't share Conger's love for aviation will no doubt be fascinated by some of the information included in the book, such as airplanes that at top speed traveled a mere 46 miles per hour and newly crafted planes that could be purchased for less than $7,000.

Conger, who considers himself an aviation historian, has taken hundreds of aviation photographs. "Today, I would no more visit any airport without my camera than I would visit without my pants," he wrote in the book's introduction. "I consider both to be essential for the maximum enjoyment of aviation."

The Illinois National Guard’s 170th Tactical Fighter Squadron said goodbye to the F-84F in 1978.
Photo curtesy of Sangamon Valley Collection, Lincoln Library

With his love for aviation and his vast personal collection of pictures, the book "wrote itself," Conger says. But that does not mean that he didn't face challenges. With only about 40 percent of the pictures coming from Conger's personal collection, gathering photos from others was somewhat of a struggle. In the end, Conger received photographs from sources such as Lincoln Library's Sangamon Valley Collection, Illinois National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing, the U.S. Navy, Springfield Airport Authority, Springfield Air Rendezvous and a number of other photographers.

With Springfield Aviation under his belt, he is now planning to pen another aviation book. "This experience has convinced me of my role in the community. There are still more photos to be had, and more stories to tell."

Job Conger will address the Oct. 15 meeting of Slip n' Skid Flyers' Club at 6:30 p.m. at Old Luxemburg Inn, 1900 S. 15th, Springfield. He will autograph

books before and after the meeting.

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