Aviation and Admiration
In Honor of Lee and Jean Spalding
by Jeff Turner
As Exploration Place prepares for its new aviation exhibit Design Build Fly, I am reminded of my years of service on the board of this museum both before and after it opened in 2000. Wichita is an aviation city and I am so proud that there will be a new exhibit to celebrate this industry in a manner that is uniquely ours.
My wife Rhonda and I appreciate that this exhibit will give special attention to the range of people and jobs in the aviation industry. My father-in-law Lee Spalding is one of those people who had a great career in this wonderful industry. He and his wife Jean, married for more than 66 years, are a local couple admired and loved by many. They live a vibrant life – singing in the Central Christian Church choir, square dancing, collecting Depression-era glass, and socializing with friends. Lee and Jean are loving role models to their multi-generational family.
Lee served in the U.S. Air Force before he and Jean moved to Wichita over 60 years ago. Lee spent his entire career in Wichita’s aviation industry starting out as an electrical inspector for the Boeing Flight Line, later he spent years at Cessna in quality assurance, working to certify Cessna aircraft and serving as Cessna’s interface with the FAA. Jean spent her career as a budget manager for USD 259 serving the children and future of the Wichita community.
One of my favorite stories about Lee involves our nephew Troy. He was training to become a pilot for the U.S. Army in 2011. When Troy entered the Cessna 182 he was to use for flight training, he did what all pilots do – he checked for the air worthiness certificate that is displayed by the plane door. And guess who had signed off that the airplane was airworthy when it was built back in the 1970s – his grandfather Lee.
We are delighted that Lee and Jean will be honored in the new exhibit by having the Fuselage Theater named for them. The theater, an actual slice of a 737 fuselage, built right here in Wichita, will feature short videos that give visitors a chance to see inside the industry that has defined our community.
Rhonda and I love Wichita. We love the quality of life in this city and Exploration Place is a special part of that. Our grandchildren love coming to Exploration Place. They ask to come and then fuss when it is time to leave. When this new Design Build Fly exhibit opens in December, I predict there will be many more people fussing when it is time to leave!