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History of the Birmingham Aero Club

The period between World War I and World War II is often called the "Golden Age" of aviation.  The general public's interest in aviation was ignited by Charles Lindbergh's historic flight in 1927 and flying was making a transition from a sport for daredevils to an important tool for commerce and defense.


Steadham Acker

During this time the need for a civic club, whose aim would be directed solely to the promotion of aviation in Birmingham, was felt.  To that end, on January 31, 1932, Steadham Acker, the first Manager of the newly constructed Birmingham Municipal Airport, and other community leaders met and formed a non-profit civic organization. 

Ten years previous, in 1922, local aviation legend Glenn Messer had formed a company called "The Birmingham Aero Club" with other businessmen to "buy, sell, or invent aviation-related goods".  With the company failing to thrive after ten years, Messer agreed to relinquish the name.  Acker acquired "The Birmingham Aero Club" name from Messer and with other supporters started the organization that exists today, becoming its first president.  Interestingly enough, Acker and Messer were never on friendly terms and while Messer later played a key role in the club's development he did not join until 1958.

Acker, along with Asa Rountree, the club's original vice-president, went on to develop one of the largest and most respected annual air shows in the country, the National Air Carnival.  This event was the predecessor of today's Wings and Wheels Air Show.


Glenn Messer

Although most of the real pilots had very little money, membership during the depths of the Great Depression was made up of some of the most affluent and wealthy members of the community.  The prewar and postwar activities of the club were quite interesting and included group flying trips to exotic destinations.

After World War II, there was a great public resurgence of interest in aviation, with returning veterans of the air war performing for the air show.  In addition to production of the annual air show during the post-war years, the club also played a key role in coordinating support for airline expansion in Birmingham.  A glance at the Roster of the Birmingham Aero Club in 1948 shows 287 members.

With the end of the war, a new class of aviation enthusiasts came on the scene. Not only the returned pilot veterans, but the G.I. Bill produced a new crop of private and commercial pilots. The affluent business and professional people who had started the club began to fade with other interests and age. A new generation of aviation enthusiasts became more and more involved.  Anchoring us to the past years are active members like Joe Shannon, who was President  in 1960.  Glenn Messer also remained very active until his death in 1995 at age 100.

Moving into the first decade of the 21st century, the club continues with a strong membership base of well over 200 individuals and is proud of its history of serving the Birmingham aviation community for 75 years.

                 

Then and now - Air Show posters from 1937, 1941, 2005, and 2006

(Click any image for a larger version)

(The BAC gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Dr. Ed Stevenson in furnishing this historical information)