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.
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
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.
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
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)