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SPENCER – The N.C. Transportation Museum will highlight the history of Winston-Salem based Piedmont Airlines Saturday, Feb. 21 with a special “Piedmonsters” day. Though the Winston-Salem based airline merged with US Air (now US Airways) in 1989, former employees and patrons of Piedmont Airlines have kept the history and memory of the company alive. The N.C. Transportation Museum’s Piedmonster
flight simulator display and other aspects of Piedmont Airlines history will be a part of the program. It will also feature Piedmont Captain Bill Wilkerson as he shares memories of the airline and documentarian Richard Eller, who will provide a sneak peak of his film, “Speedbird: The History of Piedmont Airlines.”
Starting our “Piedmonsters” day, we will have a special presentation of the Piedmonster flight simulator from 10 a.m. to noon. The Piedmonster was developed in the 1960’s for use as a military and general aviation flight simulator. When the Piedmont Silver Eagles Charitable Fund acquired the simulator for the North Carolina Transportation Museum, they gave the Piedmonster its memorable name. The program hopefully will include operation of the Piedmonster pending available volunteers. Visitors will see and hear how the simulator helped train airline pilots.
At 1 p.m., former Piedmont Airlines Captain Bill Wilkerson will appear in the Bob Julian Roundhouse orientation room for a presentation on his time with the airline. Wilkerson was hired in the mid-1970’s, becoming Piedmont’s third minority pilot. He met his wife, Tisa, on the job when she was a flight attendant with the airline. After the US Airways merger, Wilkerson worked on safety programs and flew international
routes until his recent retirement. Captain Wilkerson remembers fondly his time at Piedmont and will relate his experiences, both as a pilot and as an African American pioneer with the airline.
Closing out our special day devoted to Piedmont Airlines, at 2 p.m., historian and documentarian Richard Eller will show an early cut of his work in progress, “Speedbird: The History of Piedmont Airlines.” The first half hour of the film is nearly complete and will be shown in the Bob Julian Roundhouse orientation room. Eller is the department head of social and behavioral sciences at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, where he also serves as an instructor of history. Piedmont Airlines is a subject Eller has studied extensively, in coordination with groups representing former Piedmont Airlines employees. Last year, Eller’s book, Piedmont Airlines, A Complete History, 1948-1989 was published. Copies will be available for purchase and Eller will host a prior to his program in the museum gift shop.
“Piedmonsters” is free and open to the public. Those with an interest in aviation and North Carolina aviation history are especially encouraged to attend.
The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility, is part of the Division of State Historic Sites, Department of Cultural Resources. The museum is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. Visit www.nctrans.org for more information. The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is celebrating the 2009 theme of “Treasure N.C. Culture.” For information on the Department of Cultural Resources, call (919) 807-7385 or visit www.ncculture.com
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Division of State Historic Sites, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources