Originally printed at http://www.komonews.com/news/local/53260992.html
SEATTLE — A slice of Seattle aviation history is missing from the Museum of Flight.
In the 1920s and 30s, Ken Houseolder lived his dream, flying in an open cockpit delivering airmail, transporting movie crews, and he was one of the first commercial pilots for United Airlines.
Until, ice on the wings brought his plane down.
Kevin Fitz loaned his grandfather’s flight wings and pins to the Museum of Flight for their Northwest Aviation history exhibit.
“His entire life from a very young age was spent trying to earn those wings,” Fitz said.
But somebody stole the wings.
“It was like a punch to the stomach,” Fitz said. “It’s not something I can go to Fred Meyer and replace. Doesn’t have monetary value, has emotional value to me.”
Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, the president of the Museum of Flight, says the thief only had to lift up a small part of the cover and slip it out, using some sort of pry tool.
“We’ve removed all those designs from the exhibits,” she said.
But there’s now a bare spot where the missing wings were once displayed. The theft prompted the museum to add cameras, motion censors to displays, and step up foot patrols.
Museum curators have spread the word to watch for the missing memorabilia, contacting the Smithsonian, pawn shops, and collectors.
“They’re not just something someone can readily find,” Fitz said. “Obviously someone was trying to fill up a collection.”
Fitz is offering a $1,000 reward.
“I’d really would love to have them returned to our family where they belong,” he said.
He says the wings really aren’t worth much, but the history and memories that come with them are priceless.
Dunbar, a former astronaut, said she can relate to the anguish. Someone stole her NASA medals from her home and they were never returned.