Volume 14 No. 2,
December 1998
4 June 1998

Here (finally) is my renewal. I wanted to wait for the V14, #1 TIGHAR Tracks (which didn’t arrive until the last week in May) to see what all was covered. I was hoping to see updates on White Bird, Operation Sepulchre, Beast of Bombay Hook, etc. Or are all these dead issues?

Just to pull your chain a little, at the end of the 4 March TIGHAR Flash you talked about TIGHAR being a one-trick pony. At this point, wouldn’t it be more accurate to call TIGHAR a “zero-trick pony”??? Unless I’ve missed something, has the organization actually recovered an historic aircraft? Also (another little tug), are there any projects that us “ordinary people” can get involved with) other than simply sending money for the BIG projects?)? At one time there was talk about regional groups, projects, etc.

Vern Wiese
Beavercreek, Ohio

June 9, 1998

Dear Vern,

Many thanks for your recent letter and renewal. For a five-year renewal you’re entitled to some chain pulling. Is TIGHAR a “zero-trick-pony?” I guess it depends on what you call a trick. We made a decision a long time ago that we would not concentrate our efforts on saving old airplanes from the “teeth of time” only to have them destroyed by “the hands of mistaken zeal.” There are very few air museums to whom I would turn over a truly historic aircraft. In that sense, we’re an organization well ahead of its time. Before it makes sense to recover historic aircraft a great deal of education still needs to be done.

Over the years we’ve conducted dozens of seminars, conferences and training courses which have introduced hundreds of enthusiasts (including you) to the principles of historic preservation. That’s a pretty good trick. We’ve helped fund scientific research into new conservation techniques and we put together and published the world’s first Guide to Aviation Historic Preservation Terminology. And that was no easy trick. Our investigations in Germany have put to rest dozens of rumors about underground Luftwaffe airplanes. We would, of course, have rather found the airplanes than expose the rumors, but the truth is what it is, and finding the truth is always a good trick. Our work in Maine and Newfoundland has not yet discovered the fate of the White Bird, and that goal may never be achieved. But that search has been the school in which we have learned the skills which have made possible the successes of the Earhart Project. Perhaps you are among those who see that project as without meaningful result unless and until we recover the proverbial “smoking gun.”

As you might guess, I don’t see it that way. The Earhart Project has brought to light a wealth of new and accurate information which has replaced myth with documented fact. That’s a trick worthy of any pony. When the day comes (and it will come) that we bring whatever remains of NR16020 back to the States, I expect that no one will much care how many other historic aircraft we have recovered.

From time to time we’ve attempted to start regional chapters but have never found sufficient interest to support them. Maybe that’s because TIGHAR, unlike, say, the 99s, is not a club. It is not a member-driven organization; that is to say, it does not exist to serve the needs of its members. TIGHAR is a board-driven organization. It has objectives set by its Board of Directors which the officers and members work to accomplish. The world doesn’t need a TIGHAR to dig bent propellers out of the ground. But it takes a TIGHAR to speak up for aviation historic preservation and only an international research engine like TIGHAR has a chance of finding Amelia Earhart. I’m pretty proud of our pony.

All the best,
Richard E. Gillespie
Executive Director
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