It all started with a B29.
Bill Schultz pointed to the plane hanging from the ceiling at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls and then one by one talked about each plane he built that was on display in the narthex.
“I have 33 of them,” said Schultz, who calls Redwood Falls his home. “Most of them are World War II vintage.”
Schultz has spent years crafting the planes he exhibited.
With the exception of one, all of them were hand-made by him.
No, said Schultz, the planes are not kits. Each plane is a 1:45 scale replica made out of wood, and Schultz said he finds pictures of them and, when he can, more specific design information is found that he then uses to make each of them.
Schultz did not serve in the Air Force, nor was he ever a pilot, but he will tell those who want to talk planes everything he knows about them, as well as the connections he has made with local people who may have flown them.
For example, he pointed to a jet he said John Tiffany of Redwood Falls flew during his time in the military. He also pointed to the types of planes his sons Keith and Paul, both who served in the United States Air Force (Paul is still serving), have been connected to during their service.
When Schultz starts his plans to make a new plane one of the stops he makes is to the local lumberyard to get a piece of cedar that he can shape. He does the sawing, lathe work and even the painting for each of the planes. Schultz said there are a few decals he used but not very many.
“It’s all hand work,” said Schultz.
Being a perfectionist, Schultz admitted there has been more than one occasion when he was working on a plane that he just did not like the way it was looking, so he threw it out and started over again.
As a plane enthusiast, Schultz said he has been to a number of air shows over the years, adding he is fortunate to have a wife, Marie, who also enjoys planes and goes along.
It was at a show at Holman Field in St. Paul where Schultz got a firsthand look at the inside of a B29.
Over the years he has gone up for rides, and he admits spending lots of time reading about different planes and the history behind them.
While most are from that World War II era, Schultz said he has one he had made of the first plane to have radar, as well as a model of what is known as the Wright Flyer (that is the sole plane in the menagerie made from a kit).
He also has made a copy of the Spirit of St. Louis, which is the plane Charles Lindbergh took on the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
Planes, said Schultz, have played a significant role in the history of the United States and the world, and through his planes he can help tell that story.
When the planes are not on display as they were at the local church, Schultz keeps them at his home, and he said he welcomes those who would like to see them to pay a visit. He’ll tell you all about them.
The public will have other chances to view the planes publicly in the future, too, as Schultz said he has been asked to exhibit them at the Ramsey Park jamboree next summer.
The challenge, said Schultz, is properly displaying them. For him the best way to do that is by hanging them somehow. That way, he added, you get to see them as they were intended – in the air.
Schultz said he really enjoys the Fagen Air Show held in Granite Falls, and he encouraged anyone who has never been there to go.
As Schultz talked about his planes and his sons, one could hear the sense of pride he has in both his familial connection to the Air Force as well as in his country.
Among the planes are those telling the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, known as the Red Tails, as well as everything from gliders, the first German jet, the Albatross as well as a collection of the jets flown by the Thunderbirds.
Schultz pointed to a small table where a single piece of wood had been placed. That, he said, is the latest plane he has been working on – the U-2, which was a spy plane. Of course, he is willing to share what he knows of the infamous U-2 plane that was shot down, as well.
Talking about planes brings a smile to Schultz’s face, and as he shares the tales of his own collection one can’t help but see the little kid in him.
One has to wonder if he ever just takes time at home holding those planes in his hands flying them all over the room making different plane sounds and imagining being in the cockpit in the wild blue yonder.