Resident donates plane replicas to BCPAL

Published 1:27 pm Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tony Weichel is leaving 146 pieces of his legacy to the Beaufort County Police Activities League’s Aviation, Technology and Fitness Center.

The facility is being built next to the Washington-Warren Field terminal.

The 146 pieces are models of airplanes flown during World War I and up to World War II. There is one post-War World II model, a jet. That jet reminds Weichel, 88, of his service in the Air Force from 1950 to 1954, during which time he was involved with electronics. He’s also donating two display cabinets and many booklets that tell the histories of the models.

Weichel, known for his attention to detail as he put the models together, no longer builds model planes. Parkinson’s disease causes his hands to tremble, making it difficult for him to perform the meticulous work required to make the models as authentic as possible. Weichel’s passed on 140 model-plane kits to his son.

“I was interested in airplanes, always. Actually, I was brought up in Newark (New Jersey), and my father took me to the Newark airport when it was nothing but a tarmac and a tar-paper shack on it,” Weichel said about his motivation to build the models. “I saw the last Ford trimotor and the first DC-3 at that airport at the same day.”

Weichel said the first model he built was British F2B “Brisfit” fighter flown during World War I. His favorite planes among his collection are World War I bombers. Weichel added personal touches to many of the model kits.

“The kit was the starter, but I modified. I put all of the stringing in because it was not in the kit. … It allowed me to paint some of them with my own colors instead of the official colors,” Weichel said.

Donating the models to the center is the right thing to do, he said.

“I think it’s educational. I thought, ‘When I die, they’re probably going to be thrown in the garbage,’” Weichel said of his decision to donate the models to BCPAL. “It would be a shame (for that to happen) because there’s a lot of information here, and I think people will appreciate it.”

Alvin Powell, BCPAL president and a pilot, said of the collection of models, “It shows history. A lot of kids don’t realize the tremendous that the early aviators contributed to what we now know as the aerospace industry. Tony’s contribution sheds light on that part of aviation that a lot of people seem to be unaware of.”

Powell believes the models will help educate the center’s students and others about the early history of aviation and how those first aircraft with their single propellers powered by simple combustion engines evolved into jet aircraft and space shuttles.

“The time, sweat, energy and perseverance that he painstakingly put in doing everyone of these models, you can’t put a dollar value on it,” Powell said.

Many people know what the Red Baron’s World War I fighter plane looked like — a bright red Fokker Dr. 1 triplane. Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Germany’s legendary fighter pilot, was Germany’s top ace, who died from wounds suffered during aerial combat. Many people are familiar with the name Hermann Goring (or Goering), a German military leader and a top official in the Nazi Party before and during World War II. Goring also was a German ace in World War.

Weichel has a model of Goring’s distinctive white War World I fighter. The collection includes models representing airplanes from the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, Poland, Austria, Australia, Spain and Czechoslovakia.

“When you’re building these things and you’re reading about them, you get a pretty good education,” Weichel said.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Tony Weichel holds a model of Hermann Goring’s World War I plane. Goring became a top German leader in before and during World War II.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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