Frances Haussner was early pilot

MARTIN MUSEUM STIRS MEMORIES

June 12, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Frances Haussner is one of Baltimore's best-known restaurateurs and art collectors. But a few remember her as a pioneer pilot, who once landed outside Glenn L. Martin's office and got a personal tour of his Middle River airplane factory.

"That was when I was young and daring," Mrs. Haussner, 83, recalled yesterday as she and other Baltimore aviation veterans gathered for the opening of the Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum at the Martin State Airport.

The museum, three years in the making, is in a room in Hangar 5, near the old control tower off Wilson Point Road. It will be open to the public, free of charge, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. today.

A regular schedule will be announced soon, and the information will be on a taped announcement available by calling 410-682-6122, according to Executive Director Bryan Willamin.

Most of the museum exhibits now are photographs documenting the Martin company's history from its start in 1909 to the present operation as part of the giant Martin-Marietta Corp.

They show the planes the factory produced and the people who built them. Small pieces of aircraft equipment and a number of models of Martin planes are also displayed.

The museum has many large items, including aircraft engines and propellers and even a wind tunnel, but they're in a warehouse for lack of space. "We need a hangar," Mr. Willamin said.

A restored Martin RB-57A jet bomber, the Intruder, is on display outside the hangar, with two T-6 trainer planes and an Air National Guard A-10 Warthog attack bomber.

For Mrs. Haussner and many others, it was a day to exchange old memories, for example, of the day in 1932 when Mrs. Haussner dropped in unexpectedly on the Martin plant.

"I was out exploring one day. I saw the landing strip and came down. Mr. Martin showed me all around and treated me like I was from another planet," she recalled.

Mrs. Haussner said she and her brother learned to fly secretly because their father was vehemently opposed to it. She gave up flying about 1935 when she married and found her husband even more against it. "I've tried to keep it [her brief flying career] pretty much of a secret," she said.

Also among the guests was Helene Ebel, 88, widow of Ken Ebel, Martin's chief test pilot and later vice president for engineering. As she inspected the displays, Mrs. Ebel said, "I think this is great, it brings back a lot of memories."

Among her contributions was a signed photo of her husband as a young Ohio National Guard pilot in 1927 with Amelia Earhart, another pioneer aviator. "To Lt. Ken Ebel, with thanks for my first ride in an Army airplane," the inscription reads.

She also donated a framed piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers plane that made the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903, and a 48-star American flag that flew over the plant during World War II.

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