Air Capital Insider

Spy plane crew to tell tales for fundraiser

The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” is a long-range, advanced strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft.
The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” is a long-range, advanced strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. File photo

Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research will honor three Wichitans who died from the disease.

The Colorado-based foundation’s Saturday night fundraiser – which will include a presentation by a former SR-71 Blackbird crew – will recognize long-time area business consultant Ken Lerman, Bombardier chief test pilot Pete Reynolds and Gayle Johnson, wife of former Cessna Aircraft Co. president Charlie Johnson.

All three died from pancreatic cancer in 2014.

“We were all good friends,” said Charlie Johnson, who now lives in Denver. “That’s the thing that’s so disconcerting about this (pancreatic cancer).

“They were all gone within … months of each other.”

Proceeds from the fundraiser, set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway, will go to fund research into the disease, said Maureen Shul, who established Wings of Hope in 2012 after her mother and brother died of pancreatic cancer.

Shul met the Johnsons after Gayle Johnson was diagnosed with the disease.

“After Gayle’s passing, I told Charlie: ‘I just want to do something for you,’ ” Shul said of her reasons for the Wichita fundraiser.

Shul’s brother Brian is a former SR-71 pilot. He and navigator Walter Watson will discuss their missions flying the world’s highest and fastest reconnaissance jet for the Air Force.

“It’s a tremendous presentation,” said Johnson, who was Cessna’s president and chief operating officer from 1997 to 2003.

Tickets to the event are $50 and can be purchased at the door, online at www.wingsofhopecr.org or by calling 720-733-0491.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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