It seems like Almost Yesterday that a young man named Apostle Paul Vance of Fredericktown first took to the air. The year was 1941 and the location was a small air strip west of Cape Girardeau along Highway 74.
From that first flight in 1941 to the spring of 2009 Paul Vance accumulated approximately 23,000 hours of flight time – equal to almost three full years in the air.
Paul Vance was born on July 22, 1919 on a farm near Zalma, Missouri, the middle child in a family of eleven children. By age eight he could drive a team of mules and help his parents with a variety of farm tasks.
When he was in the sixth grade the family moved to St. Louis where, in 1938, he graduated from Wellston High School. Using his warm and engaging personality, Vance convinced five of his best friends to attend college at Southeast Missouri State. All six youngsters played ball together, attended church together, and attended Southeast together. All six graduated from college and all six served in the military during World War II.
Vance graduated from Southeast in 1942 and became the commanding officer of the government’s V-7 program, preparing young men to be pilots for the war. In 1943 he received his wings and began service as a flight instructor, training approximately 40 pilots for the war effort. Three of his pilots became flying aces in the war, two later became airline pilots.
At the end of World War II, Vance accepted the position of Director of Aviation for the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and in that capacity did much to develop St. Louis into a major aviation center.