Saturday, November 21, 2009

Conger IV, Job

Job Conger IV

People study the stars without ever getting into a rocket and traveling to them. And you don't have to fight in a war to be an expert on military history.

So it's not all that unusual that Job Conger IV, one of Springfield's [Illinois] foremost authorities on aviation, can't fly an airplane.

"I've always wanted to learn," Conger says, "but I've never had the time or money."

Nevertheless, he probably knows more about airplanes than many pilots do. Conger's two-story home is crammed with aviation information, most of it filed on thousands of index cards he painstakingly wrote out by hand. There are files on every aircraft imaginable, complete with photos and diagrams.

There's the aircraft name file, the magazine index file, the aircraft data file and the "point in time" file. The point in time file tells what happened on a particular day in aviation history.

"Pick a date." Job says.

"May 10."

"Let's see, May 10. Here it is. On May 10, 1911, the first Army officer was killed in an aircraft. On this day in 1929 was the first flight of the Boeing XP-12A. In 1942, the Mustang's first combat sortie was flown for the Royal Air Force against German occupied France."

There's more. Much, much more.

An upstairs closet contains 5,000 model aircraft kits, dating back to the early 1930s. Some are constructed, others are still in their boxes. Every era is represented, from the space shuttle to the World War I - vintage Sopwith Camel.

The next room has piles of files. And there's yet another room beyond that, containing aviation magazines, more files, photos, facts and figures about anything that flies, flew or falls from the sky.

There are more models in Job's basement, including one of Han Solo's Millenium Falcon ship from the "Star Wars" movie trilogy. Other models are just figments of Job's imagination and sense of humor - like the one in which he grafted a World War II bomber's nose gunner turret onto the modern B-1 bomber.

All of the models and information are part of Job's "AIRCHIVE" project. AIRCHIVE is a library for anyone who needs information on aircraft. Job says he gets four or five requests a month, some from foreign countries.

"We're known in Venice, Italy, we're known in Prague, Czechoslovakia," Job says. "But we're very little known in Springfield, [IL] -- and those who do know about us are not inclined to support us."

Job's dream is someday to take all of his AIRCHIVE files and models out of his house and put them on display somewhere, like museum or an airport. Last year, he had some of his collection on display at the Sangamon County Fair. He has done slide shows and speeches for local organizations to promote his idea. But, so far, it remains just a dream.

"Only one person from the airport authority board has even visited and that was for about 10 minutes," Job says, "even though they've been invited several times."

Maintaining the AIRCHIVE library is what Job calls a "labor - intensive operation." Some days he spends up to 10 hours putting information into his files.

"It's easier for me because I don't punch a clock," he says. "Not that I wouldn't want to."

Job supports himself by doing freelance writing, including a weekly aviation column. For three years, he put together the souvenir program for Air Rendezvous. Most of the material he collects, such as aviation magazines, is donated to him.

Financially, it's a losing proposition. But if a guy's got a dream...

"This is what I'd like to do with my life if I could just find a way to support it," Job says.

Job, 39, developed his aviation fascination early in life.

"When I was 4, I could draw a picture of an F-86 Saber faster than any kid on the block," he says. "The first time I remember enjoying a plane ride was in the 9th grade."

Naturally, Air Rendezvous is just about Job's favorite time of the year. He burns up film that weekend like a fighter burns up fuel.

Job took his favorite plane ride at Air Rendezvous in 1985. He went up in a B-25 bomber to shoot photographs of Rudy Frasca's P-40 in flight. He had the run of the bomber as he scrambled about to get different photographic angles of Frasca's plane.

The article that he eventually wrote about the P-40 was published in "Air Show Journal," along with one of his photographs.

Even moving to a different house didn't dent Job's dream. He moved every pound of his files with him and then issued an "AIRCHIVE Update" press release, announcing the move. At the end of the update he says: "The saga continues at AIRCHIVE. The dream is undiminished. The horizon is blue."
(Source: Written by Dave Bakke in an unnamed paper and republished in "Conger Confab" p. 578, Vol. XIV, No. 4, Dec 1988 - Maxine Crowell Leonard)

No comments: