David Wendell first became fascinated with planes while chasing crop dusters during summer breaks at his family's Nebraska farm in the early 70s; now 36, he's been independently researching the history of air travel his entire adult life. Currently living in northwest-suburban Harwood Heights, Wendell has interviewed retired pilots and combed through newspapers and old magazines like Aviation Weekly to learn stories about the last century of flight. He's also visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and other collections to gather the information needed to create miniatures of historic planes; Wendell draws the designs himself and has the individual models built by an artisan in the Philippines. Earlier this year he self-published a booklet titled Wings Over the West: A History of Aviation and Space Travel in Chicago's Near West Suburbs, which recounts the exploits of local air pioneers like Glenn Curtiss, who became the third American ever to fly when he piloted a wood biplane above Cicero's Hawthorne Racetrack in 1909. A year later Swedish immigrant Max Lillie started a flight school at Cicero Field--the area's first airport--and in 1915 one of Lillie's students, Katherine Stinson, became the first woman to circle the Loop. The booklet also includes a sketch of Edward "Butch" O'Hare, a Chicago dog-track owner's son who became a flying ace in World War II (and after whom the international airport is named). Wendell wrote Wings Over the West after discovering that many pilots' stories hadn't been recorded for posterity. "I wanted to make sure their legacy would live on," he says. He'll exhibit some of his miniatures--including a replica of O'Hare's F-4F Wildcat--during an open house at the Palwaukee Municipal Airport, Palatine Road and Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling, on Saturday, August 23, at 10 AM. It's free; for more information, call 847-537-2580. He'll also sign copies of Wings Over the West at the Norwood Park Historical Society's book fair, 5366 N. Northwest Highway in Chicago, on Sunday, August 24, at 9 AM. For more information, call 773-631-4633.