Imagine having the unique opportunity to be swept off your feet to a place many wish to visit: the past. Some may say stepping into the past is an unfortunate impossibility. Those who dare say these words have obviously not been to Karl Lau’s extensive gallery and museum, On Final Approach.
Located on the previous Glenview Naval Air Station, On Final Approach is a unique aviation history studio and gallery established by master craftsman Karl Lau. Karl has been inspired by the magic of flight since he was an adolescent during an era of popular flying heroes, such as Charles Lindberg. “As a young boy my friends and I were always building and dreaming,” said Karl. In fact, at the young age of 13, Karl and his close friends built a full-size glider that amazingly took flight with the help of a Model A Ford.
At age 18, with a growing zeal for aviation, Karl enlisted in the Navy Air Program during World War II where he would be posted as a Naval aviator. Karl spent his war years flying a Vought F4UF Corsair, a fierce fighter-bomber. After his discharge from the Navy, he returned to Glenview, Illinois where his keen innovation set out to work.
Karl’s deep memories of the war and of those brave men lost in battle led to the extraordinary idea of On Final Approach. “I lost a lot of close friends to the war, nearly half of my squadron,” said Karl. Karl aspired to create and dedicate a memorial to these worthy men and the aircrafts they so fervently maneuvered during the grim years of war.
At the culmination of World War II, Karl realized the precious aircrafts he and countless others operated during combat were being wasted and simply turned into scrap. Conscious of this knowledge, Karl set out on a mission to pinpoint and salvage the remaining aircraft elements that not only held deep the memories of his fallen comrades, but also encompassed his deep, lifelong passion for aviation.
The On Final Approach studio and gallery offers customers an inimitable chance to go back to various time periods as soon as they walk through the door. Artifacts throughout the studio range from the first model airplane, built in 1912, to authentic sculptures constructed over the last 18 years by Karl Lau. Through a combination of restored parts from original aircrafts, as well as recently developed pieces, Karl has been able to reproduce genuine, one-of-a-kind sculptures. Displayed throughout the On Final Approach gallery are remarkable, handmade lamps constructed from original elements of World War II airplanes.
Perhaps the most remarkable of these lamps are those erected as actual cockpits from several World War II airplanes. Standing before these lamps is similar to stepping into a time machine. Each cockpit is equipped with original instruments once belonging to the actual planes of World War II. Some of these tools include a starter switch that will simulate the starting of the engines, and a gun switch that when the trigger is pressed, will essentially imitate the exact sounds of gunfire. The “pilot” in control of this realistic cockpit can remarkably flip the radio switch that allows them to listen to actual conversations between crew members during combat, and even music and news from the year 1943. In total, Karl has created 10 army and 10 navy cockpit lamps over the last two decades.
On Final Approach is stocked with hundreds of genuine artifacts from many different eras. The gallery is packed with dozens of model airplanes, cars and motorcycles, as well as a wide assortment of different books on aviation and other forms of transportation. This collection includes literature on famous pilots Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, as well as an assortment of attention-grabbing books on World War II and local history on aviation in Illinois. Customers can also view various exclusive works of art enclosed by hand-crafted frames made of elements from a variety of parts from original airplanes. Considering the hundreds of artifacts throughout the studio, this is merely scratching the surface on what one can see at the On Final Approach gallery.
Karl Lau truly believes in the importance of expanding a child’s mind to the fullest. “I love to help children learn to create and imagine,” said Karl. “When they come into On Final Approach, I tell them to turn the world off and start dreaming.” Karl loves motivating children of all ages to use their special talents in creating whatever they set their minds to. Karl will soon be establishing a new club known as the Captain Midnight Model Airplane Club, named after the popular United States radio broadcast, which aired between1938 to 1949. Everyone is invited to dream and create in this club.
There is simply something of interest for everyone at the On Final Approach gallery. Upon arrival at On Final Approach, not only will one see unbelievable artifacts, but also come into contact with an extraordinarily fascinating man. Not only is he an extremely talented craftsman, Karl Lau is also full of enticing stories from his remarkable life that will keep one entertained for hours. For more information on Karl Lau and the On Final Approach aviation studio and gallery, call (847) 998-1980, or visit www.onfinalapproach.com.