WWII veteran collects, restores, sells artifacts

February 1, 2013 3:31:53 AM PST
Karl Lau was 19 years old when he flew missions in the South Pacific off the aircraft carrier Lexington during World War II.

He pays tribute to that memory with his store On Final Approach, located in Glenview, Ill., which is full of artifacts from the war.

"This is a place where you can see old artifacts, pictures and everything. It's a collection of old prints that pilots have signed. We have books... everything," Lau said.

Lau, 86, flew 12 missions in the U.S. Navy's Corsair fighter. Now that plane's cockpit, about four-fifths actual size, lives again thanks to Lau.

"This is a mockup of a Corsair fighter. All the instruments here were taken out of a real Corsair. And everything is operational here. The gun works... the compass works," he said.

Lau's collection is more than 60 years old. At first, he picked up artifacts for his own satisfaction. But as the years went by, he turned it into a business. Now he collects to buy, fix up and sell.

"It comes out of garages, old plants that used to manufacture parts for airplanes, the junkyards out west in Arizona," Lau said.

The most unusual item at On Final Approach is a B-17 Flying Fortress mint-condition prop.

"The B-17 had four of these," Lau said. He said he'd sell it for about $7,000.

Lau is in good health but admits he's also on his own final approach.

"My flaps are down. My wheels are down, and I'm back on idle," Lau said. "When I land I will taxi over to the hangar and cut the engine and say, 'Mission accomplished.'"

On Final Approach
2032 Lehigh Road
Glenview, Illinois 60025