Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil, Fred Harl and Leo Cachat - The Aero Experience Team

Monday, October 5, 2015

Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Celebrates the Life of Carl "Chub" Wheeler

By Carmelo Turdo
"Chub" Wheeler
(Mark Nankivil photo)
The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum celebrated the life of aviation icon and museum Life Member Carl "Chub" Wheeler who passed away September 17 at the age of 103.   Family and friends of Mr. Wheeler gathered at historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport and spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting and sharing their favorite "Chub" stories.  The museum's location is especially appropriate, since much of Wheeler's early aviation activity was centered around the Curtiss-Wright hangars at what was then called Curtiss-Steinberg Airport.  

Family and friends of Carl "Chub" Wheeler
gather near a DC-3 at the museum
Much of Wheeler's aviation career is included in his biography submitted by the museum for his nomination and acceptance to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2014:

"Born in 1911, Chub has seen a century of aviation history unfold during his lifetime. As a young man, Chub was a frequent visitor at Curtiss Steinberg Airport, now known as St. Louis Downtown Airport. He was hired as a line boy, and then learned to fly in an OX-5 powered Curtis Robin, obtaining his pilot’s license in 1935. He purchased the Curtis Robin for $450, and then earned his flight instructor’s certificate.

"The flight instructor’s certificate was just a beginning for Chub. He and partner Bill Hart formed a flying school at Curtiss Steinberg airport and used the Curtis Robin to offer flying lessons. When the Civilian Pilot Training Program was created to train pilots in response to the impending war in Europe, Parks Air College became a training center. Chub became a flight instructor for Parks Air College first as a civilian, and then as a member of the Army Reserves flying PT-13s, PT-17s, PT-19s and PT-23s. He served at all four Parks Air College locations during the war, finally becoming responsible for the operation of their flight school at Cape Girardeau, MO.

"After the war, Chub returned to East St. Louis to become the airport manager at Curtiss-Steinberg airport during 1946 and 1947. He became a corporate pilot flying DC-3s and Beech D-18s for Monsanto Company, later moving on to fly for Peabody Coal and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When the Post-Dispatch transitioned to new equipment in the late 1950s, Chub retired from corporate flying and went to work for the Defense Mapping Agency, Aeronautical Chart and Information Service and finished his flying career with them.

"In retirement, Chub became a founding board member and tireless supporter of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum in Cahokia, Illinois. He has been a frequent speaker to museum and aviation groups, using his personal history and knowledge of aviation in our region to bring the past alive again."

 The Aero Experience and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum salute Carl "Chub" Wheeler for a life well lived with these photos from our encounters over the last few years:

Flying the 1929 Ford Trimotor at St. Louis Downtown Airport, Sept. 2011 
(Mark Nankivil photos)

100th Birthday, October 2011

Visit to Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum with Daughter Mary Kay, September 2015


Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 Memphis Airshow: Thursday Arrivals

By Leo Cachat
The Aero Experience was on the road again, this time at the 2015 Memphis, TN Airshow.  The star-studded lineup included the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet West Coast Demo Team, Team Aerodynamix, Red Star & The Dragon (an act flown by Andy Anderson in the BAC 167 Strikemaster and Jerry Conley in the L-29 Delphin), Skip Stewart, Gene Soucy, John Klatt, Kent Pietsch, Matt Younkin, Mike Wiskus, Wayne Roberts, Keith Davis, Manfred Radius and the Lucas Oil skydivers.

I arrived at 10 a.m. Thursday morning and met with John Sumner, who was in charge of airshow operations.  John filled me in on all the happenings and drove me around the grounds in a golf cart to give me a feel for where everything was.  We watched the TN ANG C-17 as it made its arrival as a static display for the show.  After this, I went back to my vehicle to get my gear and start shooting the few planes that were there.  After shooting the C-17, I made my way to the hangar where John Klatt and crew were busy getting their aircraft in airshow shape.  As I was there, Thunderbird No. 8 advance pilot Major Scott Petz asked if John Klatt would take him for a ride, and John happily obliged.  I watched as they quickly suited up and headed out and made their return about 30 minutes later.  The Major enjoyed his flight and talked with John awhile about his MXZ before heading back in to wait for the rest of the Thunderbirds to arrive.
There were very few planes in the hangar at this point, but that would change in about six hours. Wayne Roberts arrived in his beautiful orange and white Extra 300Z.  He came over to introduce himself and took the time to pose with his airplane. He is truly a great ambassador for aviation and a great pilot as I would see on Friday.  I spent the next couple of hours photographing the lone Thunderbird on the ramp and the rest of the planes in the hangar, including Gene Soucy's Showcat, Kent Pietsch's Kaydet and Manfred Radius' sailplane. Two of Team Aerodynamix RV's were also on the ramp.
At about noon the Thunderbirds support aircraft, a C-17 from Travis AFB, arrived with the support personnel for their team.  After all the crews and their gear were unloaded, the C-17 fueled up and departed the airport in dramatic fashion - throwing dust and grass into the air upon takeoff.  We were told the Thunderbirds would arrive around 1 p.m., but due to a mid air refueling problem they wouldn't arrive until around 4:30 p.m.  There were a few Stearman that arrived, and as the afternoon went on Skip Stewart taxied in from his hangar around the corner.  Andy Anderson, Jerry Conley, the rest of Team Aerodynamix and Matt Younkin all arrived just prior to the Thunderbirds.  The Thunderbirds arrived and did their preshow checks of the area before flying some of their show maneuvers.  They were nice enough to buzz us on the ramp several times before landing.  The Navy's F/A-18F West Coast Demo Team jet arrived right after the Thunderbirds.

I was allowed access to get some terrific photo opportunities.  I finally decided I should go check in to my hotel, as it was now 6:30 p.m. and I wanted to arrive early the next morning to catch all the action on show day.  Thursday was a great day, and I looked forward to returning Friday.