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 and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Monday, January 22, 2018

Canadian Fire Fighting Aircraft Make Stop at St. Louis Downtown Airport

By Mark Nankivil
Two Canadian CL-415 firefighting aircraft stopped at St. Louis Downtown Airport for a few days recently during a cross-country return flight to their base in Quebec, Canada. The CL-415 amphibious "Super Scooper" is a turbo-prop powered development of the piston-engine CL-215 series. This aircraft can continuously load water from a local source and deploy it on the fire site. It also has a foam injection system. Along with the powerplant upgrade, the CL-415 provides heavier load carrying ability, modern avionics and aerodynamic improvements over the 1960s-era CL-215. The Bombardier type certificates for the CL-215 and CL-415 aircraft are now owned and supported by Viking Air Ltd.

Here are some views of the two aircraft during their layover in St. Louis last weekend:


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Kaman K-Max Deploys to St. Louis for Some Construction Work

By Mark Nankivil
A Kaman K-MAX (K-1200) crew assisted with some construction work today from a temporary base at Creve Coeur Airport. The K-MAX, operated by Rainier Heli International of Kirkland, WA is often used for heavy lift duties in the construction and logging industries as well as for aerial firefighting operations. It can lift a cargo hook capacity load of 6,000lbs, that being more than it's empty weight. Rainier Heli International, one of the Halvorson Family aviation businesses, also provides helicopter leasing and sales services.

Below is a sequence of photos taken from Creve Coeur Airport this afternoon as the K-MAX took off and went to work:



For coverage of K-MAX fire fighting operations, see an earlier story on The Aero Experience: The Aero Experience In Santa Fe: Airport Visit Yields Surprises.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sponsor Announcement: Gateway Jets Begins New Year Supporting The Aero Experience Team

By Carmelo Turdo

The Aero Experience is proud to announce that Gateway Jets continues to be a sponsor and advertiser!  Our audience was introduced to Gateway Jets, the St. Louis-based aircraft management company, through our series of stories leading up to the opening of their new facility at St. Louis Downtown Airport in March.  Company President Corey Tomczak and the staff at Gateway Jets combine professional expertise and personalized service to ensure their clients acquire and utilize the best aircraft suited to their mission.

Corey Tomczak, President of Gateway Jets
"Our business is to provide a mission-ready, safe, clean aircraft while looking out for our client's best interests," Tomczak told The Aero Experience, noting that this mission statement is posted for all to see on the company's web site, and thus, they are accountable for living up to that standard.  "We take care of the whole operation so that they (aircraft owners) can just arrive and fly knowing that their aircraft is in good hands."  Gateway Jets serves St. Louis Downtown Airport and Spirit of St. Louis Airport, and manages all aspects of the flight operations, including scheduling, cleaning, maintenance inspections and contracts, fueling, crew assignments, FAA regulatory compliance and more.  Aircraft may be stored at the owner's hangar, at the Spirit of St. Louis Aero Charter hangar or in the newly available Gateway Jets hangar at St. Louis Downtown Airport.  

Gateway Jets specializes in the most efficient aircraft in each mission category: Beechcraft Baron, Socata TBM single-engine turboprop, the King Air 90, 200 and 350, as well as the Citation jet series.  Custom management options for other aircraft types are also available.  Here are some views of the St. Louis Downtown Airport facility and aircraft described above:


Gateway Jets is ready to help with your aircraft acquisition, crewing, and operations management needs.  Contact Gateway Jets today and put your aviation assets in good hands! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Found! Daughter of World War II Veteran Locates His Douglas C-47 in the Midwest, Part 3: The Journey to Find the Aircraft in St. Louis

By Carmelo Turdo
The story of Jenny Nunn Brawley's search for the Douglas C-47 her father, Major Thomas E. Nunn, flew in Europe during his USAAF service in World War II continues with a look at the aircraft and how it was found in the St. Louis area. The trail took some twists and turns along the way, but with tenacity and help from the aviation community around the world, she found the aircraft where it had been sitting idle for years. 

The aircraft found in St. Louis was discovered during the search for another Douglas C-47, Tug Boat Annie, flown by Major Nunn during the D-Day airborne assault and in support of Allied Forces in Holland as mentioned in Part 2 of this series. He was serving with the 76th Troop Carrier Squadron, part of the 435th Troop Carrier Group. Jenny Nunn Brawley tells the story in her own words:
The search for this plane started a while back when I started conversing with Hans den Brok in the Netherlands. He has written books about the Airborne Operations in WWII, especially Operation Market Garden (Holland invasion). He sent me a photograph of my Dad’s plane, Tug Boat Annie, that I had never seen. I asked him if there was any way to find out if that plane was still around. He traced it to Vietnam Airlines and it has seemingly dropped out of sight after 1971. So I put that behind me and never gave it another thought.

In recent months, she discovered a letter from her dad to her mother, Anabel, dated September 28, 1944. In this letter, written just following participation in Operation Market Garden in Holland, Major Nunn mentions that he received a new aircraft. It is also during this time that Tug Boat Annie, flown by another crew, was damaged by flak, injuring the radio operator. She found this passage in the letter:

 “I snatched a new airplane today – it’s a beauty with all the latest gadgets.  By the time I get all the homemade gadgets from Tug Boat Annie installed, I’ll have some “rigged-up” airplane.  The name is all settled – Miss Anabel Lee.”   

This new information was sent back to Hans den Brok, who continued to research the identity of the second aircraft. He researched war records from the 435th Troop Carrier Group and found the military serial number 43-48719 listed with Major Nunn and his crew. From there, the records of C-47B 43-48719, now civilian registered as DC-3C N68CW, were followed to the current owner and location. One twist to the story, however, was experienced when the current owner was identified as being within the Washington, D.C. area, a short commute. Jenny Nunn Brawley wrote a letter to the owner's business in September, but she did not receive a reply. She even went to several small airports in Maryland to look for it.  

Museum Open House, June 2012
She was back on the trail, searching the internet for the aircraft's civil registration and finding several more photos. Some of those photos were posted by The Aero Experience, showing the aircraft on the apron at St. Louis Downtown Airport. In that post, the DC-3 was being towed across the apron to the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum for display at an open house event. Following confirmation that the aircraft was still in St. Louis (it had never been physically acquired by the new owner due to company financial difficulties and the large investment needed to make it commercially airworthy), Jenny Nunn Brawley contacted the previous owner and caretaker of the aircraft, Aviation Business Corporation, to set up a visit to St. Louis. Initial coverage of her visit to the aircraft was featured in Part 1 of this series.

CF-BXY getting repainted, Feb. 15, 1982, Fort St John,
British Columbia. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Aubury)
Records of the DC-3's service life following demobilization resume in the 1960s forward as N2768A, flying cargo in Canada and Alaska. In 1966 she was named Something Special.  She was owned briefly by a Colorado company and then an oil drilling company - Knight's Rathole Drilling. The aircraft was exported to Canada as CF-BXY and operated by North Cariboo Air in the early 1980s, transporting hunters to remote camps, and then to Sabourin Lake Airlines for freight operations. While with Sabourin Lake Airlines, she was pictured on a postcard in 1994. She was sold to an owner in Texas as N68CW in 1999, and was used to fly auto parts to factories in Mexico. The aircraft had been with the St. Louis owner since 2007, and as mentioned above, remains following its sale in 2016. It is currently again for sale, though it will take some investment to restore her for a ferry flight. 

Currently, the DC-3 remains at the north end of the apron at St. Louis Downtown Airport in faded North Cariboo Air colors. Below are some views of the aircraft over the last few years: 

Jenny Nunn Brawley visited St. Louis Downtown Airport to see her father's wartime aircraft on December 15. The Aero Experience was privileged to be a part of her visit and record these moments aboard the aircraft. It was an emotional experience for her to board the aircraft her father flew during the height of World War II, especially when seated in the cockpit's left pilot seat. It would take a little imagination to transform the faded Canadian airline colors into the olive drab of the USAAF's 76th Troop Carrier Squadron, and the interior airline seats into paratrooper benches. But it was not difficult to imagine that this very aircraft still retained the heart of Major Nunn's Miss Anabel Lee as it was known in 1944-1945. She spent some time just looking over the aircraft interior, sitting in the cockpit and passenger seats, probing for evidence of wartime service and learning about the modifications made over the years (such as removal of the radio operator's station). Here we show the visit aboard the aircraft that day: 


The aircraft was still set up in a sparse, utilitarian arrangement, able to transport people or cargo as needed. During the visit to the aircraft, Jenny Nunn Brawley wanted to capture some iconic moments of remembrance in these images to honor her father's wartime service: 

Following the tour of the aircraft, it was time for Jenny Nunn Brawley to close the cargo door and take another look around the aging Douglas DC-3 as it sat forlornly on the apron. The fading paint and missing elevators and ailerons were the more obvious condition problems, but these signs of wear also uncovered the scars of it's service to the nation and later with the civilian operators. Evidence of skin repairs and even a new right wing, nothing unusual for a workhorse DC-3, were visible to even to the casual observer. Flaws and all, she was beautiful in her own way. And this day, Jenny Nunn Brawley, daughter of Major Thomas E. Nunn of the 76th Troop Carrier Squadron, 435th Troop Carrier Group, found and climbed aboard Miss Anabel Lee.

The Aero Experience thanks Jenny Nunn Brawley, Aviation Business Corporation and those mentioned above who contributed historic information used to find Major Thomas E. Nunn's USAAF C-47B, Miss Anabel Lee. Check back soon for Part 4 of this series featuring Major Nunn's post war career and family life.