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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Year In Aviation Service: Pekin Municipal Airport 2016 Wings and Wheels Part 3 - JAARS Shares Passion for Aviation

By Carmelo Turdo
The 2016 Pekin, IL Municipal Airport Wings and Wheels event last Saturday was a model fly-in that attracted local residents to experience aviation at their community airport.  The sixth annual event featured about a hundred classic cars and motorcycles along with unique aircraft on display and flying throughout the day.  As always, aviation people were happy to talk to the visitors and encourage them to learn about flying and their aircraft.  

In Part 3 of this series, The Aero Experience will focus on one of the main activities of the day - helicopter and airplane rides - provided by JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Services).  Several hundred visitors took rides in the organization's Robinson R44 helicopter and Helio H-295 Courier short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft.  There was a steady lineup of riders for each aircraft throughout the day, many of whom were taking their first flight ever.  The experienced JAARS crews provided a well organized and safe way to share the joy of flight and informed those who were interested in their mission field work.

Michael Bunn and Daryl Bussert
Prior to the morning flights, The Aero Experience visited with JAARS instructor pilot Michael Bunn.  Bunn has spent three years in Africa and seventeen years in the Amazon flying float planes.  He currently trains pilots at the 400-acre airport facility in Waxhaw, NC.  "It [JAARS] was founded to support Wycliffe Bible Translators, he said.  "We train mission pilots for about 15 different mission organizations.  We have eight on staff who flew overseas from between 15 to 30 years experience, and then we came back to mentor missionary pilots."  JAARS prepares for service the aircraft uniquely suited for accessing remote areas, including the Helio Courier, Cessna 206, Pilatus Porter, Robinson R44 and Kodiak Quest.  Flying in one of these aircraft is often the only practical way for staff and supplies to reach remote settlements, and the only way for the transportation of patients to medical facilities.  Those who were interested in supporting JAARS were able to learn more about the organization, and those who did not still had a great flying experience.

The JAARS crews were busy all day giving flights in the Robinson R44 helicopter and the Helio Courier.  The Aero Experience brings to you some views of the flights as seen from the flight operations area:



The Aero Experience thanks the JAARS staff for their hospitality and for setting the example for Aviation Service.  Thanks also to the staff and volunteers at Pekin Municipal Airport for producing a great Midwest Aviation community event.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pekin Municipal Airport 2016 Wings and Wheels: Part 2 - A Great Midwest Airport

By Carmelo Turdo
The 2016 Pekin, IL Municipal Airport Wings and Wheels event last Saturday was a model fly-in that attracted local residents to experience aviation at their community airport.  The sixth annual event featured about a hundred classic cars and motorcycles along with unique aircraft on display and flying throughout the day.  World War II-era Stearman and T-6 trainers flew several circuits around the airport, and the aerial aerial crop spraying demonstration kept our eyes to the skies.  As always, aviation people were happy to talk to the visitors and encourage them to learn about flying and their aircraft.  

In Part 2 of this series, The Aero Experience will take a look at this Midwest airport and its impact on central Illinois.  The airport offers a 5000'x75' E/W runway, low self-service fuel prices, and a pilot's lounge.  There is ample apron space and hangars available for home-based and transient aircraft.  Airport services include aircraft maintenance by Keith Aero, agricultural application by Brian Agricultural Aviation and Holzwarth Flying Service, and aerial imagery and survey services by Cruce Aviation.  Established in 1964 to serve the Pekin and neighboring Peoria areas, Pekin Municipal Airport reported that it supports over 10,000 aircraft movements (takeoffs or landings) per year, hosts 55 aircraft and occupies 215 acres of land.  It is also reported that at least 16 businesses use the airport on a regular basis.  According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the airport supports 26 related jobs and a total annual economic output of $3.1 million.

The Aero Experience spoke with Pekin Municipal Airport Manager, Clayton Stambaugh, during a short break in the action on Saturday.  This was his 4th Wings and Wheels event of the six such events, and he gave some context to the day's activities.  "This event was an open house to get people accustomed to the airport and to understand it," he said.  "We slowly added more.  We invited South Pekin to come in and add venders.  The car show was added to attract more people." 

Even though the airport is owned and operated by the City of Pekin, IL, it was not always seen as a valuable resource.  The Airport was previously managed by Byerly Aviation as mainly a paint facility until 2008.  When they moved their operations, the city now had to be closer to the daily operations.  The Airport Commission realized that the community was not engaged with the airport, and it was time to make the case of its value.  Even with the annual Wings and Wheels event and the known economic impact of the airport, there are still some who need to be won over.  "I go to the Council meeting and I just state the facts:  $3.1 million every year to the local economy on aeronautical activities alone," Stambaugh continued.  "We have a federal prison, and many of the businesses in town that are only here because they can come in and out via aircraft.  We operationally only cost about a dollar per year per citizen ($30-35,000)."

As with any property asset, maintenance of the grounds and facilities is an on-going need.  The all-important pavement on the runway, taxiways and apron is in good condition.  The grass is mowed and healthy.  A full-service maintenance shop has moved into the main hangar and can support the aircraft based at the airport.   These are all positive developments.  A number of improvements will be necessary in the near future to make the airport an even better asset to the City of Pekin.  Topping that list are the outside of the main terminal and the maintenance hangar, which are beginning to show their age.  The new maintenance business and flight training services will begin to add to the economic impact of the airport, and possibly more events and business traffic will add to the airport's value to the community and to the state of Illinois.  The case for these capital improvements to the airport may well be self-evident in the not so distant future.

There are several unique aircraft based at Pekin Municipal Airport.  A rare 1943 Piper L-4B Grasshopper with the Brodie System retrieval hook attached to the top of the wing was on display along with a large radio-controlled aircraft in the same likeness.  The L-4 was used mainly for U.S. Army artillery spotting and liaison duties wherever the Army was deployed.  As the U.S. forces moved across two theaters of war, they had to wait until airfields were captured or constructed before making critical observation flights.  A way to get the aircraft flying sooner came in the form of a launch and recovery system using cables strung along an LST boat.  The concept was invented by U.S. Army Transportation Corps Captain James Brodie.  Eight LSTs were converted for "carrier" use and were deployed on a limited basis in Europe and in the Pacific.  Information panels next to the aircraft on display explained the system.  

Another interesting aircraft in residence at the airport is the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II jet (s/n 64-0911) on display at the entrance to the road leading into the parking lot.  The F-4C model was a first generation USAF Phantom II interceptor that would soon become the standard jet fighter and tactical bomber of the 1960s and serve during the Vietnam War.  This aircraft flew with the 92nd TFS at RAF Brentwaters in the early 1970s and later in the Oregon Air National Guard.  It was flown in by a Skycrane helicopter in the late 1980s and is currently sporting the SI tail code of the 183rd TFW of the IL Air National Guard for display purposes.  It is owned by the National Museum of the USAF and is on loan to the airport.

The Aero Experience thanks the staff and volunteers that made the 2016 Pekin Municipal Airport Wings and Wheels an outstanding Midwest Aviation event.  We will continue with our coverage in Part 3, where we will focus on JAARS and the flights they gave on Saturday.

Smithville Lake Air Show: Midwest Aerial Entertainment By Land and By Sea

By Leo Cachat
The Aero Experience was back again for the second consecutive year at the Clay County Smithville Lake Air Show.  This year's airshow again proved to be a tremendous aerial event and a great Midwest Aviation experience.  

Upon arrival at the Midwest National Air Center, the airport hosting the Jesse James Outlaw Air Show later this year in August, I met John McCullaugh, a fellow photographer and friend of The Aero Experience.  We talked about this year's airshow and shared some stories while we waited for Jeff Shetterly, Lee Crouch , Brian Correll and Vincent Hill to coordinate the air to air photo shoot they were about to launch.  

Following the photo flight, the air show briefing was held and then it was off to meet up with the Missouri State Patrol Marine Division at Smithville Lake as I would be on the water in one of their boats to photograph the show.  This type of photography comes with it's own challenges, which I enjoy, and allows for a unique perspective of the aircraft flying in the show.

The flying itself was superb.  Brian Correll started off the show flying Jake Landis' black and yellow Pitts:

The Beech Nuts were next with a unique formation flight of various Beechcraft aircraft, including a beautiful missing man tribute:

As the Beech Nuts exited the show box, Bob Richards came diving into the show box in his red and white Pitts, flying a great show and occasionally flying low and slow over the water giving everyone a great look at his aircraft:

Sam Graves and Jeff Shetterly flew in formation to the delight of everyone in attendance.  Graves flew the AT-6 Texan with German markings and Shetterly flew his newly painted SNJ.  The unmistakable sound of the two big radial engines and the whining of the props filled the air as they made several passes through the box:

Jeff Shetterly then flew his aerobatic routine in the SNJ flying beautiful loops and  barrel rolls and a low dirty pass just above the water:

Greg Shetterly flew his Ruhn DR-107 One Design red, white and black aerobatic plane like a pro: 

Vincent Hill and the KC Flight Team took their turns impressing the Clay County Smithville Lake Air Show.  Hill flew his very attractive chrome and red T-28 Trojan across the showline several times in high speed, low altitude passes.  Then the KC Flight team flew several different formations above Smithville Lake:

Brian Correll and Bob Richards teamed up for the finale of this years show flying their Team Vortex act, consisting of several opposing maneuvers designed to get the adrenaline going for those watching from the ground:

The Aero Experience would like to thank Lee Crouch for inviting us to cover this great event.  We look forward to our return trip in August for the Jesse James Outlaw Air Show, which promises to be one of the best shows in the Midwest Aviation for 2016.