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

Friday, February 12, 2016

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015: Exhibitors - The Heart of the Alphabet

Fred Harl and Carmelo Turdo made it to the heart of the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 alphabet, with great representation of the J-N exhibitors.  Our selection includes aircraft in the light sport, experimental and production categories along with other suppliers.     

Just Aircraft

The Walhalla, SC-based Just Aircraft has become known for its brand of Light Sport bush planes that takeoff and land in very short distances.  The aircraft come in kit and quick-build forms, and have options for advanced aerodynamic and avionics packages.  With names like SuperSTOL, Highlander and Escapade, it is no secret that these aircraft are both practical and fun to fly.

Kitfox Aircraft

Located at Homedale Municipal Airport in Idaho, Kitfox was acquired by John and Debra McBean in 2006 to continue the development of quality kit-build aircraft based on the Denney/SkyStar designs.  The current S7 Super Sport is the latest Light Sport Aircraft offering that can be fitted with various landing gear and power plant options. 

Lancair International

The Redmond, OR-based Lancair International has been manufacturing advanced composite aircraft kits since its founding by Lance A. Neibauer in the early 1980s.  Since then, Lancair has gained a reputation for designing and producing some of the most beautiful and aerodynamically efficient aircraft for customers around the world.  Powered by piston and turboprop engines, the Lancair, Legacy and Evolution lines have become standard high-performance general aviation and racing aircraft.  Often they are easy to spot with their curvy shapes and bold paint schemes!


Since 1929, Lycoming has been powering aircraft with radial and in-line engines (following the manufacture of automobile engines starting in 1910).  Since then, Lycoming has become a premier supplier of reliable and high-performance aircraft engines found on many types, including those flown by many airshow performers who rely on their engine during low-speed, low-altitude, high angle of attack passes.  The Lycoming exhibit often features aerobatic aircraft, including this Extra 300L.

Mahindra Aerospace

Mahindra Aerospace was formed in 2009 to expand the global market for Indian aerospace manufacturing of support equipment worldwide.  In 2010, Aerostaff Australia was purchased, and the Australian GippsAero Airvan 8 and 10 have become their staple utility aircraft capable of operating in difficult to reach areas around the world.  A notable site in the U.S. is the fleet of 16 GA-8 Airvans used by the Civil Air Patrol, the USAF Auxiliary. 

Meyers Aircraft

The Meyers Aircraft Company has had many forms and owners over the years since Allen Meyers founded the company in the 1930s.  The OTW and Meyers 200 series were the most well-known of his designs before the rights to production were bought by Rockwell in an ill-fated attempt to gain civilian aircraft market share.  Later versions of the Meyers 200 series were marketed as the Rockwell Commander, Interceptor turboprop and a FAC/COIN derivative.  The current exhibit was under the Meyers Movement, a community of Meyers owner/operators who work to keep the fleet flying and growing.

Mooney International Corporation

Mooney International Corporation is the current form of the legendary Mooney Aviation Company with its main facility in Kerrville, TX.  It was most recently purchased by the Soaring American Corporation, backed by Taiwanese investors, to restart production of the Acclaim and Ovation models and increase access to the Chinese market.  Several new models are to be offered in the next several years.  Here we have the exhibit and some classic Mooney aircraft flying in and out of the airport.

Nextant Aerospace

Cleveland, OH-based Nextant Aerospace offers remanufactured and enhanced aircraft to the business aviation market.  Currently, they offer the Beechjet 400A/XP and Beech C90XT King Air with advanced flight controls, avionics and environmental systems installed.  A beautiful King Air was on display during the week.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

2016 Year In Aviation Service: Midwest Aviation Community Provides Bald Eagle Census Flights Along the Mississippi River

The Midwest Aviation community has again joined together to assist local experts monitoring the bald eagle population along the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, MO.  This year’s bald eagle census flights, coordinated by Valley Park-based World Bird Sanctuary, are flown weekly when possible through the winter migratory season.  Local pilots have again answered the call by volunteering their time and aircraft to exemplify the spirit of The Aero Experience’s new series, 2016 Year In Aviation Service.

By Carmelo Turdo
“From late December through hopefully mid-March, I try to get a flight in per week,” explained World Bird Sanctuary Director Jeffrey Meshach.  Cold weather is what pushes the eagles down from their breeding territories in south central Canada and the north central U.S.  Traditionally, the freeze/thaw line in the middle of the U.S. is around St. Louis, which usually gives Missouri and Illinois the second largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states.”  The flights will taper off once the warmer weather arrives and the eagles and other migratory birds fill the air and become a collision hazard. 

Bob McDaniel's Cessna 172
The Aero Experience arranged to report on the recent February 4 bald eagle census flight with pilot Bob McDaniel, World Bird Sanctuary Director Jeffrey Meshach and Paige Meshach flying out of Ideal Aviation at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL.  McDaniel, a veteran military and civilian pilot who had flown two bald eagle census flights prior to this one, volunteered his time, skill and beautiful Cessna 172 Skyhawk aircraft for another trip up the Mississippi River.  “I thoroughly enjoy flying the census flights,” McDaniel told The Aero Experience.  “It’s something different and I enjoy meeting the people involved.  It’s enjoyable, but also challenging to fly smoothly and precisely while maintaining the proper altitude and optimum distance from the riverbank.”  The Cessna 172 is the Ideal aircraft for the flights, since it can seat four comfortably, fly reliably and economically and have enough reserve fuel capacity for the 3-hour flight.  

Jeffrey Meshach (L) and Paige Meshach brief the flight
with pilot Bob McDaniel
Eagle survey flights start early in the morning when the bald eagles are perched by the river and catching fish.  Flight planning, though, requires precise calculation of weight and balance, fuel consumption, air traffic control communication and navigation.    Briefing for the flight began around 7:20am, and they took off around 7:45am.  The census counting began over the locks in Alton, IL and proceeded on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River until reaching about 10 miles north of Quincy, IL (about 150 miles).  The census counting continued along the Missouri side of the river heading back towards Alton.   McDaniel made sure to follow the contours of the riverbanks while flying at about 700 feet and between 90-100 mph.  Maintaining proper position along the route takes constant adjustment to the heading and bank angle of the aircraft, making it a challenge for census counters new to flying to retain their breakfast at first. 

The crew prepares to taxi for takeoff 
Pilot Bob McDaniel is ever mindful of the challenges of flying an effective bald eagle census flight.  Maintaining situational awareness and preparing for contingencies are critical factors in planning and executing the mission.  “While there are few traffic conflicts with other aircraft, it’s important to maintain situational awareness, monitor various airport frequencies, and make appropriate traffic reports as we pass by several airports along the way,” he said.  “Because we fly over the water at the minimum legal altitude, I’m always looking for suitable emergency landing areas and thinking what the wind would do to our engine-out glide path.”  Flying the low-altitude, low-speed mission profile also has it’s unforgettably positive moments.  “Occasionally, we get to fly right alongside soaring eagles…what a beautiful sight,” McDaniel added.

World Bird Sanctuary Director Jeffrey Meshach was very pleased with McDaniel and the flight.  “Bob is an excellent pilot,” he told The Aero Experience.  “Even after just 2 flights this census season, he's mastered the ability to keep the observers the perfect distance from the river bank.  The eagles are almost always in the trees right at the river bank because the majority of their food comes from the river.  Being able to see the river bank perfectly makes our census all the more accurate.” 


Pilot Bob McDaniel (L), Jeffrey Meshach and Paige Meshach
Meshach noted that 292 bald eagles were recorded along with known nests during the flight.  The bald eagles were recorded as either adult or juvenile, and as perched or flying.   Other migrating birds were identified along the way, adding to the overall evaluation of the health of the species wintering along the Mississippi River. 

Meshach mentioned that he saw 193 bald eagles last week, about one-third as many seen in past years.  One reason for the low winter counts: Asian carp.  “I am of the opinion that the Asian carp have destroyed the population of gizzard shad, which is the native fish that used to feed all of the birds over the winter,' he said.  "Unfortunately, the eagles can’t eat the carp because they go deep during cold weather - they go to the bottom of the river.”

The summer bald eagle population is showing an increase, however.  “In the summer, they eat them (Asian carp), and there are more now nesting in Missouri than there have been in many years," Meshach remarked.  "They continue to increase their numbers - their nesting numbers - in Missouri.  There were 262 nests in Missouri last year and they will probably be in the 270s this year.” 

More flights will follow as long as enough pilots volunteer to provide the flights. 

The World Bird Sanctuary has been doing census flights of bald eagles along the Mississippi River throughout the winter for over 30 years. The Sanctuary is located in Valley Park, Missouri, on the opposite side of the road from Lone Elk Park. It is open from 8 to 5 every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas, with free entry and free parking. There’s something there for everyone with free seasonal shows, nature trails, educational programs and picnic pavilions. Their live displays of bald eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, vultures, parrots, reptiles and other birds and critters are popular with all ages. Visit their web site at for more information.

Editor's note: Portions of this article were acquired through interviews with the participants and previous year's background materials still relevant to the current year.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015: Exhibitors - The "I's" Have It!

Fred Harl and Carmelo Turdo AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 exhibitors represented a wide range of aviation products and services, and those in our "I" category are great examples of this diversity.  Included in our incredible inventory are a missionary aviation service, an amphibian, an EAA exhibit, and a new composite aircraft. 

IAMA Missionary Aviation

The International Aviation Missionary Association (IAMA) had a significant presence again at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015.  IAMA includes over 70 member organizations whose mission is to spread the Christian Gospel across the world.  One of the members, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), uses it's aviation resources, including the hefty Quest Kodiak turboprop aircraft on floats, to share the Gospel through practical as well as spiritual service.  MAF provides disaster relief, medical services, food and water development expertise along with their evangelic message.

Icon Aircraft

Icon Aircraft has been heavily promoting its new amphibious aircraft for several years at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.  The A5 can be trucked to an airport or waterway like a boat, and puts the Light Sport amphibian into another available class of aviation.  The design includes advanced materials and cockpit design as well as spin resistant airframe and recovery parachute.  Orders for the $200,000 aircraft were first delivered in 2015.

Innovation Center at Gateway Park

The EAA Innovation Center was dedicated on Monday during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015.  Jack Pelton, CEO of EAA, was present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.  “To be fitting with EAA’s Mission, which is to inspire, to get people interested in aviation, to have people become passionate every year…That’s what created this entire new and dynamic environment that we’re very, very excited about.  This will be a very central place to be during AirVenture 2015.”  The lead sponsor, Piper Aircraft, was represented by President and CEO Simon Caldecott. Inside the Innovation Center tent one could find NASA's Mars mission display and a plethora of drone models and simulators that were unquestionably very popular. 

The Ion Aircraft Model 100 kit/Model 120 factory-built Light Sport Aircraft and the Model 105 Experimental Aircraft are currently in the pre-production phase.  An unfinished and completed aircraft were on display, revealing the clean lines and overall size of the aircraft.  The company formed to design a new aircraft in the wake of the cancellation of their initial choice, the DreamWings Valkyrie.