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, March 5, 2015

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014: Women in Aviation - Amelia Rose Earhart
Fred Harl and Carmelo Turdo
Women In Aviation Week and The Aero Experience coverage of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 continue with a look back at the public appearance of Amelia Rose Earhart with her aircraft at the Pilatus exhibit. The open press conference was held to acknowledge the crew and sponsors of the Around the World flight completed just weeks earlier that traced the path  Amelia Earhart flew unsuccessfully in 1937.  On July 11, 2014, Amelia Rose Earhart and co-pilot Shane Jordan landed the Pilatus PC-12NG at Oakland International Airport, CA to complete the 18-day, 24,300 mile flight around the world. 

Amelia Rose Earhart, a newscaster and pilot since 2010, set out on the flight in part to raise awareness and promote the Fly With Amelia Foundation that funds scholarships for young women interested in pursuing careers in aviation.  While passing over Howland Island, the last known location of Amelia Earhart on her 1937 flight, Amelia Rose Earhart announced the first ten Fly With Amelia Foundation scholarship winners.

Amelia Rose Earhart and Shane Jordan shared some of the highlights of the trip (there were no dramatic moments) and stayed afterward to meet visitors.  The Pilatus PC-12NG used on the flight was on display all week, and some views of the inside of the aircraft are featured below.  For those in St. Louis, Amelia Rose Earhart will be the featured speaker at the Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association Aviation Awards Banquet next weekend.  For reservations, contact the GSLFIA today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fly Now! The Movie Continues Production as Spring Approaches in the Midwest

By Carmelo Turdo
The Aero Experience is proud to support the production of Fly Now! The Movie, a "Reality Aviation Documentary" (RAD) that will illustrate why we fly and more broadly, why we live.  The project will continue through the fall of this year.  Major production sessions will be held at Sun'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in April and at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 in July.  

"The Aero Experience enthusiastically supports the Fly Now! The Movie project," said Carmelo Turdo, Founder of The Aero Experience.  "The movie fits directly into our mission of celebrating Midwest Aviation, and it will make the connection between why we fly and why we live to a larger audience.  We will support the project with our media resources and join the crew in as many locations as possible throughout the year." 

The Aero Experience has covered the accomplishments of Brian Kissinger, two-time brain cancer survivor, author of Life Short, Fly Now! and Executive Producer of Fly Now! The Movie.  His ability to overcome significant medical and personal setbacks to remain a participant in aviation (including world speed records in the LSA aircraft category) is well known to our audience.  The movie project, though, is different than previous endeavors.  "You can't script life," Kissinger said during the filming of the promotional movie trailer.  "More importantly, what we're doing for the movie is (for) aviation.  It's (about) a lot of people's lives, not just mine."   
Here is the latest movie trailer:

Please support the movie by giving generously to our movie fund and connecting us with contacts for corporate sponsors.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Young Pilot Turns Inspiration Into Reality, Sets Lofty Goals for Aviation Career

Adrianne Weber
By Carmelo Turdo
The Midwest Aviation community has a long legacy of great achievers, and more are joining the aviator ranks every day.  One of those bright new faces of aviation is the St. Louis area's Adrianne Weber, who received her Private Pilot Certificate at Air Associates of Missouri at Spirit of St. Louis Airport on February 19.  The achievement was the culmination of much hard work, and the beginning of another round of training for additional pilot ratings.  The Aero Experience visited with Adrianne Weber recently, and found her story to be one that will inspire the rest of us to keep working until we achieve no less than the goals we set in life.

Adrianne Weber's successful flight exam was completed after months of dedication toward attaining that goal.  After enrolling in flight training at Air Associates of Missouri, she soloed in a Cessna 172 in September of 2014 and continued training under the tutelage of instructor Peter Gibbs.  Weber flew three lessons per week when possible and used the self-study Cessna web-based ground school materials to prepare for the written exam, which she passed with a 92% score.  She kept up her rigorous flight training schedule while pursuing her bachelor's degree in Education as a full-time student at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, working at Air Associates of Missouri 10 hrs/week, working at the nearby Spirit Pilot Shop 5-10 hrs/week and doing other odd jobs as well.     

Weber also credited Air Associates of Missouri for their team-centered approach to flight training.  “Air Associates of Missouri is very student-centered.  It is a big community,” she said.  "All departments help students succeed – office staff, instructors, maintenance...all contribute to student success."  There was also a good working relationship with her flight instructor, Peter Gibbs, a Parks College of St. Louis University graduate with a degree in Flight Science.  “There is a level of respect between student and instructor," Weber continued.  She regards Gibbs as “very smart” with an ability to intuitively know when to stop bad habits in flying.  He always keeps training relevant.    

Adrianne Weber and
Patty Wagstaff
(Adrianne Weber photo)
Adrianne Weber with
Doug Gardner
(Doug Gardner photo)
Adrianne Weber recognizes others who have helped her along the way to make her dream of flight a reality.  Her parents are first to mind.  They fueled a passion for flight by bringing her to airshows and encouraging her to follow her dreams.  Weber took an introductory flight at the age of 15, and even though she did not continue with lessons, she continued to get her education and plan for the future.  Seeing Patty Wagstaff perform at the 2013 Fair St. Louis airshow inspired to her to consider going back into pilot training.  Then in May of 2014, her father arranged for the opportunity of a lifetime - meet the legendary (St. Louis-born) Patty Wagstaff and serve as part of her crew for the Spirit of St. Louis Airshow with The Aero Experience friend Doug Gardner.  Weber learned to preflight and refuel Wagstaff's aircraft and this time experience the airshow at the side of the First Lady of aerobatics.  The pursuit of aerobatic training has become a new priority, along with the attainment of an instrument rating and commercial pilot license in the near future.

Adrianne Weber with
Grandfather, Roger Weber
on a  flight over St. Louis
(Adrianne Weber photo)
Adrianne Weber also recognizes the value of being mentored, especially by other women in a traditionally male field.  She also "walks the walk" when it comes to encouraging other women to enter the field of aviation by mentoring a young lady working toward her first solo flight. "It is important to know other women in the aviation field to make connections and encourage each other," she said.  She also gives this advice to anyone beginning flight instruction and for life in general: “Keep your eyes on the goal.  Don’t let setbacks stop your progress.  Work as hard as you can.  At the end of the day you can say you put all of your effort into achieving your goals.”  




Saturday, February 28, 2015

Flying With the Eagles: A Bald Eagle Census Flight Along the Mississippi River

The Aero Experience is proud to feature a guest post by Mr. Robert McDaniel, EAA Chapter 64 Young Eagles Coordinator and great friend to the St. Louis area aviation community.  He recently volunteered to fly a bald eagle spotting mission with the World Bird Sanctuary staff in his Cessna 172, and wrote this article published in the March 2015 edition of the EAA Chapter 64 newsletter, The Flying Wire.  Reprinted with permission.  Photos by The Aero Experience.

Flying With the Eagles  By Bob McDaniel

A couple of years ago, I heard that the World Bird Sanctuary was looking for volunteer pilots to fly “eagle census flights” along the Mississippi River. It sounded like fun, but work and family commitments didn’t leave much time for volunteer flying. The Sanctuary put out a call for pilots again last fall and I sent them my name and qualifications. Thanks to Carmelo Turdo’s AeroExperience blog, plenty of pilots stepped forward this year and they would be calling them in the order they volunteered. My name finally made it to the top of the list in February and I got the call to go flying.

The flight was planned for Friday, Feb. 13th, which turned out to be a nice day for eagle watching. Although it was quite cold, only 19 degrees at show time, the relatively calm winds and high overcast cloud deck made for a perfect eagle counting flight.

They only make census flights early in the morning, when the eagles are most active, looking for their breakfast. That required rolling out of bed at 0600 to get to the airport and have the plane ready to go by 0730. I met Jeffrey Meshach, Director of the World Bird Sanctuary, his assistant and an intern at Ideal Aviation where we did a quick safety briefing and discussed the route of flight and their counting procedures.
We were in the air before 0800 and headed toward the locks at Alton where we would begin our count. We dropped down to 700 feet above the water and flew over the Illinois side of the river all the way to a point about 10 miles north of Quincy, Illinois. My job was to closely follow the varying contour of the winding riverbank, staying over the water about 200 feet from the riverbank, while maintaining a speed of no more than 90 to 100 mph. That meant throttling way back and almost constantly changing the bank angle to maintain the proper position along the winding river.

Preflight planning the night before included precise fuel burn and weight and balance planning, to ensure we were one pound under my Skyhawk’s maximum gross weight, while carrying enough fuel to complete the flight with adequate reserves. I also studied the route and made a log of ATIS, AWOS, Approach Control, Tower, and Unicom frequencies for all the nearby airports on both sides of the river along the way. Although we touched the edge of St. Louis Regional’s airspace and were very close to the traffic pattern at St. Charles, we had no air traffic conflicts as everyone else was flying well above our cruising altitude.

Of course, at that altitude, you must keep a constant watchful eye for engine out landing areas, remembering that in some areas the river bluff on our side of the river was as much as 500 feet above the river and heavily wooded. Sometimes the best choice was on our side of the river and, at other times, the best choice was a glide to the flat muddy bottom land on the opposite side. There’s not much room for error when the river’s over a mile wide and your power off gliding distance is barely a mile from 700 feet without a headwind.

Very quickly after reaching the census area, the observers began calling out eagle sightings while the director marked them down on the very detailed river terrain map he carried with him on a clipboard. Special attention was given to nests they had observed on previous flights that had been pre-marked on their maps. They marked every location where an eagle was spotted and they were categorized as adults or juveniles and flying or perched. I spotted five eagles that were flying directly in front of my windscreen on three separate occasions. All of those moved gracefully off to our side and gave us a casual glance as we flew by them. We only had to take evasive action once to avoid a large flock of snow geese flying directly in front of us at our exact same altitude. In addition to several large flocks of geese, we saw many flocks of ducks, gulls, pelicans, and even a large flock of wild turkeys on the ground below us.

As I mentioned earlier, the high overcast made for smooth flying conditions. However, when we were flying alongside the steep river cliffs and adjacent rolling hills, they did create some gentle rolling mechanical turbulence. Those gentle rotors, accompanied by the constantly changing bank, took their toll on the intern who was a first-time flyer. About an hour into the 3-1/2 hour flight, she asked how much longer we would be flying. I took the hint and handed her a “sick sack” which she proceeded to fill about 10 minutes later. It’s rather difficult to count eagles with your head inside a white plastic bag. Fortunately, she only assumed that position twice more during the flight.

After flying along the Illinois side of the river for 153 miles, we made a gentle turn toward the Missouri side of the river and continued the count as we wound our way back down the river toward Alton. By the time we reached the end of the census area, we had counted 385 eagles, with each of their positions accurately mapped, and had logged 3.4 hours of flying time. Although it had been a long time since I had made a flight of that duration, the time seemed to pass much faster. There was certainly nothing boring about the flight. It was a very enjoyable day.
The World Bird Sanctuary has been doing aerial surveys 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.