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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Memorial Mass Celebrated Today for Rainy Bell, Belleville, IL Area Resident and Aviation Icon

Lorraine "Rainy" Bell (right) and Carl "Chub" Wheeler,
Greater St. Louis Area Aviation Icons (Photo by Jack Abercrombie)

Rainy A. Bell (1922 - 2010)

Rainy A. Bell, 88, of Belleville, Ill., born Feb. 19, 1922, in O'Fallon, Ill., passed away Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, at home with wife, Carol and faithful companion Buddy at his side.

Mr. Bell retired from Army Aviation Systems Command as weapons systems manager and served in the Illinois Air National Guard. He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church. He received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot and Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Awards, and a War Department Commendation for exceptional civilian service. He was a member of Quiet Birdmen, Illinois Pilots Association, St. Louis Soaring Society, Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association, Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, Exchange Club, Thermaleers,  Masons and Shriners. He was a commercial pilot, aircraft and power plant technician, ground instructor, flight instructor, accident prevention counselor, aircraft inspector and glider pilot with a Silver Badge.

Rainy was a good and unselfish person, generous with his time, passionate about aviation, and had many life long friends.  He and Carol spent many happy days flying and at the Flying Dutchman and Aero Estates Airstrips.

(Above biography provided by

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Physics of Santa's Flight Confirm Annual Sightings

(Simon Howden/ image)

Have you even wondered about the physics behind Santa's annual round-the-world flight?  Check the link below, and you may be surprised at how he pulls it off!  (OK, a little magic may be needed to get things rolling).  Enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

He might also get little help now and then!

( photo)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Australian-Based Supermarine Aircraft Will Establish a Facility at Cisco Municipal Airport in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX

(Supermarine Aircraft Photo)

Brisbane, Australia-based Supermarine Aircraft will establish a facility at Cisco Municipal Airport to market their 80-90% Spitfire replica aircraft kits.  Supermarine has been producing these aircraft for about 16 years, and the company reports that the difference in size and complexity compared to the 100% aircraft reaps substantial savings to owners in operating costs and increased safety.   To learn more about Supermarine and the aircraft kit, visit

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sabreliner Corporation Perryville, MO Facility Rolls Out 3 Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation Aircraft

Sabreliner Corporation's Perryville, MO facility rolled out three aircraft in special Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation celebration paint schemes Monday.  The Aero Experience, in cooperation with the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, was privileged to attend the presentation of aircraft to Navy Captain (Commodore) John R. Rodriguez, TAW-6 commander, NAS Pensacola, Florida.  We wish to convey our deepest appreciation to the management and staff of Sabreliner Perryville for their gracious accommodation and professionalism during our visit.  We look forward to reporting on future Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation projects in the near future.

 T-39N Bn 165523 is painted to represent 1936/38 Pensacola training colors:

T-34C Bn 161841 is painted to represent 4th section leader USS Ranger circa 1935/36:

T-44A Bn 160984 is painted as a Navy Curtiss NC-4 Flying Boat 1919:

The three aircraft together form a handsome trio:

Navy Captain (Commodore) John Rodriguez arrived with his staff in his own T-39G Sabreliner jet to review the Centennial aircraft:

Captain Rodriguez also toured the Perryville, MO facility...

...where the next Centennial aircraft paint job is completed for T-34C Bn 164169,  commemorating pre-war U.S. Coast Guard colors:

For additional information about Sabreliner Corporation and the Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation, please visit:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Phantom Ray Program Manager Craig Brown Speaks at the St. Louis AIAA Chapter Meeting

Phantom Ray Rollout, May 10, 2011 (Boeing Photo)

Phantom Ray Program Manager Craig Brown spoke at the St. Louis AIAA Chapter Meeting at Boeing IDS Headquarters Dec. 16. The talk was especially timely in light of this week's ferry flight of the Phantom Ray atop the NASA 747 SCA and last month's successful low-speed taxi test at Lambert Airport. Brown, a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and AF Reserve F-16 pilot, served as X-45 software team lead prior to becoming Phantom Ray Program Manager. His presentation traced the development of both vehicles and offered insights on the flight test program scheduled for 2011. 

Mr. Brown described the development of the X-45A as a DARPA/Air Force project that completed 64 flights demonstrating multiple-vehicle autonomous missions. The short-lived X-45B joint Air Force and Navy project was quickly superseded by the X-45C. The X-45C was 90% complete when the Northrop-Grumman X-47 was selected for further development. That X-45C was completed as the Phantom Ray project, due for its first flight in March of 2011.

The dimensions and capabilities of the Phantom Ray are impressive. The vehicle has a 50' wingspan and grosses at 36,500 lbs. It is powered by a General Electric GE-404-102D (D for Dry-no afterburner) engine and can carry a variety of JDAM weapons. It is designed to fly at 40,000 feet, with a combat radius of 1100 miles with auxiliary internal fuel. It has an aluminum/composite skin construction, and contains all-electric flight controls. Advanced construction methods preclude easy disassembly, thus the need for the NASA 747 SCA for transport to Edwards AFB earlier this week.

The Phantom Ray is the result of new management practices in advanced vehicle engineering. The Phantom Works division at Boeing employs rapid prototyping, which will continually produce prototypes within 24-30 month cycles using product teams with close relationships between engineering and production workers. The Phantom Ray is a product of these management practices, going from X-45C to Phantom Ray, a new vehicle internally, between 2009 and first flight in 2011.

Progress on the Phantom Ray project has accelerated. Rollout of the vehicle occurred on May 10, 2010, and taxi tests were conducted on November 18. The ferry flight to Edwards AFB was on December 14, and first flight is scheduled for early March 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Phantom Ray Departs Lambert Airport on Test Flight Atop NASA 747 SCA; Flies to Edwards AFB Next Day

(Boeing Photo)

Boeing Press Release

The Boeing Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system sits atop a NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747, as it takes off at 1:40 p.m. Central time for today's test flight at Lambert International Airport. The 50-minute flight was conducted in preparation for Phantom Ray's upcoming transport on the SCA to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"This is exciting not just because it's the first time that an aircraft other than the space shuttle has flown on the SCA, but also because it puts Phantom Ray that much closer to making its first flight," said Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing.

The SCA flights with Phantom Ray are being conducted under a Boeing-funded, commercial Space Act Agreement with NASA. Once Phantom Ray arrives at Dryden, it will undergo ground and high-speed taxi tests to prepare for its first flight in early 2011.

Phantom Ray is one of several programs in Boeing's Phantom Works division that are part of the company's rapid prototyping initiative to design, develop and build advanced aircraft and then demonstrate their capabilities.

The Phantom Ray/747 combo flew to Edwards AFB, CA December 14.

Boeing Submits Proposal for 2nd Round of NASA Commercial Crew Development Program

Commercial Crew Development CST-100 (Boeing Graphic)

Commercial Crew Development CST-100 Mockup (Boeing Photo)

Boeing Press Release

Boeing today submitted its proposal for the second round of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Boeing plans to advance the design of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft and Commercial Crew Transportation System and continue to demonstrate key technologies.

"In the same way that Boeing helped launch commercial aviation more than 80 years ago, we are working to develop what could become a true commercial space transportation system: a commercial service to take people to the International Space Station and other Low Earth Orbit destinations," said Brewster Shaw, Boeing Space Exploration vice president and general manager. "We plan to further mature our design and continue the development process toward our first crewed flight in 2015."

Boeing is proposing an approach that will significantly mature the CST-100 design through demonstrations of critical subsystems. The CST-100 spacecraft is designed to support NASA's primary objective of affordable access to Low Earth Orbit. It will carry up to seven crew and passengers, is reusable up to 10 times, and is compatible with a variety of expendable launch vehicles. The spacecraft -- which is comprised of a Crew Module and a Service Module -- draws on Apollo-proven aerodynamic characteristics in a design that uses commercial, off-the-shelf, cost-effective technologies.

Boeing will build on its efforts performed under the first round of the CCDev program, which greatly reduced program risk. In October, Boeing completed a Systems Definition Review with NASA that defined the CST-100 spacecraft’s system characteristics and configuration and established a baseline design. Other major accomplishments of the first round include:

Design, build and test of a pressurized structure of the crew module

Creation of a mock-up of the spacecraft to ensure the crew can enter and exit the vehicle safely, reach control switches and easily see through windows

Demonstration of manufacturability of the base heat shield structure and thermal protection system to protect the crew during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere

Development of an avionics systems integration facility to support rapid prototyping and full-scale development

Development of a rendezvous sensor and associated guidance and navigation software that allows the vehicle to autonomously approach and dock with the International Space Station and the planned Bigelow Orbital Space Complex

Demonstration of airbag land landing, water landing, post-water landing uprighting and life-support systems.

"We look forward to continuing our joint efforts with NASA to ensure CCDev’s success,” said Shaw. “Enabling commercial-crew access to Low Earth Orbit allows NASA to focus on deep space exploration and thereby ensure a continued leadership role for the U.S. in human spaceflight for generations to come."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Boeing Preparing Phantom Ray for Flight Out of St. Louis on Top of NASA SCA Boeing 747

(Boeing Photo)

Boeing will soon ferry its Phantom Ray to Edwards AFB, CA on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 747 .  A local test flight of the combination will occur before the departure for California.  Be sure to visit Boeing' website at for updates. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Missouri Aviation Historical Society Meeting Features Presentation by Author Tom Doll

Aviation Author Tom Doll Spoke at the Recent MO AHS Meeting

Aviation historian and author Tom Doll, a member of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society, gave a presentation that included rare color photos and video of pre and post World War II naval aviation.  Doll has authored or contributed to many publications, including SBC Helldiver in Action (Aircraft No. 151), Chance Vought F-4U Corsair (Aero No. 11), USN/USMC Over Korea: U.S. Navy/Marine Corps Air Operations Over Korea 1950-53 (Aircraft Specials series 6048) to name a few.  Doll spent part of his career at the Lockheed Skunk Works, preparing aircraft surfaces for such aircraft as the F-104 Starfighter and SR-71 Blackbird.  The Missouri Aviation Historical is very fortunate to have him as a member!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Space X Launches Falcon 9 Rocket With Dragon Spacecraft into Earth Orbit; Spacecraft Recovered Safely

Dragon Spacecraft (Space X Photo)

Falcon 9 Rocket (Space X Photo)

Space X Falcon 9 launched the Dragon Spacecraft this morning on a two-orbit demonstration flight.  The spacecraft was recovered on target about 500 miles off California. 

Space X provides the following information on the Dragon Spacecraft:

Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft being developed by SpaceX under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Initiated internally by SpaceX in 2005, the Dragon spacecraft is made up of a pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members.

The Dragon spacecraft is comprised of 3 main elements: the Nosecone, which protects the vessel and the docking adaptor during ascent; the Spacecraft, which houses the crew and/or pressurized cargo as well as the service section containing avionics, the RCS system, parachutes, and other support infrastructure; and the Trunk, which provides for the stowage of unpressurized cargo and will support Dragon’s solar arrays and thermal radiators.

In December 2008, NASA announced the selection of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires. The $1.6 billion contract represents a minimum of 12 flights, with an option to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion.

Though designed to address cargo and crew requirements for the ISS, as a free-flying spacecraft Dragon also provides an excellent platform for in-space technology demonstrations and scientific instrument testing. SpaceX is currently manifesting fully commercial, non-ISS Dragon flights under the name “DragonLab”. DragonLab represents an emergent capability for in-space experimentation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boeing Delivers First 3 F-15K Slam Eagles Under Next Fighter II Contract

(Boeing Photo)

Boeing Press Release - December 7, 2010

DAEGU AIR BASE, Republic of Korea, Dec. 7, 2010 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] on Nov. 8 delivered three F-15K Slam Eagles to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) at Daegu Air Base. The company delivered the first three of 21 F-15Ks it is producing under the Next Fighter II contract to the ROKAF in September. The remaining 15 aircraft will be delivered through March 2012.

"Boeing is honored to deliver these highly advanced fighters to the ROKAF," said Roger Besancenez, Boeing F-15 Program vice president. "We will continue to work closely with our ROKAF customers to prepare for upcoming deliveries that will provide them with superior air combat capability, as we remain committed to our goal of completing the deliveries on budget and on schedule, as promised."

Six of the new F-15K Slam Eagles are scheduled to participate in an advanced aerial combat training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in late 2011.

The F-15K is an advanced variant of the combat-proven F-15E. Equipped with the latest technological upgrades, it is extremely capable, survivable and maintainable. The aircraft's service life is planned through 2040, with technology insertions and upgrades throughout its life cycle. Boeing completed delivery of 40 Next Fighter I F-15K aircraft to the ROKAF in October 2008.

Remember Our Veterans on Pearl Harbor Day Today

Special Thanks to the Tora! Tora! Tora! Team for recognizing the veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Aero Experience Museum Destination: Tulsa Air & Space Museum Celebrates Local Aerospace History

Tulsa Air & Space Museum Main Hall

Planetarium Entrance

Balcony view of F-14 and Nearby Displays

Spartan Aircraft C-2-60 (Above) and NP-1

One-of-a-Kind Ranger 1990s JPATS Trainer Competitor 

Bell 47 Previously Owned by Tulsa Resident Glenn Wright

Hu-Go Craft VPS Experimental Class Biplane

Radial Aircraft Engine Display

Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation 2011: Watch for These Aircraft With Vintage Paint Schemes

During the 2011 U.S. Navy Centennial of Flight Celebration events, a variety of vintage paint schemes will be displayed on current Navy aircraft.  The Perryville, MO Sabreliner plant is currently painting some aircraft in Centennial colors.  Here are some recent pictures of T-39 Sabreliner and    T-44 Pegasus aircraft undergoing retro paint processing.

(Mark Nankivil Photo)

(Mark Nankivil Photo)
(Mark Nankivil Photo)

(Mark Nankivil Photo)

(Mark Nankivil Photo)

(Mark Nankivil Photo)

Also visit for coverage of an S-3B Viking painted in World War II naval aircraft colors!

Below is a list of current and pending Centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation aircraft projects:

Completed aircraft  T-45C - Yellow Wings (Black Tail)
T-45C - Yellow Wings (Blue Tail)
HH-60H - HAL-3 " TH-57C - 1916 with anchor insignia
MH-60S - 1950s Sea Blue
MH-60S - 1950s Sea Blue
T-6B - Trainer Yellow - complete, new at factory
S-3B - Battle of Midway
F/A-18F - Navy Working Uniform
MH-60R - Three-tone WWII

Currently being painted:
T-39N - Yellow Wings (Blue Tail)
TC-12B - 1942 with red and white rudder
T-44 - NC-4 Flying Boat (1919)

Planned/Not started:
T-34C - USCG 1930s
T-34C - USMC 1930s
T-34C - USN 1930s
F/A-18C - USNR 1950s
F/A-18 - Three-tone WWII
EA-6B - Coral Sea
EA-18G - Three-tone WWII
F/A-18C - T&E Paint
F/A-18C - Shangri La Air Group Glossy Sea Blue (tentative)
EA-6B - 1970s
F/A-18C - Mid-WWII
P-3C - VP-44 Battle of Midway
P-3C - Seaplane Gray/White
UH-1N - USMC MoH aircraft

(Source: PaintSquare, Dec. 3, 2010)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Australian Air Force F-111 Fleet Retires December 3

The last F-111s in active service were set to retire from the Royal Australian Air Force December 3, to be replaced by F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

Out with the old... 

(USAF Photo)

In with the New...

(Boeing Photo)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Secret X-37B Space Plane Set to Land This Weekend

(USAF Photo)

The U.S. Air Force Boeing X-37B is set to land at Vandenberg AFB, CA sometime between December 3-6, according to a November 30 Air Force statement.  The vehicle was launched April 22 aboard an Atlas V booster, and is designed to orbit up to 270 days and automatically reenter and land.  Little is positively known about the spacecraft or its mission, but another test vehicle is planned for launch next year.

UPDATE: The X-37B landed at 1:16 a.m. PT December 3 at Vandenberg AFB, CA after a 220 day mission since its launch on April 22. 

(Boeing Photo)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Privatize Lambert Airport? Lt. Governor Peter Kinder Floats the Idea, St. Louis Mayor Slay Disagrees

(Lambert St. Louis International Airport Photo)

Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder this week suggested that the City of St. Louis sell Lambert St. Louis International Airport to private investors in order to improve service and relieve the city of the burden of owning and operating an under-performing airport.  This may ease the operational costs in the short run, but there would not be a large windfall.  Mayor Francis Slay, in his response, pointed out that the FAA does not allow the use of revenue from the sale of an airport to cover other costs of the former owner.  Also, with the political mistrust that exists between the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the state of Missouri, sale of the airport to an entity other than a regional authority, Slay wrote, would not bring about any improvement in the performance of the airport.  Although the sale of Lambert Airport is not practical at this time, at least there is a recognition of a problem (airport), and that may be the first step toward a solution.