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, March 26, 2012

POW/MIA Traveling Memorial In Florissant, MO This Week

By Carmelo Turdo
The Traveling POW/MIA Exhibit, sponsored by the AMVETS Department of Missouri, is currently on display at the James J. Eagan Center in Florissant this week.  The exhibit features large panels containing memorials to Missouri residents killed or missing in our nation's armed conflicts.  Also included in the exhibit is the small table setting used in the POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony - a moving reminder of the contrast between the conditions of a prisoner of war and those of us still free in our own land.  Photo albums and diaries are also  available for the public to peruse and reflect upon the sacrifices of local veterans.  

Several St. Louis area residents are featured, namely Sergeant First Class Charles F. Prevedel and 1Lt. Michael J. Blassie, who were MIA for a significant period before being discovered and honored among the fallen.  U.S. Air Force A-37 pilot Lt. Blassie's remains were interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the Vietnam War from 1984 until 1998, when they were identified and transferred to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery near his St. Louis home.   

If you are in the St. Louis area, visit the exhibit and then give a hearty "Thank You" to veterans you know or meet in the future.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

EAA 64 and The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Provide Young Eagle Flights for Scout Troops

By Carmelo Turdo
EAA Chapter 64 and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum hosted over 120 local area Boy Scouts at St. Louis Downtown Airport on Saturday.  The Scouts received Young Eagle flights from EAA pilots flying five airplanes - a Piper Tripacer, 2 Cessna 172s, a Mooney M22 and a Piper Cherokee - and an R-44 Raven II helicopter from Central Illinois Air.  The day-long event also included a tour of the museum, a presentation on careers in aviation by members of the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command, and a tour of Parks College pilot training facility also located on the airport.  EAA 64 and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum provide flights and educational programs for large and small groups regularly throughout the spring, summer and fall.  For more information, please visit EAA Chapter 64 at and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum at  Here are some scenes from Saturday's events:


Benoist Aircraft and Centennial of Naval Aviation Presented at MO Aviation Historical Society Meeting

By Carmelo Turdo
Members of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society, a  group of St. Louis area aviation history scholars and enthusiasts, meet monthly to discuss topics of interest and assist each other in producing papers and books.  Many members of the Society are also members of other organizations, and many networking opportunities are available during each meeting.  The March meeting  featured member presentations on two unique topics: Benoist Aircraft and the Centennial of Naval Aviation.

Dr. Fred Roos, engineering professor at Washington University in St. Louis and well-regarded aviation historian, presented the meteoric rise and fall of the Benoist Aircraft Company in the St. Louis area.  From 1911-1917, Thomas Benoist produced increasingly advanced aircraft, including seaplanes, in his factory near Kinloch Field in what is now St. Louis County.  Inspired by the 1910 aviation meet, Benoist started the first aeronautical supply company, and began building Curtiss aircraft as his first product. 

Benoist Type XIV used in the first scheduled airline service
In the successive years, the Benoist factory built more advanced aircraft, the Type XIV being used on the first regularly scheduled airline service between Tampa and St. Petersburg Florida, January through March of 1914.  The Type XV was a twin-engined flying boat, with a wingspan of 65 feet, that was made in the St. Louis Car Company plant in downtown St. Louis.  

The Benoist factory was moved to Sandusky, Ohio in 1917 to be near the Roberts Engine factory. Thomas Benoist was killed in 1917 as he exited a street car, putting an end to the further development of the Benoist line of seaplanes.  Dr. Fred Roos commented, "If Benoist would not have met an early death, we may be flying on Benoist aircraft to this day."

Following Dr. Roos, Rich Dann, Captain, U.S. Navy Reserve, discussed the Centennial of Naval Aviation Heritage Paint Project.  27 aircraft were painted in vintage paint schemes in celebration of 100 years of naval aviation, with five of those aircraft painted in Perryville, MO by Sabreliner.  Captain Dann was responsible for developing the paint schemes and coordinating the Centennial of Flight program during 2 years of active duty from 2009-2011.  For photos of the aircraft, please visit the Centennial of Naval Aviation web site at

Visitors are welcome to the monthly meetings of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society.  Please check again soon for the announcement of the April meeting.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Aerospace Community Mourns the Passing of Sandy McDonnell

By Carmelo Turdo
The St. Louis aerospace community mourns the death of Sandy McDonnell, nephew of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation founder James S. McDonnell.  He died Monday, March 19, at the age of 89 of pancreatic cancer. 

(Boeing Photo)
Sandy took over  McDonnell Douglas Corporation (following the merger of the two aerospace giants) as President and later CEO in the early 1970s after working as an engineer and manager in early fighter jet programs.  He introduced a more relaxed leadership style than that of his uncle, and instituted business ethics reforms within the company.  In other areas of life, Sandy became President of the Boy Scouts of America and an elder in his church.   A memorial service will be held: 4 p.m. March 28 at Ladue Chapel, 9450 Clayton Road, Ladue.

Sandy McDonnell (behind his uncle James S. McDonnell) accompanies President Kennedy on factory tour in 1962. (Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum archives).
Sandy McDonnell hosts Defense Secretary Melvin Laird and U.S. Air Force officers to view a model of the  new F-15 Eagle in 1972. (Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum archives)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Director Paints Positive Image of Current Operations

By Carmelo Turdo
The Director of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, painted a positive image of current operations at the area's largest airport recently as a participant in the Distinguished Speaker Series held at the University of MO-St. Louis.  The speaker series features area leaders of notable achievement in business, and this month's theme was Women in business leadership. 

Ms Hamm-Niebruegge has been the airport director since January of 2010, inheriting a facility in very difficult circumstances.  In the 1980s, both Ozark Airlines, the regional airline, and TWA the major trunk air carrier, contributed the great majority of the flights.  During this time, 70% of the flights were connecting flights with low-yield tickets, and 78% of the traffic came from TWA.  This made the airport vulnerable to the loss of either airline.  By 2003 both airlines were absorbed into American Airlines, which would shortly thereafter abandon St. Louis as a hub in its operations.  In the decade since, and after a major expansion and additional debt, the airport has turned the corner and shows signs of becoming an economically viable enterprise again, in part due to the leadership of former director Richard Hrabko and now Ms Hamm-Niebruegge. 

Currently, operations at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport are very different from the past.  Though the airport is the 30th busiest in the U.S., down from 7th busiest in 2000, the mix of airlines and destinations has changed for the better in recent years. Southwest Airlines now provides 45% of the traffic, and 85% of the nearly 250 average total daily departures to 62 non-stop destinations are locally-generated, high-yield tickets.  More airlines are using the airport, and soon Alaska Airlines will have daily departures to the Great Northwest.  Lessons learned from past experience have contributed to improved operational plans, and the airport has become a stronger enterprise in just the last several years.

Perhaps the strongest example of the leadership team's ability under Ms Hamm-Niebruegge was the response to the tornado damage to the main terminal, already in the midst of a $90 million renovation.  The additional $50 million in damage, nearly all covered by insurance, created a crisis situation.  There were no fatalities and only a hand full of injuries, mostly due to advanced warning and quick reaction by airport staff.  Miraculously, the airport reopened within 24 hours and was soon back to nearly full capacity.  The airport won the TSA Airport of the Year in 2011 for its ability to secure the airport grounds and resume operations so quickly.  "It was a redefining moment," said Ms Hamm-Niebruegge, describing how the community and contractors came together to bring the airport back to operation.    

Still, there is more work to be done.  Attracting more airlines is still a priority, and increasing the number of cargo customers is also very important.  Currently, the airport receives only 2% of its revenue from cargo operations, wherein it should be at the 50% mark to insure against volatility in the passenger airline market.  Landing fees are still higher than average due to the high debt to expense ratio.  25% of traffic comes from regional jets, which with their lower landing weight generate lower revenues.  The airport still has not secured regular flights using larger cargo aircraft, which generate higher revenues.  Ms Hamm-Niebruegge and her leadership staff are working very hard to address these issues, and if they are half as successful as they were handling the challenges over the last few years, the future will look brighter for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Visit to Bonne Terre MO Features Planes, Trains and Automobiles

By Carmelo Turdo
During a recent visit to southeast Missouri, The Aero Experience stopped in Bonne Terre, not far from Farmington and Frederickstown.  We discovered unique representations of planes (at least a missile), trains and automobiles at various locations around town.  Here are some views of what we found as we satisfied our curiosities and the varying transportation interests of The Aero Experience contributors:

VFW Post 6883 featured a Nike Ajax Surface to Air Missile:

The Whistle Stop Saloon Featured Several Train Cars:

Local Car Dealer Provides a Great View of the Latest Jeep: