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!
Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team
In the airshow business, the mere mention of the name John Mohr conjures up visions of a low-flying Stearman seemingly defying gravity as it floats by in some odd angle past an awestruck crowd. Mohr, grandson of a real barnstormer who was a friend of Charles Lindbergh, has been a modern barnstormer for over 25 years. He is a commercial airline captain and examiner, but he has more than half of his 25,000 hours in general aviation aircraft. Recipient of the Bill Barber Award and the Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award, John Mohr is recognized as one of the most accomplished and sought-after airshow performers in the nation. Here are some views of his performance at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012:
Here is some video from Fair St. Louis airshow in 2011 (Carmelo Turdo)
An interesting sighting occurred this week at St. Louis Downtown Airport - a P337H Skymaster, 1995 Riley Super Rocket conversion to pressurized cabin. The aircraft was in excellent outward condition and what looked like the burgundy leather interior package. C337s are noticeably hard to find these days, and a Riley Super Rocket with a pair of 300hp turbo-charged TSIO-520 engines is a great find indeed. A quick walkaround is featured here, and as I found out later, it's available for a mere $249,500 or best offer.
The Aeroshell Team, renown aerial artists flying their red and white North American Texans with unparalleled style and grace, again delighted the massive EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012 crowds during day and evening airshows. Airshow fans in the Midwest get to see the Aeroshell Team perform at several venues (Columbia, MO and St. Louis, MO) each year before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. After 25 years, the team only gets better each show. Words can't adequately describe the sound of the Wasp radial engines and the sight of the four red and white Texans swirling as one, filling the sky with thick, white smoke. Here is some of what we can look forward to in July:
The mission of The Aero Experience is to promote Midwest Aviation, and by extension in many cases, the entire aviation industry as well. The events of this recent Memorial Day caused me to reflect even more on the importance of remembering members of the military services who have given the ultimate sacrifice and their families who continue to hold to their dear memories. Military aviation units have been a part of this tradition at least since World War I, employing the Missing Man Formation in remembrance ceremonies and funerals across the world. As military aviation began to catch the imagination of the American people during the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II and dogfights in the skies over Korea, the public appearance of military aircraft (current and what we now call warbirds) at airshows and county fairs became a regular part of summer family fare. Military branches formed their own aerobatic teams, employing current military aircraft and service members to take the entertainment and recruiting mission to the growing number of interested taxpayers. In the present atmosphere of sequestration where federal budgets are cut across the board, "secondary" missions of military aviation, such as aerial salutes to fallen veterans and the cultivation of the next generation of aviators through public displays, are no longer flown. This leaves a gap in our aero experiences that must be filled by local aviation communities.
(Carmelo Turdo photo)
The local civilian aviation community is still the basis for the existence and growth of the regional and national aviation industries. Flashy jet fighters and corporate Gulfstreams have their great contributions to our society and culture, but it is the local airport with its FBOs, flight schools, support services, and business/pleasure fliers that keep the system "in the air." Hundreds of airports and private airstrips in each state provide the infrastructure for both civil and military operations that keep commerce flowing across our great country. The current federal budget situation provides an opportunity for local aviation communities to step in and show how well they can provide business, military support, training and charitable services as valuable and necessary parts of economic and cultural growth.
(Carmelo Turdo photo)
The recent Memorial Day aerial salute experience over Hecker, IL, similar to the one provided by some of the same participants over Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in November, was but one example of where the local St. Louis/Metro East Illinois aviation community showed a willingness to honor fallen military veterans when the military itself was unwilling or unable to do so. Even the USAF Academy graduates went without the traditional Thunderbirds salute - warbirds from the Texas Flying Legends Museum and the local Colorado Springs National Museum of World War II Aviation took on the mission at great expense to save the day. The other, very obvious absence of military aviation is at airshows across the country. Airshows are not just festivals for plane geeks, but in many locations they have become annual rituals that bring together local communities and generate significant economic impact from the use of support services and tourism. One flaw in the airshow as entertainment model, though, is the reliance of military aerial acts as headliners to attract an audience at the expense of local and regional participants. The cancellation of airshows this year due to the absence of military headliners like the USAF Thunderbirds, USN Blue Angels or US Army Golden Knights exposes that weakness with a bright red neon sign. It is not too late to rescue the remaining aerial events early in the season by inviting the local aviation community to show their presence and seeking out first and second-tier airshow performers who now have rather large gaps in their schedules. It is also time that local sponsors step up and provide financial support (yep, I said it) and create a marketing connection between aviation and the audience for each event. Preserving current scheduled aviation events, and adding many locally-hosted events and fly-ins, will go a long way toward strengthening the economic and cultural impact of the local aviation community. Local Midwest Aviation examples include the Salute to Veterans Corporation airshow, which continued with local support despite the cancellation of the US Navy Super Hornet headliner, and the addition of the fly-in at St. Louis Downtown Airport sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum and EAA Chapter 64.
It is time now for local pilots, airports, EAA Chapters, aviation museums, FBOs and other aviation groups to team up with local sponsors to preserve and grow their opportunities for public interaction. Let's make this a great comeback year for the aviation industry, from the ground up!
Today's Midwest Aviation road trip takes us to Metro East Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis. Three monuments featuring retired military aircraft were on the itinerary, and we have included several photos of each below. The Aero Experience is a strong supporter of our military service members, and we are gratified to find and illustrate public monuments that represent the gratitude shown to them by our Midwest communities. Today, Edwardsville, East Alton and Granite City Illinois are featured in this monumental photo essay:
Robert C. Stille Edwardsville Township Community Park: LTV A-7E Corsair II s/n 159303
St. Louis Regional Airport, East Alton: F-4C Phantom II s/n 63-0491
Wilson Park, Granite City: Republic/GM F-84F Thunderstreak s/n 51-9451