|By Carmelo Turdo|
Sullivan Field Airport, obviously retaining the look of its former life as a farm, is a gathering place for ultralight and general aviation flyers from the Metro East IL area near St. Louis. It is far enough away from the St. Louis air traffic to offer safe operations for ultralights, yet close enough for short flights by visiting aircraft from nearby private and municipal airports. The 1800' grass runway can accommodate most general aviation aircraft, and there are a few in the hangar among the ultralights. It is very obvious, though, that this airfield is dominated by aircraft that have "sails" (pre-sewn wing and tail fabric coverings) and two-stroke engines.
The Aero Experience recently visited with Travis Roberts, President of EAA Chapter 331, which also includes members of the Gateway Area Ultralight Association (the two groups merged in January of 2017). He has been flying solo in ultralights for over a year, and has done much to promote this class of aircraft in local aviation groups. He trained in light sport Quicksilver aircraft in the fall of 2015, soloed last March 2016 and has over 100 flying hours. With his phone and a Bluetooth-equipped helmet, he has access to weather forecasts, tower communications and GPS navigation. Even with these high-technology flying aids, ultralight flight is still mainly performed in the local area surrounding the airfield. Here Travis Roberts shows us his Quicksilver MXL with the added features as he performs his preflight inspection and fuels the aircraft.
Roberts has had an interest in aviation since the mid 1970s when his grandfather earned his Private Pilot Certificate, owned a Cessna 172 and later flew a corporate Bonanza. He took flight lessons off and on in Cessna 150 and 172 aircraft, flew RC aircraft, served in the World War II Airmen's Preservation Society as a B-17 pilot (see our previous article), and most recently entered the world of ultralight flying. Ultralight flying seemed to fit well with his available time, resources, and prior experience, so he used his mechanical skills to get the newly-acquired ultralight "project" into the air again. He now organizes flights at Sullivan Field Airport, coordinates EAA Chapter 331 events and promotes ultralight flying on his Winging It You Tube Channel. The Aero Experience will also produce some videos featuring an interview with Travis Roberts and flights with some of his friends in the near future.
Travis Roberts practices takeoffs and landings during our visit:
Travis Roberts is joined by fellow ultralight enthusiasts, Michael Jett and Tim Phillips:
The Aero Experience will have more coverage of ultralight aviation with Travis Roberts and the other pilots at Sullivan Field Airport throughout the year. Contact him at EAA 331 to find out how you can get started in ultralight aviation today. Thanks to all who made our visit a great aero experience!