|By Carmelo Turdo|
The invocation was given by Father James Sebesta, a former bush pilot who flew humanitarian missions in the wilds of Alaska. He has been on the flight training staff at Parks College of St. Louis University since 1994. The dinner buffet was served, and everyone was well settled into their places before the program resumed.
SOFIA, or the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is composed of a 106-inch reflecting telescope mounted in a Boeing 747SP formerly owned by Pan American Airways. The telescope is attached to a pressure bulkhead so that the crew remains in pressurized comfort while the telescope is exposed to the outside air through an open door. The infrared telescope senses heat sources, which are recorded and made into a computer image. Missions are often over ten hours long and require precise navigation to intersect points in the sky within a 2-3 second margin of error. SOFIA has gathered data leading to a better understanding of the (former) planet Pluto and the structure of the universe.
Following the dinner and keynote address, GSLFIA President Keith Mueller began the awards ceremony. The first award, New Flight Instructor of the Year (flight instructor for less than 2 years), was given to Matthew Spurrell. A native of the United Kingdom, he received advanced pilot ratings from, and now teaches at, St. Charles Flying Service.
The next award, Flight Instructor of the Year, went to James Moseley, the Flight Operations Manager at Ideal Aviation. He is a graduate of Parks College of St. Louis University with a degree in Aviation management.
The FAA's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, given to those pilots with 50 years or more of pilot experience, was awarded by former FAA St. Louis Program Manager Phil Dixon during the banquet. The two awardees were Rear Admiral Charles Williams, U.S. Navy (Ret.), and Edward Shafer, member of the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Admiral Williams has both military and civilian flight experience, while Edward Shafer's flight experience is all civilian despite having soloed in a U.S. Air Force aero club. Both men have made significant contributions to Midwest Aviation throughout their active flying careers.
The James G. Byrnes Award, recognizing a dedication to promoting aviation in our region, was awarded to Robert McDaniel by the FAA's Randy Ottinger. McDaniel, the other inductee to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame Class of 2015, has a distinguished record of promoting aviation through his professional and individual actions since he received his wings in the U.S. Air Force. The St. Louis aviation community is fortunate to have him as an active aviation advocate.
The Edward Blue Scholarship Award, available to GSLFIA members seeking advanced pilot ratings, was awarded by GSLFIA Secretary Craig O'Mara to Christina Connell, a student at Parks College of St. Louis University. She will be training for her CFI certification this spring and summer.
The Kenneth L. Kellogg Scholarship Award is presented to military members who pursue flight training. This award was presented to MSG Clayton Starwalt, who will be training for his CFI certificate this summer.
The Spirit of St. Louis Award is given to individuals and organizations for "exemplary support, dedication and service to aviation and aviation organizations." The award recognizes contributions that enrich the St. Louis area aviation community. The recipient of the Spirit of St. Louis Award was the Greater St. Louis Business Aviation Association (GSLBAA), accepted by the association's President, Roger Mollman.
Five high school students received Discovery Flight Certificates. Discovery Flights are awarded to high school students nominated for their interest in pursuing an aviation career. Local flight schools, including Ideal Aviation, Parks College of St. Louis University, St. Charles Flying Service, St. Louis Flight Training and Gateway Flight Training sponsor the Discovery Flight program in St. Louis for GSLFIA. The students will receive a hands-on training flight that will hopefully motivate them to consider the attainment of Private Pilot and CFI Certificates. Discovery Flights were awarded to Katie McVey, Guinevere Lipe, Gracie Phillips, Cordan Hampton, and Emmi Windes.
The Aero Experience thanks the Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association for recognizing these outstanding contributors to the St. Louis aviation community and Midwest Aviation. We also thank all who contributed to making the awards and scholarships available to these worthy recipients. The future of aviation will be more secure because of your contributions!