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, July 26, 2021

Wings of Hope Young Ambassadors Host Plane Wash Fundraiser for Humanitarian Aviation Programs

By Carmelo Turdo
Wings of Hope hosted their fourth annual plane wash fundraiser on Saturday, July 17, at their Spirit of St. Louis Airport facility. Members of the Wings of Hope Young Ambassadors and Alpha Eta Rho, the international professional college aviation fraternity with students from Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology, spent the morning washing seven aircraft while raising $1,000 for international humanitarian aviation programs.

The volunteers gathered for their briefing prior to the first aircraft arrival, and quickly started work on the Cirrus SR22 after it was positioned in front of the Wings of Hope hangar. As each additional aircraft was parked in assembly line fashion, the teams went to work: belly washers and sprayers, preppers and dryers and of course the waxers. On the apron were the "experts," those who are trained to assist with protecting various parts of the aircraft during the cleaning process and then move the aircraft away from the wash area. Others worked the check-in table and provided refreshments for the visiting pilots.

Tiffany Nelson, Wings of Hope Director of Programs and Evaluation, who also serves as the Young Ambassadors Liaison, was on site to support the event. An active leader, she works behind the scenes and at each event along with the members to ensure that the Young Ambassadors are successful in their mission. Despite the health crisis over the last year, the Young Ambassadors are still able to fully fund sponsored programs through 2021. As mentioned in our Vote Event story earlier this year, funds raised at this and other Young Ambassadors fundraisers will benefit three international humanitarian aviation programs:

Haiti: Haitian Christian Outreach Air Ambulance Program

Zambia: FlySpec Reconstructive Surgery Services

Ecuador: Alas de Socorro Medevac Flights for Indigenous Communities in the Amazon

"An enormous thanks goes out to the pilots who came out and supported the efforts of Wings of Hope and the Young Ambassadors!" Tiffany Nelson told The Aero Experience. "A special thanks goes to Alpha Eta Rho from Park's College for coming out to support the event by helping us wash the planes. And lastly, a hearty thanks to all of the volunteers who woke up early on a Saturday morning to support the mission of saving and changing lives through the power of aviation."

The Young Ambassadors program supports Wings of Hope's international projects through social, educational and fundraising events. Their mission is to "engage, empower and inspire young professionals aged 21-45 to create cross-cultural connections and help address global problems while building awareness of Wings of Hope." Wings of Hope has provided aviation relief services directly and through partnerships in nearly fifty countries.

Here we feature views from the plane wash event as the teams went to work:


One of the plane wash customers was the Smith family flying in the Beech Musketeer that they won at the Wings of Hope September 2020 raffle. Rachel Smith, her father, Warren Smith and her friend Grant Ross exited the Musketeer outside of the Wings of Hope hangar where it was received in December. Following the plane wash and a reunion of sorts, they departed for their home airport with a very clean Musketeer!

Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Wings of Hope has the vision of "Changing and saving lives through the power of aviation." Wings of Hope has a rich history of using aircraft to provide humanitarian aid to communities in remote places where it is most needed. In 1959, various Catholic ministries started providing humanitarian air services in the Turkana region of Kenya. Not unlike Charles Lindbergh's preparations for the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Bishop Joseph Houlihan of Eldoret, Kenya approached St. Louis businessmen Bill Edwards, Joe Fabick, Paul Rodgers and George Haddaway about his need for a new aircraft. They then provided the seed money for the first Cessna U206 used by the newly-minted United Missionary Air Training and Transport. As news of this first successful aircraft service spread, more aircraft were needed. Wings of Hope incorporated in 1967, and has since provided humanitarian and development services around the world through an inter-faith approach to serving the needs of all mankind. Today, Wings of Hope continues to emphasize aviation as the means to achieve their mission and partners with local organizations in the countries served. 

The Aero Experience is proud to support the mission of Wings of Hope, and we will continue to share their stories throughout the year. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sponsor Appreciation: Aircraft Maintenance Needs Keep St. Louis Area Services Busy

By Carmelo Turdo
The Aero Experience returns from a week of visiting Midwest Aviation sites to cover stories that will be posted over the coming weeks. We continue to feature more grass-roots aviation themes this year as the industry recovers and thrives again, and the next few posts will follow that theme. Here we show sponsor appreciation to two aircraft maintenance and flight school businesses that serve the St. Louis area and regional aviation communities: Big River Aviation at St. Louis Downtown Airport and Gateway Flight Training at Creve Coeur Airport. Their maintenance shops have been full and overflowing as aircraft approach another year of mandated inspections and as owners decide to update cockpit avionics. For more information, or to reserve a maintenance slot, click on the links below. 

Big River Aviation, St. Louis Downtown Airport

Gateway Flight Training, Creve Coeur Airport

Monday, July 12, 2021

Warbirds Provide Living History Experiences, Commemorate Veteran's World War II Service

By Carmelo Turdo
Warbirds gathered for both public and personal living history experiences at two St. Louis airports this weekend. Here we feature the warbirds seen during our visits to Spirit of St. Louis Airport and Creve Coeur Airport on Friday. Thanks to the significant investment of time and resources by private owners and foundations, these aircraft from the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War eras became key attractions for audiences spanning three generations. The Aero Experience thanks all who made these warbird appearances possible.

Spirit of St. Louis Airport hosted the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Doc, one of only two of the type still flying, and the North American B-25 Mitchell, Berlin Express. Both aircraft were available for ground tours and rides, and the aircraft flew between periods of rain all weekend. Both iconic warbird bombers are on tour through the Midwest on their way to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 later this month.

Creve Coeur Airport is home to a variety of warbirds and vintage aircraft, and here we feature some of them along with a special visitor. The first set shows the preparation of the Bell Helicopter AH-1F Cobra and UH-1H Huey helicopters for departure to the Dayton Airshow on Friday morning. These Vietnam War-era helicopters are operated by the Gateway Chapter of the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation based at the airport.


Another warbird, the Korean War-era Douglas Skyraider, is seen here along with the North American AT-6D Texan of the Midwest Wild Relics Refuge also at Creve Coeur Airport. These aircraft can be seen at airshows and veterans events around the region.

Also on Friday morning, The Aero Experience was honored to cover the birthday celebration of World War II veteran Mustang pilot Thomas (Tony) Gibbons, who is celebrating his 101st birthday this week. He was treated to a flight in the P-51 Rosalie, flown by Paul Barnett. His flight was captured in photos and video by Mike Gibbons in the AT-6F Texan chase plane flown by Greg Vallero. We will have additional coverage of this story coming soon!