Monday, December 4, 2023

Big River Aviation Provides Training Opportunity for St. Louis Area Student

By Carmelo Turdo
Big River Aviation continues to grow and enhance their reputation as the St. Louis area's comprehensive piston aircraft maintenance center, serving alongside STL Flight Training on the west ramp at St. Louis Downtown Airport. Big River Aviation is the longest-running, continuous sponsor of The Aero Experience, and they recently underwent a change of ownership that will ensure future success in the years to come. 

Big River Aviation is investing not just in their own business, but in the workforce that is desperately needed to sustain and grow the aviation industry. Earlier this year, The Aero Experience featured A&P Apprentice Noah Klein in our aviation maintenance topic series. Klein has worked at Big River Aviation since January, and he continues to acquire the practical experience needed to obtain his Airframe and Powerplant certificate. While at Big River Aviation, he has worked on a wide variety of aircraft types under the supervision of the area's most experienced A&P technicians and IAs. He has since also received his Private Pilot Certificate from STL Flight Training, and he plans to use his flying and aircraft maintenance skills in the mission field.

Big River Aviation also provides internship opportunities to area high school students. During a recent visit, we met with Isaac Keys, a junior at Saint John Paul II Preparatory School, who was assisting with a retouch paint treatment on a Cessna 172. His high school offers a unique hybrid schedule that gives students Wednesday and Friday for in-home study or on-site vocational training along with an in-school, classical education program on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Keys was homeschooled through fifth grade, and he learned about Saint John Paul II Preparatory School through recommendations from other homeschool families before attending there himself starting in the sixth grade. 

The hybrid learning model provides the time for Isaac Keys to work in the Big River Aviation hangar on Friday mornings, and he immediately began shadowing the A&P technicians as they received their job assignments. Along with general hangar organization duties, he has assisted with procedures such as brake repairs and sheet metal work. 

"I've loved engineering and I also love planes, so this looks like a pretty good place to get started with that," Keys told The Aero Experience. He is intrigued with aircraft structures and has been taking additional math and science classes to prepare him academically for college engineering courses after graduation. 

"If the opportunity arises, I'd say take it, especially something like this where you are on the ground actually doing this stuff," Keys advises other high school students looking for practical experience in their field of interest. He plans to spend the rest of the semester, if not longer, working on aircraft at Big River Aviation and setting himself up for success in the aviation industry.
Prior to his internship at Big River Aviation, Isaac Keys attended the Soar & Explore Summer Experience for high school and vocational students at Wings of Hope. He and a select group of his peers met at Wings of Hope for two half-days per week, for four weeks, to explore the world of aviation and the humanitarian mission of Wings of Hope. Along with introductory STEM education projects, the program provides a first-hand look at Spirit of St. Louis Airport operations, a practical application of aviation knowledge and skills through work in the Wings of Hope hangar and a course on non-profit organization management. Young Eagle flights were also provided by EAA Chapter 1675 on the final session of the program. The Soar & Explore program was a positive influence on his decision to pursue the internship at Big River Aviation. 

Isaac Keys was introduced to the Soar & Explore program by his Vice Principal, Dr. Richard Allington, who actively seeks out off-campus educational opportunities for his students. Dr. Allington recommended the Wings of Hope program after learning of his interest in aviation, and it was a great match. After he completed the Soar & Explore program, Keys was eager to continue working around aircraft. Wings of Hope forwarded some recommendations to Dr. Allington, and he suggested that Keys visit Big River Aviation for some hands-on experience in aircraft maintenance and repair. This was another excellent recommendation that has already put his student on the path to achieving his career goal.

The Aero Experience appreciates the roles that Big River Aviation and Wings of Hope have played in preparing students like Isaac Keys for success in the aviation and aerospace industries. We look forward to featuring more STEM and vocational programs in the year to come.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023: IAC Vicki Cruse Educational Pavilion

By Carmelo Turdo

The Aero Experience continues our coverage of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023, sponsored by Piston Aviation, and we have much more to come through the winter and spring. The annual International Council of Airshows is convening their annual convention next week in Las Vegas, so we thought it would be a good time to follow up our Introduction and Airshow Outtakes posts with this look at the Vicki Cruse Educational Pavilion near Boeing Plaza, the nexus of the daily activities on the grounds.

The Vicki Cruse Educational Pavilion was dedicated by the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) July 29, 2010 in honor of aerobatic pilot and IAC President Vicki Cruse who lost her life in an aircraft accident in 2009 while a member of the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team. During EAA AirVenture, the lobby area contains interesting exhibits and the IAC holds seminars daily.  A memorial stands outside of the front entrance, often adorned with flowers and messages. The IAC sponsors annual regional aerobatic contests, including the Giles Henderson Memorial Challenge, In Salem, IL, featured on The Aero Experience earlier this fall.

Below we feature the aircraft we encountered throughout the week, including those gathered there following the AirVenture Cup Race on the opening weekend. It was great to see our friend, David Adams, with his award-winning Long-EZ, Racer 83, among the aerobatic aircraft on display. 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Launch the Fleet: Elite Aviation Adds Aircraft, CFIs and a Legacy of Success to Family Business

By Carmelo Turdo
Elite Aviation is the St. Louis area's premier flight training center, conveniently located in the Spirit of St. Louis Airport West Terminal. They offer experienced instructors, a structured Cessna Pilot Center ground school program, a modern aircraft fleet, and advanced Redbird MCX full-motion flight simulator training through 
Alpha Flight Simulation. Elite Aviation also provides aircraft rental and maintenance services, and they are an FAA-approved written examination testing station. 

Elite Aviation now has eleven Cessna 172S Skyhawks in their fleet along with a Piper Turbo Saratoga and recently acquired Tecnam P2006T twin trainer that will be in service soon. Additional certified flight instructors have also joined Elite Aviation to serve the growing demand for flight training in the St. Louis area. and their experienced service team maintains their fleet and customer aircraft from around the region. 

(Sarah Sutherlin photo)
Elite Aviation is more than a flight school, or even an aircraft rental and maintenance center. They are a family business that treats their customers and staff like family and extends that invitation to the community through numerous educational and charitable endeavors. Elite Aviation is a major sponsor of the St. Louis Red Tail Cadet program, now preparing for the fourth class of high school student participants starting this spring. A growing number of former Elite Aviation CFIs, including Sarah Sutherlin (right), have moved up to fly with jet charter companies and the major airlines, and The Aero Experience will feature them in our upcoming Then and Now series.

You have to arrive pretty early to catch the Elite Aviation fleet on the ground, and even then a few got away. Here we show the fleet departing for training flights during the morning cycle.

Elite Aviation provides general aviation aircraft maintenance services, including annual and periodic inspections, airframe and sheet metal repairs, engine cylinder and accessory replacement and avionics diagnostics and installation. The training and rental fleet aircraft receive frequent standard inspections, and a Cessna 172 undergoing an engine change is also a common site in the Elite Aviation hangar.

Contact Elite Aviation today for more information about flight training, aircraft rental, maintenance services and employment opportunities.