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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Flight Experience With the Aeroshell Team Is Highlight of Cameron, MO Airshow

By Leo Cachat
I went to Cameron, MO to cover their airshow just to see some great flying.  Friday morning that all changed. Last year I entered the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team photo contest - not expecting to win but to share with them some of the images I had captured so they could use them to promote themselves.  I thought it would be a great way to give back, as I have loved watching them fly over the years. So I entered the contest and waited to see who won.  Months went by, and no announcements were forthcoming for quite a while.  February rolled around, and it was just another ordinary day.  I went to my job as a middle school janitor and came home.  My wife met me at the door with a smile when I arrived home, and said, "Go check your emails."   I knew something was up. I looked and there was an email from Greg Gibson telling me I was one of the winners of a flight with the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team. Now, you have to understand that I'm a pretty low key guy.  I don't get too up and I don't get too down. My outward reaction was, "Cool!"  Inwardly, I was already imagining what it would be like.

The contest rules stated the flight would be given at Sun N Fun in Florida, but that took place during the school year and getting the time to go down there would be really tough.  There was also a relief clause allowing for scheduling the flight at an event located closer to the winner's home field.  So I asked to take the flight at a show closer to this area - Fair St. Louis in July.  Everything was looking great as we rolled into spring but then the news came out at the beginning of May that they had cancelled the airshow part of the Fair.  I scrambled to find another show in the area and Cameron, MO was the only other possible option.  But with the show taking place at the beginning of June, I didn't know if that was enough time to get things scheduled.  I emailed Greg and told him the situation, and he said he'd check with the guys and get back to me, which he did.  Bad news for me - they were booked up with sponsor flights and probably couldn't do it at the Cameron show.
Like I said, I try not to get too down, so I didn't.  I understood that it was just bad timing and told him I would be fine with waiting until next year.  By then I already had the time off of work, and so did my wife.  Along with our son, we booked a hotel room and decided to go anyway and cover the show for The Aero Experience.  It was a great line up and we hadn't been to it before, so off we went.
We watched the Aeroshell Team and Skip Stewart arrive late Thursday evening, and returned early Friday morning to catch the rest of the arriving aircraft knowing that the Aeroshell Team had a media flight scheduled for 10 a.m. that morning.  I was between the taxiway and the ramp as the pilots showed up, and I got some photos of them getting the aircraft ready for their flight.  My wife and son were by the FBO, and Steve Gustafson walked over and talked with them.  This seemed perfectly normal, as everyone had been super friendly to us Thursday while we were at the airport.  The next thing I know, my wife walks up and says, "They are going to try to get you in the air today. Steve asked me if we were there to fly, and I told him about you winning the contest and the Fair St. Louis airshow getting cancelled.  He said he'd make a call to Greg and see if you could go today."  Then Steve walks over, introduces himself (as if he needed to...), and reiterates what my wife had told me.  Okay, now I'm starting to get excited, but I keep on taking the photos so I don't miss anything.
Then I hear my name yelled out, and Steve calls me over and says, "Get over to Jimmy's plane, he'll strap you in and go over everything.  You're flying right now."  At that point I was finally thinking that this was real, and it was happening now!  Deep breaths as I walked toward #5 to meet Jimmy Fordham, slot pilot and the man I will be flying with.  He shook my hand as we introduced ourselves, and he showed me how to get in, strap on the parachute and buckle my harnesses.  He also explained what to do in case we have to bail out.  Then he described the maneuvers we will be performing: formation loop, formation barrel roll and a formation 360 turn. He then handed me my camera.  As we waited for the other members of the team to taxi, I slowed my mind down and set the functions on my camera to what I think will work best as Jimmy went over his start up procedures.  At this point I tried to go over in my mind what I wanted to capture and how to go about doing it - which was hard to do because I had never done anything close to this before.  I pulled my straps tight, and soon we taxied.


We went out in sets of two aircraft, our airplane being behind everyone else as we were in the slot.  I watched the first two Texans power up with that unmistakable prop bleat and head down the runway. Seconds later we were on the runway and the power was coming up.  The engine growled and we were off the deck!  I was now flying with the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team - truly a dream come true. I blazed away with my camera, and every so often Jimmy would call me on the headset to make sure I was alright.  I couldn't have been better. I continued shooting with my camera as we gained altitude.  Soon we would get into the recognizable diamond formation before Jimmy called to team leader Mark Henley to ask permission to break off to the right so I could get some pictures of the rest of the formation, which we did.  He stayed out to the right for about two minutes, allowing me to get some great shots before returning to our position in the slot in preparation for our first maneuver.




He called back on the headset and said we were going to be going into a dive to pick up speed in order to round out the formation loop.  My response was, "Okay let's do it!"  As we went into the dive, I started shooting.  We hit the bottom and pulled back - WOW!!!   It got a little tough to get the camera to my face as we pulled some G's, but I managed to do it.  This flight now was also a good workout as I was really sweating at this point.  We went up and over the top and went from sun in the face to looking at the horizon and then the ground as we screamed earthward.  The weird thing was - it was not the least bit scary or uncomfortable to me, but was absolutely the most amazing feeling in the world, almost as if I had done it before.


We then performed the formation barrel roll, which was also incredible, as we arched through the sky in formation - seeing sky on the way up and then the horizon as we arched over the top and then the beautiful green countryside around Cameron.  Then we went over the city and made a 360 degree turn and headed back towards the airport to set up for landing.  We went into an overhead approach into a pitch up break to land, which was great to witness from the slot.

Soon we were on the ground parked and getting out of the airplane.  Flight complete, the team signed pictures for all who flew and posed for a picture.  What a great team and what a way to start a Friday!  Thank you to the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Greg Gibson, Alan Henley and Airport Manager Eric Evans for The Aero Experience of a lifetime.

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