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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Accessible Aviation: Ultralights Provide Practical Path to Flight

By Carmelo Turdo
Travis Roberts
The Midwest Aviation community is home to all types of flying activity, and the term "Flyover Country" has a very positive connotation for those whose live and fly in this portion of the U.S.  A million square miles of land and sky offers room for all to participate in aviation within the various classes of airspace, and most general aviation aircraft can operate from relatively small rural airfields.  The Aero Experience celebrates all types of Midwest Aviation, and we recently visited with our friend, Travis Roberts, at Sullivan Field Airport near Valmeyer, IL, to gain some perspective on ultralight flying.

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 ChannelThe 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!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great information. I am looking for an Aerolite 103, even as a kit build. I am a disabled veteran and can't get a medical certificate but want to keep flying.