Sunday, December 13, 2020

Wings of Hope Raffle Aircraft Finds New Home

By Carmelo Turdo
Wings of Hope held another very successful aircraft fundraising raffle in September, selling out the 5,000 tickets in 18 hours. The aircraft offered was a 1969 Beechcraft Musketeer Super III, one of 369 produced between 1966 and 1969. This model has a 200hp engine and upgraded Garmin avionics along with being in overall excellent condition. The Musketeer, also known as the "Baby Bonanza" due to its resemblance to Beech's iconic bigger and more powerful cousin, is an economical cross-country and training aircraft. This particular Musketeer looked inviting enough for Melissa Smith to purchase one raffle ticket, which happened to be drawn as the eventual winner.

The series of events that led up to the Smith family's arrival at Wings of Hope World Headquarters in St. Louis Wednesday to pick up their airplane reads like a whimsical daydream come true. First, Melissa Smith's husband is a pilot, and her college-age children, Rachel and Tanner, are also pilots enrolled in the Liberty University Aviation Degree program. She received the postcard about the raffle in the mail from Wings of Hope, and she bought one $75 ticket. She received a call from Wings of Hope on her birthday informing her that she won the grand prize - the Beech Musketeer. St. Louis is close enough to her home airport - Central Illinois Regional in the Bloomington/Normal area - so that the family can easily drive down and fly the aircraft back without planning a long, cross-country trip. The path to owning this aircraft became smooth and straight.  

(L-R) Melissa Smith, Rachel Smith, Grant Ross
and Warren Smith at Wings of Hope  
"I received the postcard," Melissa Smith began her story. "My son, Tanner, who was home from college, was eating breakfast. I was looking at this postcard and I said, 'Tanner, I'm going to win this plane!' I asked him if he would fly it, and he said, 'Sure, mom, I'll fly that plane.'" We now fast forward to last Wednesday when Melissa Smith, her husband Warren, daughter Rachel and her friend Grant Ross appeared to retrieve her prize. 

President and CEO, Bret Heinrich, along with Wings of Hope staff, volunteers and media representatives welcomed the special guests and led them to the waiting aircraft. A preflight inspection was conducted following the ceremonial transfer of the keys, and the clear early winter skies awaited their takeoff. Warren and Rachel Smith flew the aircraft from Spirit of St. Louis Airport to Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, IL and then on to Central Illinois Regional Airport while Melissa Smith and Grant Ross drove back home.     

Here we feature a pictorial view and short video of the reception at Wings of Hope and receipt of the raffle prize aircraft:

No comments: