Saturday, April 30, 2022

Edward Schertz Receives FAA's Highest Honors at Wings of Hope Ceremony

By Carmelo Turdo
The Federal Aviation Administration bestowed their coveted Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award to Edward Schertz in a ceremony held at Wings of Hope on Tuesday, April 26. The awards recognize the 50 years of dedicated service to safe flying and aircraft maintenance practices, respectively, exhibited by Ed Schertz throughout his career. A standing room only crowd, containing a number of past award recipients and many Wings of Hope staff and volunteers, gathered to celebrate this lifetime achievement. 

FAA Safety Team Program Manager Randy Ottinger officiated the ceremony following remarks by Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich and Board Chairman Fred Meyland-Smith. With each award, Schertz was given a copy of his FAA File, the letters of recommendation and a lapel pin. Here we show some views of the presentation of awards to Ed Schertz and his wife, Irene.

Photos were taken after the ceremony, beginning with Ed and Irene Schertz, next to a Wings of Hope U.S. Medical Relief and Air Transport Program aircraft. In the second photo were Schertz with fellow Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award recipients Joseph Tebo and Larry Wehrman. The third photo features previous Charles Taylor and Wright Brothers awardees with Ed Schertz: (L-R) Bob McDaniel, Jay Rickmeyer, Frank Doerr, Joseph Tebo, Bill Florich, Larry Wehrman, Paul Burtis and Mike Piccirilli.

During the award ceremony, Schertz narrated a slide show illustrating highlights of his aviation career, both as a pilot and A&P/IA, at locations from Alaska to Uruguay. He reports 8885 hours total flight time in many types of aircraft, with 4,057 hours in float planes and 2,127 hours in conventional gear tail draggers. This combination is not uncommon since he flew for many years in Central and South America on Wings of Hope humanitarian missions. Schertz also has a little over 300 hours in complex and multi-engine aircraft. Correspondingly, he has experience maintaining a variety of aircraft. His ability to perform complex structural repairs and engine overhauls, to the point of repeatedly saving aircraft from the scrapper only to fly again in service to others around the world, leaves a tangible legacy to future generations of humanitarian service pilots and those they serve. 

(Photo courtesy of Jay Rickmeyer)
Ed Schertz began his career with the goal of entering the humanitarian aviation field. He attended a presentation by Wings of Hope while at Southern Illinois University, and in 1971 Schertz decided to join the organization and take a flying and maintenance position in Iquitos, Peru. He became the Field Director for the bases in Iquitos and Satipo, Peru from May of 1972 to July of 1978 and then Field Director for the base in Pedro Juan Caballero, Paraguay from August 1978 to August 1980. He then returned to St. Louis to become the Director of Maintenance at the Wings of Hope World Headquarters from June 1981 to December 2005, and he continues to serve there as a volunteer A&P mechanic.

In his aviation career, Ed Schertz has flown and maintained aircraft in the U.S., including Alaska, and also in Canada, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, Columbia and Bolivia. His aircraft, a restored Luscombe 8A, is a former Wings of Hope aircraft and is currently based at Sackman Field in Columbia, IL.

Following the award ceremony, Ed and Irene Schertz met with Carol Enright, Wings of Hope Communications Manager, for a round table discussion with four Wings of Hope alumni. Pictured here (left side) pilots Del and Annie Reiff and (right side) former pilot and volunteer Jean Murray and pilot Keith Hunzicker, all of whom have served at a Wings of Hope base in the past. 

Del and Annie Reiff came to St. Louis from Kansas City to inquire about Wings of Hope in 1994 while they were serving in the Peace Corps. An opening came up in Belize, so they each flew aircraft there for two years. Jean Murray is a member of the 99s, receiving her pilot's certificate in 1948. She became a volunteer at Wings of Hope in 1990 and took the lead in visiting even the most remote bases to assist in administrative and logistics matters representing the corporate headquarters. Keith Hunzicker flew in Belize for a year and in Guatemala for six months in 1996-1997. It also happens that Ed Schertz's mother was Keith's second-grade teacher! A video of this discussion is included here from The Aero Experience YouTube Channel.

We close this tribute with a photo of Ed and Irene Schertz with Wings of Hope President and CEO, Bret Heinrich, in the Wings of Hope lobby.

The Aero Experience thanks Ed Schertz for his 50 years of service to humanitarian aviation and Wings of Hope for hosting his award ceremony.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Red Tail Cadets Class of 2022 Inducted at Elite Aviation

By Carmelo Turdo
Five high school students from the Ferguson-Florissant School District were inducted into the Red Tail Cadet Program Class of 2022 during a ceremony held on April 21 at Elite Aviation. The event marked the official start of the practical aviation and life skills training sessions that will be held throughout the summer. The program will provide the means for these students to explore the aviation field as a part of their overall Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. It is hoped that this program will be launched in cities across the country in the future.

The Red Tail Cadet Program Class of 2022 with Elite Aviation owners John and Donna Tipton (L-R):

Grace Ford, Micah Riggs, Jalen Reynolds, Tyrese Walker, and Anyah Brown     

The Red Tail Cadet Program is a cooperative effort by the Ferguson-Florissant School District, The Crossing Church, and Elite Aviation among other sponsors to use aviation as a pathway to a STEM career. The program  is named for the Red Tails of the 332nd Fighter Group, the first all-black military pilot unit that formed during World War II and popularly known today as the Tuskegee Airmen. The same drive and talent that made the Tuskegee Airmen legendary in war and in peace can be applied by these students in pursuit of their own future goals while participating in the Red Tail Cadet Program.

The inspiration for the Red Tail Cadet Program came from an encounter half a world away from St. Louis. Anthony Meyers, The Crossing Church Pastor of Community Development, was on a mission trip to Africa. While he was there, he took a flight with two young pilots. He asked one of them, a native of Nairobi, Kenya, how he became a pilot and was inspired by his answer. In a region where most parents encourage their sons to become doctors, this young man had a different calling: he wanted to become a pilot. So after high school graduation, his community raised the funds to send him to South Africa for pilot training. After consultation with the Ferguson-Florissant School District and other partners, the Red Tail Cadet Program was born. 

During the induction ceremony, before the introduction of the new class, aviation industry executives and community leaders addressed the previous cadet class and the guests who gathered at Elite Aviation. Guest speakers included:

Anthony Meyers, The Crossing Church Pastor of Community Development

Greg Holder, The Crossing Church Senior Pastor

John Tipton, Elite Aviation Vice President 

Dr. Joseph Davis, Ferguson-Florissant School District Superintendent

John Bales, Spirit of St. Louis Airport Director of Aviation 

Paul Niewald, The Boeing Company T-7 Red Hawk Program VP and Program Manager

Doug McCollum, CEO of SpiritJets

Brandon Mann, The Mann Family Foundation

A new development for this second year of the Red Tail Cadet Program is the Captain Ruth Mann Scholarship, named for Brandon Mann's mother who was a pioneering commercial pilot who learned to fly in the early 1960s. She earned her Commercial, CFI and ATP certificates and flew corporate executives as well as mercy medical missions from rural communities. Class of 2021 Red Tail Cadet D.J. Beal was chosen as the Captain Ruth Mann Honor Cadet and will receive a scholarship towards the achievement of a Private Pilot Certificate. Along with the flight training opportunity, Honor Cadet Beal will represent the Red Tail Cadet Program throughout the community and provide mentorship to the new class members.

Following the presentations, the Red Tail Cadet Program Class of 2022 was introduced. They were provided with a bag of aviation supplies and monogramed uniforms that will be used in training throughout the coming months. The Aviator sunglasses were an instant hit. Following group photos on the apron, the cadets were paired up with Certified Flight Instructors from Elite Aviation and escorted to an aircraft for a flight around the local area.

Over the next several months, the cadets will have online access to pilot ground school materials and will attend concentrated training courses outside of their regular high school classes. The Aero Experience will have regular updates as the Red Tail Cadet Program Class of 2022 progresses in their training.