Looking Forward: The Airshow

     On June 17th and 18th, The Monroe Regional Airport hosted an airshow by The Chennault Museum of Aviation and Southern Heritage Air Foundation. The show saw many talented pilots showcase their skills in front of a large audience as they performed many tricks and feats that excited the crowd. While there were many great pilots at this event, due to article length reasons, I will only cover three before getting into the interview I had with Nell Calloway, Hollie Boudreaux from the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum, and Patty Mekus who is the President of the Southern Heritage Air Foundation.

     Aimee ‘Rebel’ Fiedler was named the new pilot for the 2022 Air Show Season for the F-16 Demo team. Fiedler flew the U.S. Air forces’ premier multi-role fighter aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Through extensive training and multiple certification flights, she solidified her spot as commander. In her last 6 years of military service along with her prior experience as a civilian flight instructor Capt. Aimee ‘Rebel’ Fiedler has more than 2,000 flying hours combined.

     Next, we have Kent Pietsch Air Shows. Kent has been passionate about flying since he was a small child and since then his passion has not diminished. Since 1973, Kent has performed his aerobatic routines at more than 400 shows throughout the United States. While Kent loves to fly, it is his audience that is his #1 priority, his humbleness and willingness to interact with fans make him a fan favorite no matter the air show. Kent is also the recipient of the 2005 Bill Barber Award for Showmanship, the 2007 Art Scholl Showmanship Award, and Honorary Member of the Canadian Snowbirds.

     Finally, we have Congressman Sam Graves. Sam is a resident of northwest Missouri born in Tarkio on November 7, 1963, and graduated from Tarkio High School in 1982. He went on to receive a degree in Agronomy from the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Sam holds an airline transport pilot license in multi-engine land, commercial privileges in single-engine land and sea, and is type rated in the TBM Avenger and all models of the P-40, P-51, and Corsair.
He has a total of 4,500 logged hours of flight time and owns a 1947 Piper Club Special.

     In my interview with the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum and Southern Heritage Air Foundation, everyone seemed upbeat about the results of the first airshow that Monroe had in at least 30 years, and when you have a team as great as this one it is easy to see why. Patty Mekus has been doing this for 14 years, while Hollie Boudreaux helped keep things organized and her skills in excel spreadsheets definitely came in handy, and Nell Calloway with her connections with The Monroe Regional Airport and the Mayor’s office. According to Hollie the Airshow had been in the works for 13 months, March 2021, was when the planning began to find a suitable date for the airshow, and it took another two or three months to get the necessary approvals and to get through the approval process. They also had to go to Discover Monroe and Discover West Monroe to gain funds to get the event started. “To put on a top-notch show like was in Monroe typically takes more than a year to do because sometimes you can’t get those military acts that quick,” Patty Mekus added.

     When asked about what inspired them to try to put on the air show here in Monroe, Nell Calloway said “Monroe we have a beautiful airport, we have a new director of that airport who is very easy to work with, you know that was really the deciding factor.” She believes that the air show will help raise awareness that Monroe has an airport, which she then goes on to say “I have people who fly in to come see the museum and they ask me where the nearest airport is.” With the new administration being all for it, and the new director of the airport being easy to work with, everything pointed towards now being the time to put on an airshow to try and bring recognition to The Monroe Regional Airport.

     What surprised them was that not many here in Monroe actually knew what an airshow was, and now that people know what it is the team is planning to build off that momentum for the next airshow. When asked if they had learned anything from this show that they would use moving forward, Patty Mekus replied “Absolutely, and even more. We all make mistakes, and they are really not so much mistakes as learning experiences.” She went on to say that if they didn’t learn from them, then there would be no point in moving forward. Nell Calloway mentioned that there were opportunities that they would take advantage of for next time. This sounds promising as this year’s airshow was A great success, and I look forward to seeing how they could top it.

     Overall, what I heard from the team was very promising. An airshow is something that takes a lot of time, planning, and hard work, but with a team like this one you know they are going to give it their best and learn from the experience. I enjoyed the time I had to speak with them, and if there is anything I found out about the next airshow it would be that the next one will be better than this years.

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