Profile on Bob McDaniel

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McDaniel Soars with Young Eagles

Here is the full text from the Republic-Times:

Ever since Bob McDaniel began flying at the age of 16, aviation has been at the center of the Columbia man’s life. “When I was a kid, I rode my bicycle to the (St. Louis Downtown Airport) and took my first flying lesson,” he said with excitement. “And then I kept hanging around airplanes.”

McDaniel now has several planes of his own including a Cessna 172. His career has spanned from serving as a Northrop T-38 Talon (twinjet supersonic jet trainer) instructor pilot to establishing airport operations around the globe–McDaniel performed both of these responsibilities with the Air Force. He eventually retired as the director of the St. Louis Downtown Airport at 6100 Archview Drive in Cahokia.

Today, McDaniel volunteers his time with Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 64’s Young Eagles program at the Cahokia-based airport. He became the program’s coordinator in the last five or six years.

“People have helped me along the way in my career and now it’s my turn to give back,” he explained.

Founded in 1992, the Young Eagles program gives children ages 8-17 their first free ride and a brief flying lesson in an airplane. McDaniel has been with Young Eagles for 20 years and recently celebrated his 600th flight with the organization.

“We don’t turn anybody away,” he said of the kids that come in for flights. “We have schools, youth groups, scouts. And I’ve flown a lot of inner-city kids in St. Louis from underprivileged families. I would say that’s most rewarding because they see opportunities that they’ve never seen before.”

Not only do the kids get to experience flight in personal planes with expert aviators, they also get to handle the controls for a brief period. The instructors will run through the basics before allowing them to pilot the plane, including demonstrating pre-flight checks.
The organization recognized McDaniel’s accomplishment in a news release and by sending him a patch in the mail. Over the years, he has received little trinkets for every milestone with Young Eagles, but these gifts pale in comparison to the joys of flying kids from throughout the region.

“Whether EAA has this program or now, I would be flying kids,” he professed. “A lot of kids, you don’t remember. Some, you do. One of the kids I flew, I get a card now just about every year. And he’s an Air Force captain flying KC-10 tankers in Afghanistan.”

In addition to flying kids, McDaniel’s responsibilities as coordinator include working with teachers, group leaders, and scout leaders to organize and schedule flights, as well as explain the process to them. He also coordinates the pilots to ensure enough flights are available for different groups.

Nick Turk helps McDaniel coordinate events with the chapter, as well as with registration and paperwork, but most enjoy taking kids for a ride in his Piper Arrow.

“When I can show up and fly kids all day, I have a lot of fun with it,” he said.
John Schaefer of Waterloo, a Young Eagles pilot with EAA Chapter 64, said he enjoys the reactions he gets from the kids he takes on rides.

“It’s neat because some of them are really interested and ask thousands of questions. And some kids just sit there and don’t say a word, and when they get to the ground, they want to go again,” he said.

Kids become official Young Eagles with the flight. The names of the pilots and the participants are also included in the “World’s Largest LogBook,” which is on permanent display in the EAA AirVenture Museum in OshKosh, Wis., and online through Young Eagles website. Young Eagles also have access to an online pilot training course.

For more information on arranging a group event, contact local chapter at 681-215-6359. McDaniel can be reached at 618-530-0805 to fly one to two kids based on scheduling.

Millstadt airstrip

Aside from his participation with Young Eagles, McDaniel also recently took over the airstrip at 5949 Bohleysville Road between Millstadt and Columbia. He has gradually been introducing changes to the airfield such as renaming it the Southwest Illinois Sport Aviation Flight Park.
In addition, McDaniel is planning to build four new hangers on the property, with three being leased out to other pilots. The fourth will be a 50-foot-by-40-foot structure that will serve as his personal hanger.

In November, the Belleville News-Democrat reported that many residents worried about increased air traffic resulting from the proposed additions. The St. Clair County Zoning Board of Appeals heard concerns during its meeting to approve construction.

“It was basically one resident that got everyone else worked up and it was based on misinformation,” McDaniel told the Republic-Times, confirming that increased air traffic was among the largest complaints.

However, the board allowed the plans to move forward, and the St. Clair County Board followed suit. McDaniel said he will break ground for the hanger when the weather improves.

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