Soaring over St. Louis: Dreams take flight for local men - Republic-Times | News

Soaring over St. Louis: Dreams take flight for local men

By on October 10, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Pictured, from left, are Alex Landgraf of Waterloo, Jason Merz of Millstadt and Paul Zapf of Columbia of Gateway Helicopter Tours in St. Louis. For photos of a flight over Monroe County, visit the Republic-Times media store online. For photos from a helicopter ride over St. Louis and Monroe County, click here. (James “Tal” Moss photo)

In 1993, Brian Landgraf of Waterloo had a life-changing experience.

In the midst of the Flood of ‘93, which devastated communities throughout the area, he rode in an Army Corps of Engineers helicopter, flying over such sites as the Gummersheimer farmstead.

“Ever since then he wanted to fly helicopters,” Alex Landgraf, Brian’s son, said.

Brian worked to make that dream a reality, obtaining his pilot’s license a few years later.

Then, in 2008, Brian started working at Gateway Helicopter Tours in St. Louis. By 2009, he was the owner.

Brian now employs multiple local men at the company.

Jason Merz of Millstadt works as a pilot and office manager, starting at the company when he was 15.

“(Brian) has been a close friend of my family for as long as I can remember,” Merz said. “My dad went to high school with him. He offered me a job and I just started working and it created an interest for me.”

The job was Merz’s first, and he soon became enamored with helicopters.

“I was more than happy and pretty excited to come in and work here,” he said.

Alex also works for his father, serving as office manager and chief pilot.

Alex got started in the business young, flying with Brian at age 5, learning to fly himself at age 13 and getting his pilot’s license at 17.

Paul Zapf of Columbia also works at Gateway Helicopter Tours, serving as a member of the flight crew.

All three men said they enjoy the helicopters, but the best part of their job is the people they meet.

“Since we live here, you kind of take things for granted, like the Arch,” Merz noted. “It’s just like, ‘I live by the Arch. It is what it is.’ But they’re coming across the country and across the world to see it. It’s fun to talk to them and see how far they’ve come…>>>

Read the rest of the story in the Oct. 10, 2018, issue of the Republic-Times. For photos from a helicopter ride over Monroe County, click here.

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James Moss