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 the pre-flight checks…>>>
Read the rest of the story in the January 17, 2018, issue of the Republic-Times.