RAF Ohio State Liaison Freeman Swank is as comfortable piloting a John Deere tractor or a motorcycle, as he is flying his Piper Cherokee.
An Ohio native, Freeman started flying in 1971. He was inspired by the Flying Farmers he met while he was in the Farm Science program at Ohio State. He and wife Mary Jane now reside in Wellington, where he spent his career as both a farm implement dealer and educator.
Steve Thompson was raised on a farm in southern Oklahoma. He was born in 1966 and since his earliest memories he knew what he wanted to do. Fly Airplanes. At age 14 his dad introduced him to a coworker that was in the Civil Air Patrol and soon he started taking flying lessons. By age 16 he partnered on a 1956 Cessna 172.
Richard grew up in Texas and earned his private pilot’s certificate at age 18. His first airplane was a J3 Cub that cost him the princely sum of $1,500. After finishing a couple of degrees in engineering, Richard decided – without much forethought– that his future lay in Alaska. For ten years, he flew a C-185 to remote locations throughout the state.
Courtesy of a Royal Air Force (RAF) scholarship, 18-year-old Al Corden earned his private pilot's licence in a Tiger Moth at Marshall’s Airport, Cambridge. Naturally, this lead to his joining the RAF where he spent an enthusiastic eleven years flying Chipmunks, Gnats, Vulcans, and Canberras in the far flung outposts of Her Majesty’s Empire.
Chris was raised in northeastern Pennsylvania and learned to fly in the early 70’s out of Wyoming Valley Airport. After Hurricane Agnes put his local airport under 20 ft of water he had the opportunity to help an owner disassemble his damaged aircraft which piqued his interest in the mechanical side of the business.
After graduating with an engineering degree from Western Michigan University and spending four years living with roommates who were in the aviation program, Bill began flight training shortly thereafter. In the ensuing 30-plus years he has flown over 90 different makes and models of aircraft. “I have some very generous friends, for which I am very thankful,” he says, noting that he has been fortunate to fly everything from antiques and warbirds to many unique homebuilts. He currently flies his Van’s RV‐9, which he completed in 2007 with the help of his wife Nora.
Ray grew up on a family farm in southwestern North Dakota and moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota in the late 80s where he met Laura, the love of his life. Laura and Ray now live in Spearfish and have two daughters.
Ray learned to fly in a Cessna 150, then bought a C-172 in which he earned his instrument and commercial ratings. In 1996 Ray started an Aerial Application business based in Sturgis, SD and expanded into banner
Steve was born and raised in northeast Tennessee. He graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1971. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant through ROTC, he went on active duty in the U.S. Army in the early 1970s. His first civilian job was as a flight instructor at Tri-Cities airport, (KTRI) which eventually led to a 30-year career in corporate aviation, including dairy product transport pilot, among other interesting jobs.
Chase Snodgrass is one of those fellows who had the skill to solo an airplane at age 14 but had to wait until he turned 16 so he could do it legally. He spent his junior high, high school, and college years sweeping hangar floors, washing planes, and pumping avgas as a means of paying for flight training.
Since the age of five, Phil Whittemore has been interested in airplanes. He took his first flight with a test pilot for Aero Spacelines when he was 12. Phil got his pilot’s license in 1981 and now flies throughout the western United States, Canada and Alaska as a recreational bush pilot, “always on the lookout for great fly fishing along the way,” he says.