Tag Archives: Leading Edge Flying Club

60 Years at PWK and Still Going Strong

Do You Know Lou Wipotnik?

There aren’t too many things around PWK that date back to 1957. The old timers still call it Pal-Waukee Airport and will probably never stop.

The airport’s original control tower built above hangar 4 in the 60s was torn down years ago and replaced by a more modern structure where controllers keep an eye on things from high above, just east of Signature Flight Support’s ramp. In the 50s, the only way for an airplane on the ground to reach Runway 16 for a south takeoff was to wait for a gap in traffic and scoot the opposite way up the runway for a quick turnaround. Back in the late 50s and early 1960s, student pilots were often seen practicing their landings and takeoffs on Runways 24 Left and 30 Left, surfaces turned into taxiways decades ago. In the airport’s busiest days of the late 1960s and early 1970s, takeoffs and landings often hovered between 200,000-225,000 each year. In 2016, airport traffic totaled about 79,000.

If you’ve been hanging around the airport for any length of time however, there’s one fellow you might have seen or perhaps even met … Lou Wipotnik. He first came to PWK in May of 1957 when he learned to fly at Sally’s Flying School on the east side of the airport. Don’t look for Sally’s though either … the place has been closed at least 30 years.

Lou earned his Flight Instructor rating in 1968 and has been teaching in airplanes & helicopters ever since, having worked at most of the schools on the airport at one time or another. He currently instructs with Fly There and Leading Edge Flying Club at hangar five on the west side of the field and flies as an independent instructor with aircraft owner pilots at PWK.

Lou was named the FAA’s U.S. Flight Instructor of the Year in 1996, as well as having reached the Master Flight Instructor Emeritus status in 2016. He certainly hasn’t been slowing down any, even after 60 years at PWK either. Lou was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in May of last year.

A longtime member of the Chicago Airport Pilots Association, Lou served two terms as club President between 2001-2004 and has been active with the Civil Air Patrol for 32 years. Lou still teaches a variety of aviation safety seminars in the Chicagoland area as a FAASTeam Representative for the FAA FSDO #3.

“Lou is a go to guy for aviation education. He always replies in the affirmative if you need a speaker and has donated his time and effort over and over and over again. I remember especially his aviation club from before 1986 with regular tests to keep the pilots sharp and his great IFR presentations at the 99s Safety Seminar. So glad he’s shared his expertise with so many for so long and so well.  Congrats LOU on the first half of your career 😋.”

Madeleine Monaco, President, Chicago Executive Pilots Association

A Week of Great Airport Events

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Hangar 11 was busier than it has been in some time.

JetSmarter Party at Hangar 11

In case you missed some of the action this past week, both airport people and a number of star-like visitors gathered around the airport to learn about.

Last Friday night, hangar 11 became the center of attention for dozens of people cheering on the launch of JetSmarter. The night was highlighted by a visit from comedian Jenny McCarthy and her husband Donnie Wahlberg. Note the accompanying photo with our own Signature Flight Support honcho Al Palicki.

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Donnie Wahlberg, Jenny McCarthy and Signature Flight Support’s station manager Al Palicki

JetSmarter is making private air travel accessible through a mobile app that seamlessly connects travelers to private jets at attractive fares worldwide, in real-time. The company has also formed links with local helicopter companies to  speed the hook up for quicker transfers between downtown and the airports JetSmarter may serve, such as Chicago Executive, DuPage, Waukegan and of course, Chicago O’Hare and Midway.

Avidyne Explains ADS-B

Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, better known as ADS-B in airplane talk, is a new system the allows aircraft anywhere to talk to air traffic control without using traditional radar systems. Radar is expensive to operate and ADSB is not.

Avidyne’s regional rep Ryan Paul was on hand Saturday for the monthly Leading Edge Flying Club breakfast, this month also joined by a number of members from the Chicago Executive Pilots Association. About 50 people attended the hour-long session in which Ryan explained the intricacies of deciding what kind of equipment to add to a general aviation airplane and at what cost.

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Avidyne’s Ryan Paul

For aircraft owners, the real benefit of ADS-B will come once a new satellite system, soon to be launched by Aerion, allows aircraft to be tracked anywhere on the face of the earth, including over vast areas of ocean or in the deepest of the Amazon. For local pilots, installing ADS-B in a Beechcraft Bonanza or Cirrus SR-22 will offer a host of benefits including the ability to track other aircraft in the sky and to download radar weather reports. The FAA requires that all aircraft operating at airports like PWK be equipped with ADS-B by 2020.

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50 people showed up for the combined LEFC and CEPA breakfast with Avidyne

Everyone involved in airplanes knows that nothing in our industry is cheap. GA aircraft operators are still hoping the cost to equip with an ADS-B unit will drop prior to 2020. Ryan explained that while there may be a few sales here and there from the electronics manufacturers like Avidyne, the real issue is going to be finding an avionics shop to install the equipment. In some cases, the switch to the newer ADS-B equipment might be quick, a bit like taking your car to ABT for a new stereo. In others, an aircraft could be in the shop for a week or longer. Ryan also explained that as the 2020 deadline approaches, the few shops capable of installing the new equipment will be busier and busier in a last minute rush to update. And if the airplanes don’t have ADS-B by 2020, they will be grounded until the equipment is installed.

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Long-Time PWK Pilot Announces Retirement From CAP

Lou Wipotnik and Jamie_30 Nov 2015Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Lt. Colonel Lou Wipotnik, a long-time PWK flight instructor and former commander of the Chicago Executive airport squadron last week donated a hand-carved model of a Cessna 172 to the growing office collection of airport Executive Director Jamie Abbott. The donation occurred as Wipotnik announced his retirement from the CAP after 26 years of service, effective November 30, 2015. The 172 is an exact replica of N903CP, a CAP aircraft once based at PWK.

Wipotnik said, “I wanted to offer the Executive Director a small token of appreciation for the years of wonderful treatment he’s offered CAP, as well as the cooperation we’ve received from the Village of Wheeling and the City of Prospect Heights.”

Lou Wipotnik began flying in 1957 at Sallie’s Flying School at PWK and joined CAP that same year rising to become first the squadron and then CAP group commander until he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1964. He returned to PWK in 1989 and served at the PWK squadron until his retirement.

Wipotnik was also in 1996 named the FAA’s Flight Instructor of the Year and was recently inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame for 2016. Despite his retirement from CAP, Lou says he’ll continue to teach people to fly at the Leading Edge Flying Club and Fly There LLC, both based at hangar 5, as well as with individual aircraft owners.

One PWK Pilot’s Story: Why He Flies

Chgo nightI’m sorry.

Unasked, I feel compelled to write about my flying experience this past Sunday night. I’m not sure if I am apologizing because I am sharing a personal story without you asking for it, or if it’s  because you weren’t with me. Over the last 1500 hours, I’ve had many pleasant flights. Like all pilots, most flights cause me to say out loud, “I love flying!”  But this night was somehow different.

My flight to BMI was uneventful, but exciting as I was flying down to enjoy dinner with one of my sons who happened to be in town to see a client. Flying is always great, but has special meaning when I can see family….. AND EAT!  As an added benefit, I found a new great restaurant.

After dinner, he dropped us off, and after a preflight, we headed north to PWK. The flight was only about 30 minutes, and as we approached Chicago, I descended to stay under the Bravo (O’Hare airspace). With the lights below and the dark sky above, I dimmed the panel, making the plane almost invisible. Combined with a glass like smoothness in the air, it created a visual I couldn’t remember experiencing before. It was as if I was in an easy chair, and I was directing the chair through a magical world. There was no sense of speed, other than the city lights moving by below me. I didn’t want the flight to end, and wished all of my friends (pilot and non-pilot alike) could’ve been with me.

I write and talk to pilots about getting out to the airport to go flying.  I’m always amazed how little we fly, considering how much we all love it. I’m hoping reading this will serve as a catalyst for some of you to find your own special aviation moment. Get back in the plane and experience something that so few people will ever know.

And learn from me, invite someone to share it with.

ME

March Epner flies a Cirrus and also serves as president of the Leading Edge Flying Club based at PWK’s hangar 5