Love to Fly

Oct. 15, 2018
Harvey “Boss” Meek, Paul “Rocket” Hornick, David “Cupid” Monroe, and Gerry “Fossil” Molidor fly because they love it and because they want to promote aviation

It started with the need to fly.

An airline pilot was looking for a plane that he could fly for fun, “something that would allow him that freedom of expression again.” It ended up with a plan for an aerobatics team.

Harvey Meek, an airline pilot, was looking for an aircraft, which lead him to Dave Monroe, also an airline pilot, who had a plane to sell and a business plan to put together an air show team. The air show team idea took precedence. Paul Hornick and Gerry Molidor are now also part of the team: The Phillips 66 Aerostars.

“In the heat of the season we’re together almost every other week,” says Paul Hornick. The team performs at air shows from April to November. “In the winter we go down for maintenance.”

And although they are pilots, performance is key.

“When you start running these airplanes as hard as we do,” Molidor says, “you have to be intimately in tune with the wear rates on everything. Because if you're not, then you can't fly the airplane like you need to to win. And if you're competing or you're working close to the ground on air shows, you just can't fly right. You really need to be comfortable that the airplane is mechanically perfect you know?”

“And at the end of the day all of us have had a time where even though an A&P has touched the airplane, we want to touch it,” Hornick adds, “because we're the ones whose lives are on the line. And there's a difference between losing an engine at 8,000 feet, and losing an engine at 200 feet, inverted.”

Partnerships to Ensure Performance

“We’ve partnered with Phillips 66 Lubricants,” Hornick says, “and we've had over a 10-year relationship with them, and it's grown considerably over the years, but one thing we’ve always said is that we won't partner with anybody whose product we wouldn't fully endorse and use ourselves.

“We've used Phillips 66 Lubricants from the get-go, whether it's a Yak, or it's an Extra (300L) aircraft. And we've had superior results with their products.

“One of the reasons we like Phillips 66 oil is their multiviscosity,” Hornick continues. “We've done shows in February where we leave Illinois and its -5 F, and we've flown as far south for the first show of the year down in the Dominican Republic and with Phillips multiviscosity we're not having to worry about doing an oil change on the road just because the temperatures have changed.”

Meek says, “We're doing these shows when it's 95 degrees out. So these engines are at the upper end of the heat range and we've had outstanding results from their lubricants.”

“The great thing about it is the first 30 seconds after you start it you have blood running through the veins right away,” Molidor says, “even in the colder weather. And now with the engines we’re using, the 20W-50, same thing, it's just a great oil; runs extremely clean. Of course we change it every 25 hours. We keep it nice and clean, and we feel real confident it's protecting our investment.”

“We’ve also partnered with Global Parts for the first time this year,” Hornick says. “We took their president and CEO (Troy Palmer) for a ride for the first time with the team this year at Oshkosh AirVenture.”

“They've been instrumental in helping us get parts already this year,” Meek says, “in a very timely fashion. They were helpful in securing some parts that we needed while we were on the road at Sun and Fun at our debut with the new fleet type.”

“In the air show business the show must go on; we just can’t afford downtime,” Hornick says.

Young Aviators

An area that the team has developed this year is a program called the Young Aviators. The idea is to inform the next generation of the possibilities that aviation offers in terms of a career. For a lot of kids these days if they're away from an airport or don't have family members that are involved in aviation in some way, they don’t know what is available, Molidor says.

“What we're doing is leveraging the team and the visibility of the team to discuss with the young people all the different facets of aviation as a career,” Molidor says. “The team goes onsite at an air show, and we coordinate this ahead of time with the organizers to line up some visits to schools, so we can talk with the kids. We try to do a very broad spectrum of jobs, to try to put out a big net. If we just go and talk about flying that only appeals to a very small cross section. But within aviation there's literally a job interest for everybody.

“At Sun ‘n Fun the team gave a briefing to close to 300 high school aged students from local area schools in the Lakeland area,” Meek says. “They bused them in and we gave a briefing on Thursday and Friday. And on Friday 10 lucky students from the Central Florida Aerospace Academy, an aviation based high school in Lakeland, flew with a team on a formation aerobatic ride.”

“It was a perfect venue for us to give our career briefing to,” Hornick adds, “in that it was the exact type of children that we were trying to target.”

“We are so short of technicians right now,” Molidor continues, “it's very difficult to find people. And usually what you see at the airlines, they hire people, technical people that aren't rated. And they work under a rated person. The field is wide open. It's a wonderful time for a kid to get involved in aviation. It's an exciting field. Of course we're on the flying end, but there's administrative, there's the technician, there's electronics. There are so many different facets to it that I think young people would be interested in, but they have to know about it.

“I have two nephews that are going the A&P route, and already have jobs,” Molidor says. “It's like they don't even get out of school and they know where they're going already.

“I was just talking to a recruiter at Air Wisconsin,” Meek says, “and he recruits directly out of the local colleges. He says, "I can't get ‘em fast enough." So, yeah we're evangelizing about the career, about the profession, and like Gerry says, not just pilots.”

Professional Tips

The Phillips 66 Aerostars also highlight the importance of keeping a professional image.

“We also cover real-life things like a parent would tell their kids,” Molidor says, “but it sounds better coming from somebody else. Be careful on social media and stuff like that.” Negative posts could hinder somebody's progress toward a career, like the “girl that was going to be an intern at NASA that shot herself in the foot by swearing on social media.”

Hornick flies for an aerospace company which includes divisional presidents and their engineers as passengers. So when he hires, he checks social media as part of the background check. “We're a very conservative operation and don't want guys flying executives around that would be making bad decisions, and behaving poorly or potentially representing the company in a poor manner. We want people to exhibit a history of good choices as they're growing up, not doing silly things.”

Harvey “Boss” Meek, Paul “Rocket” Hornick, David “Cupid” Monroe, and Gerry “Fossil” Molidor fly because they love it and because they want to promote aviation. Keep Flying!

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