Tag Archives: El Paso TX

Former Army Aviator Addresses Daedalians in El Paso, Texas

    John Signorino

Long-time Life Member of the FASF and also VP of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Chapter 1570 in nearby Santa Teresa, NM, John Signorino,* was the special speaker at the local Daedalian Flight 24 meeting held at Fort Bliss’ Golf Club, yesterday.  This was the first real meeting since early last year, all because of the restrictions placed upon social gatherings throughout Texas because of COVID.

Although many members are still not ready to attend regular meetings, the Flight did get a reasonable post-COVID turnout of 19 attendees.  John had been scheduled to give his address to the Flight late last Summer, but that and several other attempts to have him speak were all canceled because of pandemic restraints and the closing of our various venues.

Normally the Flight meets each month at the Old downtown El Paso Club, but the Club has remained closed ever since the first lockdown order in March of 2020.  The Flight expressed their thankfulness to John for his patience at having been canceled so many times.

The main thrust of John’s talk was focused on his post-military experience with the EAA along with the founding of Chapter 1570, back in 2015.  Since its beginnings, the Chapter has accomplished many notable achievements, but the one John feels most significant is its highly successful Young Eagle Events.  Except for 2020, because of the pandemic lock-downs, each previous year the Chapter has hosted at least one, sometimes even two Young Eagle Events. Here is one of our posts of one of the last, pre-COVID, flights.

It is this Young Eagle enterprise that John feels will help overcome the country’s looming severe shortage of pilots.  How?  Because it introduces the nation’s youth to the thrill and challenges of becoming a pilot while still quite young.  This popular EAA youth program gives free airplane rides and introductions to flight to youngsters from 8 to 17 years old.  It also gives grants and/or scholarships to young teenagers so that they can undergo actual flight training, often paying for the achievement of their Private Pilot’s License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

While Drones are a huge new development in aviation, there will nevertheless still be a serious requirement for hands-on-aviators in the foreseeable future.  Both the Airlines and U.S. Military services have expressed serious concerns about the coming shortage of new pilots.  One of the major issues facing those who do want to become aviators is the current-day high cost of pilot training.  When yours truly learned to fly back during WWII (1944), the cost was not all that significant.

Here, below, is a short (2:52 minute) video clip about John’s topic, YOUNG EAGLES.

Here are some photos taken at yesterday’s meeting.  Virtually all local Daedalians are long-time members of the FASF, and John is one of the FASF distinguished LIFE MEMBERS because he gave full days of his professional helicopter pilot-time during our 2019 joint exercise with the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers‘ Geographic 3D Project Team when they spent a week in Columbus during June and July of 2019 3D mapping the historic 1916 Army Airfield’s topography and that of the surrounding Camp Furlong terrain.  During that operation, John was directly responsible for the taking of well over 30,000 high-resolution photographs of our area from FASF member, Mike McAffee’s, former (and fully-restored) Army “Scout” helicopter.  The light-weight rotary-wing machine had several affectionate nicknames: The LOACH and/or the Little Bird.

                             Col. Alan Fisher opens his first meeting as the Flight’s new Captain.

L to R: Alan Fisher asks Roger Springstead, Flight Chaplain, to give the meeting blessing.

Chatting before meeting begins are two long-time FASF members and also Aviation News Scouts, Virg Hemphill (L) and Jerry Dixon (R)

(L) Speaker John Signorino and FASF Trustee, Dr. Kathleen Martin, an oft-times guest of the Daedalians

                                              Virg Hemphill, Flight Treasurer, gives his report to the group.

L to R: Alan Fisher, Julie Pitt, Mario Campos, Kathleen Martin, and Mark Pfluger.  John Signorino is at the podium.

                                                  John Signorino describes the EAA Young Eagles

Captured in foreground during John’s presentation are Gerry Wingett, Mary Barnes, & Roger Springstead (back).

Col. Bob Pitt, Julie Pitt, Mark Pfluger, Mario Campos, Ulla & Col. Rice, Gill Gonzales + on Screen, Yours Truly in 1955!

                                                                                            John in action.

More of John.

                                                                              John makes a point.

L to R: Colonel Fisher gives John a token of Flight 24’s appreciation.

  •      John Signorino

    John Signorino retired in 2012 from the military with 28 years of service. John enlisted in the Army shortly after high school at the age of 18. He began his career as an electronic technician working on land-based telephone communication and microwave relay stations. Six years after joining the Army he was selected to attend Warrant Officer Flight Training.

    During John’s flying career he flew both helicopter and fixed-wing airplanes. He was qualified in the UH-1H, TH-67, AH-64A, C-12, RC-12H, and Dash 7. John served as an instructor pilot and a safety officer and served multiple tours in Korea, Iraq, Bosnia, and South America.

    During his military career, John proved himself to be a self-motivated, take-charge individual who has held several significant and vital positions. John is an exceptional leader and trainer. While in various positions, he provided excellent leadership skills and direction that promoted the sharing and encouragement of new ideas. As a teacher and mentor, he helped to counsel others on numerous occasions and has willingly shared his vast wealth of knowledge and experience with less experienced personnel.

    While in the Army, John was called upon to work long and arduous hours often under stressful conditions while maintaining an exemplary and professional manner. He has shown himself to be an exceedingly dedicated and superbly organized individual. He is a proven team player and does not hesitate to provide constructive suggestions to improve operations.

    John has had an entrepreneurial mindset since he was a teenager. While in the military, he started two successful businesses. After retiring, John was selected to Oklahoma State University Veterans Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. In 2013, John opened a Pop-A-Lock franchise in El Paso which specialized in auto, residential, and commercial locksmith work.

    John demonstrated that he learns quickly and is readily able to self-teach himself complex tasks. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle University, where he majored in business management. He also obtained his MBA from Grantham University, where his academic focus was on project management.

    John’s hobbies include motorcycles, hiking, and camping. He’s been married to his wife Mindy for 25 years. They have two children, a daughter, and a son, both of whom followed their father’s footsteps by joining the military right after high school. John and his wife currently live in El Paso, Texas.

    John is an exceptionally active member of the local, Santa Teresa Chapter 1570 of the EAA and has been its Vice President since it first opened its doors in June 2015. He continues to fly both fixed and rotary-winged aircraft in the General Aviation field.

 

 

 

Rio Grande Aviation Council – Kickoff Organization Meeting

Organizational Meeting Title on Display Screens at WEAM

The brainchild of two local aviation leaders, Bob Dockendorf and John Keithly, The Rio Grande Aviation Council (RGAC) was put into motion this past weekend at the executive office meeting room of the War Eagles Air Museum (WEAM) at the Doña Ana County International Jetport.

Incidentally, the above photo is of the actual large LED Display screens that were mounted in the War Eagles’ meeting room, but the Rio Grande part was inadvertantly misspelled, leaving the “e” off at the end of Grande.

The two organizers recognized that there was no central or nexus organization through which the area’s many public-interest aviation groups and organizations might express both their legitimate public interests in their common industry, or to work more efficently to help collectively protect those same interests.  In short, the new council would provide a more unified voice for the West Texas and SW New Mexico areas in respect to aviation related issues and interests.

Accordingly, Bob invited the area’s numerous public-interest and non-profit aviation groups to meet together at the WEAM.  At least one or more representatives of each of the local (within a 100 mile radius of El Paso, Texas and Santa Teresa, NM) aviation groups appeared on Saturday, the 6th of April, to help organize this new organization.

Bob and John recommended that the new organization be somewhat amporphous in nature and purposely not be formally structured, rather that it operate without any specific permanent officers or heirarchy.  Its main functions would be to provide a sounding board, brain-storming platform, and a clearing house for the member organizations’ interests.  It would, additionally, help provide a unified collective voice for the members’ common aviation interests.

Attending were: Both the El Paso (215) and Las Cruces (24) Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Squadrons; both the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Air Force ROTC and AROTC units from the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP); The El Paso Daedalians Flight; The El Paso Aviation Association; the El Paso Chapter of the Ninety-Nines (International Organization of Women Pilots); both chapters of the EAA, from Las Cruces (555), and Santa Teresa (1570), NMThe First Aero Squadron Foundation (FASF); the Las Cruces Aviators Club; The several local area High School Junior ROTC units; Air Force Association; the United States Air Force Academy and USAFA Alumni Chapter (USAFA)City of Las Cruces International Airport and the Doña Ana County International Jetport Airport; The Academy of Model Aeronatics; the El Paso Radio Controllers (EPRC – RC Model Airplane Club); The Dust Devil Flying Club, the new UTEP Four Year Aviation and Space Program; and the local Quiet Birdmen (QB).

The representatives of each group discussed their particular assets and current principal needs and goals.

Several other aviation groups were invited, but couldn’t make this intial organizational meeting, but will hopefully participate in future conferences.  Such future gatherings will be held at the WEAM on a quarterly basis.

The following photos show some of those who attended as representatives of their respective aviation groups:

(Any of the below photos may be seen in full high-resolution by simply clicking on them)

Mrs. Mary Dockendorf registers John Adams of the EL Paso Composite Squadron 215 of the CAP.

President Wes Baker of the Las Cruces EAA Chapter 555 parks his Cessna 140 on the ramp in front of the WEAM.

L to R: Col. Mario Campos (Daedalian Society), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC Club), and Tom Holmsley (AMA)

L to R: Todd Parsont (Franklin HS JAFROTC), Ana Donahue (Drone Pilot for the Elephant Butte Irrigation District-EBID), Squadron Commander, Travis McKenzie and Col. Alan Fisher (CAP Squadron 24) line up to sign in for the meeting.

L to R: Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Presidents Wes Baker (EAA 555) and John Keithly (EAA 1570), Col. Mario Campos (hidden behind) Juan Brito (EPAA).

L to R starting with those sitting with backs to the windows: Travis McKenzie and Mike LeGendre (CAP), Rick King (Santa Teresa Flying Club), Col. Alan Fisher (CAP), Malcolm White (USAFA), John Adams (CAP), Ana Donahue ((EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker and John Keithly (EAA Presidents), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC), Tom Holmsley (AMA), (three people with their backs to camera, and L to R) Elliott Werner (EAA), Bob Dockendorf (WEAM) and Didi Shaffer (Chair of the El Paso Chapter of the 99’s).

R to L clockwise: Rick King (Sta. Teresa Flying Club), Col. Alan Fisher (CAP), Malcolm White (USAFA), John Adams (CAP), Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker and John Keithly (EAA), Mike McGee (UTEP), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), Mary Dockendorf (WEAM), Juan Brito (EPAA), and Fritz Gatlin (EPRC).

L to R: Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (RAFROTC) and Wes Baker (EAA)

L to R: Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker and John Keithly (EAA).

L to R clockwise: Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker (EAA), John Keithly (EAA), Mike McGee (UTEP), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC).

Clockwise R to L: (only part of his back to camera) Mike McGee (UTEP), Mario Campos (Daedalians), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC), Tom Holmsley (AMA), Tania Privette (LCA), Andy Hume (Las Cruces Int’l. Airport), Didi Shaffer (99’s), Bob Dockendorf (WEAM), Elliott Werner (EAA), Javier Caraveo (USAFA & AFROTC), Travis McKenzie and Mike LeGendre (CAP), and Rick King (Santa Teresa Flying Club).

L to R: John Keithly (EAA 1570), Dr. Mike McGee (UTEP), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), and Juan Brito (EPAA).

L to R: Andy Hume (Las Cruces Int’l. Airport), Tania Privette (LCA), and Didi Shaffer (99’s).

                                      Didi Schaffer (Chair of El Paso Chapter of the Ninety-Nines).

Meeting Chairman, Bob Dockendorf, principal organizer of the Rio Grand Aviation Council

USAF ROTC Cadet Captain Ammber Valverde explains the UTEP/NMSU ROTC programs.

RGAC Organizational Meeting Representatives – L to R: John Keithly, Ric Lambart, Travis McKenzie, Mario Campos, Alan Fisher, Mike LeGendre, Mike McGee, Rick King, Elliott Werner, Tania Privette, Andy Hume, Didi Shaffer, Ammber Valverde, Ana Donahue, Javier Cavaveo, Juan Brito, Wes Baker, Todd Parsont, Tom Holmsley, Fritz Gatlin, John Adams, Malcolm White, and Bob Dockendorf.

 

CAP Squadron Commander, Natalie Franc, Briefs Daedalians

Major Natalie Franc, a native of Glenhrothes, Scotland, is the current commanding officer of the El Paso, TX Civil Air Patrol (CAP) “Composite” Squadron. As distinguished from a regular squadron, a Composite Squadron includes a CAP Cadet Corps, along with its Senior Members.

Natalie began her career with the CAP when living in Hawaii after having been in the Royal Air Force (RAF), in which she enlisted when 18 years old, after having first served, since she was 13, in the Air Training Corps of Great Britain.  In the RAF she was assigned to Intelligence, where she used her skills as a linguist with a fluency in the Russian Language.

When on active duty with the RAF she met and married her husband, Michael, who was also in the Intelligence branch of the U. S. Army.  When he was transferred back to the U.S. in 2002, she moved there with him.  Before finally settling in El Paso, Texas, Natalie had lived in Maryland, Hawaii, Arizona, and Germany.  As a civilian, in addition to her work with the CAP, she has worked in various capacities in Emergency Services and has been a volunteer with Army Family Programs and has also been an Armed Forces Caseworker.  Natalie now runs her own business in El Paso.

The Major showed a custom prepared Power Point slide show to the Daedalian Flight members, who are also members of the FASF.  The following photographs of this event are all in high-resolution, and can be seen full-size by simply clicking on them as they appear below.

L to R: Major Natalie Franc, Colonels Mario Campos and Bob Pitt.

L to R: FASF Aviation News Scout, Virgil Hemphill, Colonels Norman Rice (back to camera) and Alan Fisher. Colonel Fisher is also an active volunteer pilot for the Las Cruces, NM Squadron of the CAP.

L to R: Mark Pfluger, Active Duty Army Rotary Wing Pilot from Ft. Bliss’ Biggs Army Airfield, and his mentor, Flight Captain, Roger Nichols.

L to R: Maj. Franc, Col. Campos and his wife, Judy, Julie and Col. Bob Pitt, Retired USAF Colonels, Melissa and Alan Fisher, Virg Hemphill and Roger Springstead (USNR Ret.) Anselmo Rocha, Assistant to Col. Norman and Mrs. Ulla Rice, Jerry Dixon (USMC), Dave Ginn, Charlie Overstreet,  Jim Brandon, Col. Pete Brandon’s visiting brother, and just out of camera range to Pete’s left is his guest Skip Orrell.

Major Franc adjusts computer projector . . . as she explains that the CAP has the largest single-engined fleet of Cessna Aircraft in the world.  The powered aircraft total is about 560, and she reported that the CAP also owns 47 glider-sailplanes, which are used to train Cadet members, along with several Hot Air Balloons, which select Cadets are also taught to operate and fly.

The Major explains the National CAP organization’s composition . . . which inlcudes the Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

In this set of slides, Major Franc gives some examples of the CAP role in Search and Rescue Operatrions (“SAR” Ops).

L to R: Melissa and Alan Fisher and Virg Hemphill listen to Maj. Franc explaining her El Paso TX CAP operation . . .

Here the CAP Commander explains the role of the CAP in disaster Relief Operations, noting her own squadron’s heavy involvement in Hurricane Harvey, which struck East Texas, in particular, the Houston area.

In this slide the Major explains that the CAP mission also includes other roles in addition to Search and Rescue and Disater Relief . . . pointing out that her squadron plays an important role in Border and National Air Space Security.

Here Natalie describes the numerouis mission qualifications in which CAP members work throughout the Squadrons.

And here she shows the Daedalians and their guests how the CAP stays in constant radio contact with its mission personnel and aircraft during operations . . .

Major Franc sums up her presentation and takes questions from the audience . . .

L to R: Major Franc and Flight Captain Roger Nichols study one of the slides shown during the presentation.

L to R: Col. Bob Pitt, Major Natalie Franc, Flight Captain Roger Nichols, and Colonel Campos, who invited the Major to make the presentation . . .

L to R: Flght Captain Nichols and newly inducted Daedalian, Dave Ginn, and Colonel Bob Pitt.

FASF’s John Read Schools Daedalians on Punitive Expedition

By simply clicking on any of the below photos, they may be seen in high resolution, and either downloaded or copied, should you care to have them for your personal use.

John Read, one of the FASF’s original members, long time historian on the Punitive Expedition, and Chief Ranger at the New Mexico Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, looks out over El Paso and into Juarez, Mexico, from the El Paso Club, where he just presented a special progam to the Daedalian Society’s Flilght 24.

John takes in more of the spectacular view to the South over El Paso, from the El Paso Club’s picture windows.  The Daedalian Flight meets once a month to listen to educational presentations from local leaders.  John did a great deal of flying as a young man with his Dentist father, who owned a Cessna 182 Skylane.  Today, he regularly flies drones over SW New Mexico and shoots airborne videos, which can be seen on YouTube.

Mr. Read explains some of the little known background history behind the involvement of Germany in the Mexican Revolution during the early part of the last Century.

Daedalian members, all also FASF members, listen to Read’s description of the Expedition and why Pancho Villa may have rationalized or justified his attack on his former ally, the United States.

 John explains some strange and largely unknow history about the infamous Pancho Villa Raid on Columbus, which gave rise to the birth of American Air Power, when the First Aero Squadron launched its operations into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa from Columbus.

Another view of John, as he explains how the Germans tried to convince Pancho Villa and the Mexicans to make war on the United States, in order to keep it too occupied to bother getting involved in WWI in Europe.  Notice, to John’s left stganding by the window, one of the regular Mexican-American Club waiters, who was especially interested in learning things he’d never before heard about the Mexican Revolution – – – and Villa’s Raid on Columbus.  He expressed his appreciation to John after the meeting.

 John shows the Daedalians a copy of a “smoking gun” Telegram, sent by the Germans, to Mexico’s Revolutionary leadership.

At far left, FASF member and Daedalian, Charlie Overstreet (USAF), asks questions about the German involvement with the Mexicans during 1916 -1917 period.  L to R after Charlie: Dave Ginn (US Army), Colonel Mario Campos (USAF) and Colonel Bob Pitt (USAF).

At the end of his presentation, Colonel Bob Pitt (right) gives a token of appreciation to Mr. Read for taking the time to make the special presentation. To the left above is Flilght Captain, Roger Nichols, a former Air Force pilot.  Colonel Pitt , also a USAF veteran, was wounded while flying a jet fighter in combat over Vietnam during that conflict.

Trustees Meet with Army Sergeants Major Academy Staff

The new U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Historian, Dr. Everett Dague, from Kansas, and the Academy’s NCO Heritage and Education Center’s History Specialist, Leigh E. Smith, and his wife, Gretta, had lunch today at FASF Business Supporter, Ivonne Romero’s (scroll down the page at link to read about Ivonne and her renown establishment) famous Pink Store in Palomas, Mexico.

Their hosts for this visit were FASF Trustees Dr. Kathleen Martin, FASF Treasurer, Alma Villezcas, and Trustee Ric Lambart, all seen in the below photo.  The manager of New Mexico’s esteemed Pancho Villa State Park and Director of its renown Exhibit Hall, John Read, and his wife, Elle, both long time members of the FASF, also took part in welcoming both Dr. Dague, and the Smiths to both Columbus and its sister city, Palomas, Mexico.

Both Dr. Dague and Leigh Smith regularly conduct “Army Staff Rides” from El Paso’s Fort Bliss to Columbus for the purpose of teaching Army combat history to their students from the Army’s Sergeants Major Academy.  Today’s gathering was to help both Mr. Smith and Dr. Dague become better acquainted with Columbus, NM, and some of the people who work with its unique history, which resulted from it being the launching place of the famous response to Pancho Villa’s raid on the town in 1916, and the resulting “Punitive Expedition,” which was launched by order of then President Woodrow Wilson.

The VIP visitors from Fort Bliss gifted the FASF with some special items of historical significance regarding the Army’s Sergeants Major Academy and about the Non-Commissioned Officer’s training – – – and of their significant role in making the history of the Army itself.

      Remember: To see any of the FASF Site’s photographs in High Resolution, simply click on them.

L to R above: Alma Villezcas, John Read, Elle Read, Gretta Smith, Leigh Smith, Dr. Kathleen Martin, Dr. Everett Dague, and Ric Lambart. The above photo is courtesy of the Pink Store!

After the lunch at the Pink Store, John Read demonstated his new video camera equipped drone (see below photos) with which he plans to make new aerial views of the historic FAS 1916-17 Airfield.  He launched his drone from the main East West Runway of the airfield.

Above, John Read, flies his drone aloft with his remote control instrument panel.  The view down the runway is East towards El Paso, TX

The drone’s quiet four rotor blades swiftly lifted the device so high above the runway that we lost sight of it altogether.  Here it is returning by its own internal GPS guidance system.