St. Louis Shriners Debut Aviation-Themed Parade Float, With the Help of Trans States Employee

Thanksgiving is just around the corner!  For many people, Thanksgiving means family, food, football, and of course, parades.  The annual St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade will be extra special this year, as the St. Louis Moolah of Shriners International will be debuting a brand new float, made out of an Embraer 145 fuselage.  Waving to the crowd from the windows of the plane will be children currently undergoing high quality orthopedic treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis.  The Shriners are a fraternal organization dedicated to providing care for children free of charge. In addition to orthopedic care, this St. Louis hospital also treats burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palates, as well as provides other complex surgical needs.

Trans States’ own, Sam Curless has been involved in this inspiring project since its inception. Sam was in the process of joining his local chapter when he heard about the Shriners’ Air Patrol parade float – an old, dilapidated Charlie Brown float from the 1960s that was in sore need of replacement.

shriners-charlie-brown-float

Some members had mentioned that an aviation-inspired float would be especially fitting, as it could shine a light on the important work done by the Shriners Moolah Air Patrol.

Children with severe orthopedic needs often have to travel far from home to receive care, which can be draining on a family’s finances.  That’s where the Air Patrol steps in. As Air Patrol Director John Cordell explains, “We are a division of the Shriners that is transportation focused.  When families need to get to St. Louis because a child requires orthopedic care, we find a way to fly them here at no cost.”  Volunteer Shriner pilots fly children and their families to St. Louis on their own time, via their own planes or borrowed private aircraft.  If the Air Patrol doesn’t have a plane or pilot to accommodate a family, they will fly the family in commercially, or coordinate with Wings of Hope, another charity that provides air travel to families in need.  Once families arrive in St. Louis, the Air Patrol transports them to the  Ronald McDonald House, Haven House, and other places where they can stay during the duration of their child’s treatment.

When Sam heard about the Shriners Air Patrol’s wish for an aviation-themed float, he knew that he could help.  While finding a company to donate an aircraft fuselage for most would be a challenge, it wasn’t for Sam.  As the Managing Director of Strategic Sourcing and Materials at Trans States, Sam works with aircraft manufacturers, lessors, and parts vendors all over the world.  Sam put the Shriners in touch with AeroVision International, an aircraft lessor and Embraer 134/145 parts distributor, who donated a fuselage for the float.  It was then gutted and fitted with custom chairs donated by aircraft manufacturer Embraer.

shriners-wrapped-float

Everything about the float was created with Shriners kids in mind. “This is not a Mardi Gras party barge,” says Sam. “This is something special for children undergoing treatment, some of whom may never have been on plane before.” John agrees.  “We really wanted to go for that, ‘wow factor,’ with this float,” he said. “On the outside, it looks like a brand new plane. But on the inside, it’s all about the kids.”  The aisles are wide, to accommodate wheelchairs, and the interior includes lights and air conditioning.  During the parade, children can sit in either the fuselage or the cockpit.  “We even raised the seats in the cockpit eighteen inches, so that the kids can see out of the windows and look at the crowd,” John added.

All in all, the project required over six hundred hours of labor, and the joint efforts of many.  “This project was not just isolated to St. Louis,” Sam stressed.  “All around the country, people associated with the Shriners chipped in to help with this project.”

To see the final results of this amazing project, be sure to watch the parade on Thanksgiving Day, broadcast live on KMOV-TV Channel 4 in St. Louis.

The Shriners are always looking for volunteers, including pilots for the Air Patrol.  Click here to learn to more about how you can get involved with this incredible organization.

Update (November 28, 2016):

Check out the photos below of the float in action at the 2016 St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade!

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Trans States Airlines at the Special Olympics North Carolina 2016 Plane Pull

The 2016 Plane Pull benefiting the Special Olympics of North Carolina (SONC) is a wrap, and we’re proud to have been a part of it!  On April 30, over 70 five-person teams competed against each another to physically pull one of our Embraer 145s!  As you can imagine, that’s no small feat, but these teams pulled it off – and raised over $110,00 for SONC in the process!

This year marked the 16th year for the annual Plane Pull competition, which began as a unique and fun way to raise money for Special Olympics. “Numerous Special Olympics states host a Plane Pull,” says Special Olympics North Carolina President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne, “but originally it started with 20-person teams and huge jets. In North Carolina, the format changed to 5-person teams and regional jets, since it allowed for more teams to enter be a part of this important and fun event.”

The 2016 SONC Plane Pull winners, The Bertie Enforcers, pulling a Trans States Airlines Embraer 145!
The 2016 SONC Plane Pull winners, The Bertie Enforcers, pulling a Trans States Airlines Embraer 145!

To participate, each team must raise at least $800, with the proceeds going towards providing training and Special Olympics competition opportunities for nearly 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  Thanks to generous donations from sponsors, athletes are never charged a fee to participate in any of these year-round training and competition offered by Special Olympics.

In addition to the annual festivities, the 2016 SONC Plane Pull also incorporated several new features. The event began with “opening ceremonies,” where members of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle club rode in carrying the Special Olympics Flame Of Hope, as well as the United States and North Carolina flags. “Four SONC athletes also got the honor of riding on the motorcycles with the law enforcement officers,” further explains Keith L. Fishburne. “Then, an athlete delivered a short invocation, another athlete gave a short speech sharing Special Olympics’ impact on their life, and another athlete declare the Plane Pull underway.” From there, the teams hit the tarmac at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and got “pulling!”

The competition is a race to see who can pull the airplane 25 feet in the least amount of time. All teams competed in the first round, with the top 20 advancing on to the second round. The Final Round consists of the “Fast 5” from Round 2 competing to determine the Overall Champions.  This year, the Bertie Enforcers of the Bertie County Correctional Institution upset the two-time defending champions, The Smokey Bears of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, with a final pull of 7.85 seconds.

One of the participants of the 2016 SONC Plane Pull in front of the Embraer 145, provided by Trans States Airlines.
One of the participants of the 2016 SONC Plane Pull in front of the Embraer 145, provided by Trans States Airlines.

Raleigh-Durham Chief Pilot Jonathan Jones expressed his gratitude in being a part of such a tremendous event, saying, “The Special Olympics is an amazing organization that affects the lives of so many people throughout North Carolina and the rest of the world.  We are a part of the community here and appreciate the opportunity to be involved with The Special Olympics and help over 38,000 North Carolina athletes. What a great way to spend the day, pulling planes and making a difference.”

We’re so proud to have been a part of helping a wonderful event benefiting such a wonderful organization.  We can’t wait for the 2017 SONC Plane Pull!

The Trans States SOC Gives Back with Holiday Toy Drive

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Last year the Trans States SOC got into the holiday spirit with hot chocolate, an advent calendar, a personalized stocking for each SOC employee, and more.  However, this year the SOC employees they decided that in addition to the in-office festivities, they also wanted to organize something that would allow Trans States employees to give back to the local community.

Each year the Toys for Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys during December and November, and distributes them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. “When the Trans States SOC was looking for a charity to support this holiday season, Toys for Tots seemed like a great place to start,” said SOC Manager Elizabeth Bevenour.

Employees in the SOC work 7 days a week, with shifts going nearly around the clock, so SOC employees are often unable to participate in fundraisers that take place during regular office hours.  The SOC set out a toy collection box for two weeks, making it easy for employees to drop off their donations, regardless of what shift they worked.  “We collected approximately 100 toys this year, which I  think is great for our first year,” says Dispatcher Tom Wagoner, who helped Elizabeth coordinate the event.

The SOC plans to make a Toys for Tots drive an annual holiday event, and also has other plans for giving back to the local community next year, including canned food drives and more.

For more information on the Toys for Tots program, please visit http://toysfortots.org.

Operation Liftoff Gives Back

Most Trans States employees are familiar with the table and small rack of airline merchandise that greet you when you enter the headquarters building in St. Louis. However, what many people don’t realize is that the profit made from the merchandise sold goes to support an organization called Operation Liftoff.

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Operation Liftoff is a charity that provides air transportation for children with life threatening illnesses when medical treatment is not available in their geographical area and their families cannot afford travel expenses.  Operation Liftoff also organizes an annual group trip for teens who are seriously ill. “Unfortunately, some parents don’t have the vacation time to take their child on a trip,” says Operation Liftoff board member Kaye Waggoner.  “That’s where we step in.”  Teens, who are often in the middle of chemotherapy, are taken straight from the hospital to the trip destination.  Precautions are taken should an emergency arise—nurses and EMTs accompany the participants, and the program organizers have all of their medical records.  Check out Operation Liftoff’s Facebook page for great photos of this year’s group trip to Branson, MO!

Operation Liftoff is excited to announce that it will soon be transitioning into an actual store location in the lobby of the headquarters building.  The next time you pass the Operation Liftoff store on your way to lunch or when you’re in St. Louis for recurrent, take a moment to browse their selection of airline clothing and memorabilia.  Treat yourself to a Trans States Airlines t-shirt or an aircraft model, and know that the proceeds will go to a good cause!

To learn more about Operation Liftoff or to purchase airline memorabilia, visit www.operationliftoff.org.

Trans States Sponsors Region Six SAFECON Competition at UCM

UCM Aviation

 

Last week Trans States was a proud sponsor of the Region Six SAFECON competition, hosted by the University of Central Missouri Department of Aviation.

SAFECON is a collegiate aviation competition where aviation students compete in nine events, including ground flight planning calculations, aviation knowledge, in-air flight navigation and precision landings.  The competitors with the three top scores from last week will advance to the SAFECON national competition in May.

UCM Sponsorship shirt
Official sponsorship t-shirt!