Florida Fly-Out Attracts Midwest Flyers

Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017

Members of the Florida Aero Club flew to Venice, Florida February 19, 2017 for its monthly fly-out and lunch at Sharky’s On The Pier. Joining the club was Dave and Peggy Weiman of Midwest Flyer Magazine, and several members of their editorial staff. The Weimans were in Florida covering aviation events and activities to be featured in future issues.

Bill and Judy Blank of La Crosse, Wisconsin; Bill and Nancy Blake, formerly of Peoria, Illinois, now of Sarasota, Fla.; and Phil and Carol Peterson of Oregon, Wis., joined the Weimans for lunch.

Dr. Bill Blank is a contributing columnist for the “High On Health” section of Midwest Flyer Magazine. Dr. Blank is an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), flight instructor, air show performer, and a member of his local flying organization, the La Crosse Area Flyers, and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and is also on the Board of Directors for La Crosse Regional Airport.

As an ophthalmologist, Dr. Blank was the first surgeon to perform an intraocular lens implant in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In addition, Dr. Blank has been an AME for 38 years, and has risen to the rank of Senior AME.

Dr. Blank has 5700 flight hours, and holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, and is a Certified Instrument, Single and Multi-Engine Flight Instructor (CFII). He is rated for Single-Engine Land and Sea, Multi-Engine Land, and Rotorcraft. Dr. Blank performed in air shows for 39 years, and owns and flys an American Champion Decathlon. Blank’s wife, Judy, narrated some of her husband’s air show performances until he retired from performing in 2014.

Pilot and aircraft owner, Bill Blake, formerly of Peoria, Illinois, and now of Sarasota, Florida, was a columnist for Midwest Flyer Magazine as the representative of the AOPA Great Lakes Region from 1999 to 2011.

Prior to working for AOPA, Blake was Director of the Division of Aeronautics for the State of Illinois (1992-99), and prior to that, Chairman of the Greater Peoria Airport Authority Board of Commissioners, Executive Director of the Illinois Aviation Trades Association, an Army Aviator assigned to the East-West German border during the Cold War flying the SK-58 helicopter, and a contract negotiator for the Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C. He retired with the rank of colonel.

While Blake was Director of Aeronautics in Illinois, the mayor of Chicago closed Meigs Field without the consent of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and against the wishes of both the State of Illinois and AOPA. Under Blake’s leadership, the State of Illinois, AOPA and the “Friends of Meigs Field” organization launched a heroic campaign to save the airport, located in downtown Chicago along Lake Michigan, but bulldozers destroyed the airport in the middle of the night before the legal battle could be won.

Nancy Blake is an instrument rated pilot, and serves on the Board of Directors of Lifeline Pilots, a 501 (c)(3) charitable volunteer pilot organization whose mission is to facilitate free air transportation for children and adults with medical and humanitarian needs. While living in Washington, D.C, Blake was Executive Secretary to the General Counsel of the Air Force at the Pentagon. The Blakes own a 2004 Cessna 172 Skyhawk, which they base in Venice.

The Florida Aero Club also welcomed Phil and Carol Peterson of Oregon, Wisconsin, who flew their 1996 Piper Archer on vacation from Wisconsin to Florida.

The International Flying Farmers named Phil Peterson “Man of the Year” in 2016 for his many contributions to the organization over the past 25 years. Peterson is currently President of the Wisconsin Flying Farmers, and he and his wife, Carol, were also named Wisconsin Flying Farmer “Man and Woman of the Year” in 2016.

The Petersons’ family farm was established in 1880 by Peterson’s grandfather, Nels, who emigrated from Denmark. The Petersons have flown their plane from their private airstrip throughout the U.S., Canada, the Bahamas, and South America, and participate in the annual “Canada Fishing Fly-Out” featured in Midwest Flyer Magazine (https://midwestflyer.com/?p=10149).

The Petersons are a three-generation flying family. Their son, Mark, got his Private Pilot Certificate in 1981 and in 2015, Mark’s daughter, Michelle, got her license.

The President of the Florida Aero Club is Anthony Restaino of Hollywood, Fla. Membership is open to any pilot who loves flying in Florida (http://floridaaeroclub.org/).

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