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High flying publication looks at aviation.

Jim Tecu has taken to the air in a sail plane glider, a gyroplane and a Cold War vintage Czech jet fighter. Tecu hobnobs with aerobatic champs and experimental airplane builders.

One might guess that Tecu is a stunt pilot or an aerobatic daredevil himself. In fact, Webster Groves' Tecu is the publisher of Midwest Aviation Journal. His newspaper for aviators has served as his passport to meet and to fly with all kinds of folks who cavort in the "wild blue yonder."

Since starting his newspaper five years ago, Tecu has garnered some incredible aviation experiences. He has been able to fly in airplanes ranging from Piper Cubs to jet fighters. He has flown in a powered parachute, an engineless gyroplane and helicopters of various sorts.

"I almost lost it when I flew in the Czech L-39C jet fighter. Believe it or not, there's a club of general aviation jet fighter owners," said Tecu. "The L39Cs went up for sale after the Cold War. The Soviets used it as a trainer, since it flew at relatively low speeds of 300 to 350 miles per hour.

"The fellow I interviewed took me up for some rolls in his L-39C, which were actually quite comfortable," noted Tecu. "But when he started doing loops, the G forces zipped past four and everything went from color to black-and-white, and I just about passed out as the control panels blurred to a gray for me."

Tecu also has been roughed up a bit while doing stories on gyrocopters, gyroplanes and heliplanes. He has a whole new respect for helicopter pilots, especially those who fly in the open below the whirring rotor hub.

"There's a fairly high accident rate with these gyro machines, most of them home-built," Tecu said. "But their owners love them. When I went up, I just got beat to death. The wind and force blowing down on you from the blades are intense. I went up in May in Paducah, but I was sure glad I wore a heavy coat that day."

Tecu also counts his flight time in a sail plane glider as among his most memorable airborne experiences. His glider experience came with a story about the exploits of St. Louis Soaring Association in Highland, III.

"They use tow planes to take these engineless gliders up to about 3,000 feet. When they let you go, it's a weird experience. There's no noise, no engine," Tecu explained. "Some of these gliders have a 50-1 flight ratio, which means if you start one mile above the ground, you can travel 50 miles before landing.

"What these glider pilots really love is going out on a hot day when they can get on these lifting columns of warm air," he said. "It's like you're catching an elevator to the top of the sky."

Humble beginnings

"I'm someone who started taking flying lessons in 1969 when I was 31 years old," Tecu said. "I progressed enough to do my solo cross country flight. That meant I could do my check-ride to be a private pilot. But I did not feel comfortable with my abilities so I quit."

However, Tecu could never get flying out of his system. It gnawed at him even as he pursued a successful career in radio broadcasting and advertising sales. In 1993, he enrolled again in flying lessons - this time determined to get his pilot's license.

"In the winter of 1994 I was learning to fly solo with the help of Don Hoffman, a Monsanto retiree who is now a flight instructor," recalled Tecu. "I had soloed 15 years before and it was a huge thrill to do it again. I was so inspired I came home and wrote a story about it, which was accepted for publication by Flight Training magazine.

"After I got my license, I began doing some advertising work for the outfit where I learned to fly," explained Tecu. "As I started to formulate some ideas, I realized there was no regional aviation publication. That's when the light went on in my head that I ought to start one myself."

Tecu sought out a friend of his who knew a lot about desktop publishing. Soon, Tecu was designing the aviation paper on the computer program QuarkXPress and running down to Kinko's to print out the masters for his newspaper.

What started out as a hobby has become a business. Tecu prints Midwest Aviation Journal six times a year and he hopes to increase its frequency and its circulation area in the near future. Most copies are distributed to general aviation airports in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.

Tecu has a respectable hangar of writers for his paper, including columnists Jim Cone, a decorated combat pilot, and Charlie Duchek, fixed-wing and helicopter flight instructor. Tecu's publication is packed with ads for pilot shops, flight lessons, cheap air fuel, customized air craft and hangar space.

"My main concern when I started the publication was whether I knew enough about aviation," said Tecu. "But everybody was so supportive. They said it was an advantage to come to coverage of flying with fresh eyes."

Flying folks' affliction

"People who love aviation are afflicted with something akin to an addiction," Tecu said. "It's a bug. It's a chronic condition. Sometimes it can lie dormant for a few decades, but given the right circumstances, it can germinate in a very short time.

"I thought my stopping flight and starting years later was so unique," added Tecu. "But after my first article was published about my own experience, I received phone calls and letters from around the country from people who went through the exact same thing."

Folks like Tecu are determined to share their bug with whomever has the slightest interest. In his New Year's Aviation Journal column this year, Tecu urged his readers to make a resolution to take at least one non-aviation person up for a flight this year.

According to Tecu, general aviators have a mission to show the public that their sport and hobby are not so dangerous as the media try to make it. General aviation is fun. There's nothing like flying to a pancake breakfast or an experimental aircraft show or a regional fly-in, Tecu said.

Tecu is especially fond of the annual air show in Oshkosh, Wis. The annual get-together of parachutists in nearby Quincy, Ill., also makes for an impressive sight for clear skies, according to Tecu.

However, Tecu's tone approaches the spiritual when he speaks of his reverence for certain solo flight experiences. He spoke of such a recent occasion on a short touch-and-go from Spirit of St. Louis Airport to the Washington, Mo., airport.

"For some inexplicable reason there weren't many airplanes flying on this gorgeous spring evening," noted Tecu. "I owned the sky. As I returned to Spirit, the sun was setting over the rolling hills passing under my wing.

"I was overcome by a sense of awe and gratitude," recalled Tecu. "Awe for the beautiful evening and the scenery. Gratitude for the privilege to be so lucky to experience the magic of flight by piloting an aircraft over the beautiful landscape on this wonderful Midwestern evening."

Don Corrigan is a professor in the School of Communications at Webster University and he also edits three weekly newspapers.
COPYRIGHT 1999 SJR St. Louis Journalism Review
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Title Annotation:Midwest Aviation Journal
Author:Corrigan, Dan
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Date:Oct 1, 1999
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