He has more than 8,500 hours of flying under his belt. He has flown commercial airline jets for TWA, which became American Airlines. And he tows banners around Lake of the Ozarks and over large venues such as Arrowhead Stadium during a Kansas City Chiefs game.
Yet, for Corey Leuwerke, owner of Lake Aviation Center at the Camdenton Memorial Airport in Camdenton, one of his fondest memories in his career happened last fall right on the runway he sees and uses every day.
Last October, Leuwerke and his staff worked closely with the City of Camdenton, Camdenton Chamber of Commerce, Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau and Tri-County Lodging Association to put on a first-time B25 Fly-In event. Aside from the successful turnout, popular events such as the Ping Pong ball drop for the kids and aviation stunt shows, Leuwerke highly enjoyed the veterans who were able to take flight aboard the restored World War II era B25-J Mitchell aircraft.
"It was so neat watching the World War II veterans there, some getting out of their wheelchairs, climb up that ladder and get to ride in the B25. There was nothing that were going to stop them for taking that flight," Leuwerke said with a smile. "It great to be able to bring this event to the community and work together as a community to put it on. It really united the city, the chamber, the CVB and everyone together to host the event and achieve our mission to present an air show to the public. Now, we still have two aldermen and (other representatives from the City of Camdenton) who sit on this year's Air Show committee."
Since Leuwerke has owned and operated the Lake Aviation Center, he has seen the Camdenton Memorial Airport blossom with increased users, visitors to its community events such as Saturday's Young Eagles program and expansion to fully serve those wanting to come to Lake of the Ozarks or stop on their way to another destination. From a full-service aircraft maintenance shop and spots for up to 50 airplanes to future expansions such as a state-approved runway expansion, the Lake Aviation Center is flying high on success.
Landing at Lake Aviation Center
Aviation has been a passion for Leuwerke for many years. He earned his bachelor's degree in aviation technology and master's degree in aviation safety from Central Missouri State University. While At CMSU, he was a head flight instructor and earned his ATP (Airline Transport Pilot), CFII and MEI certifications.
Leuwerke then flew for regional airlines and TWA and then American Airlines until Sept. 11, 2001. His parents had a second home in the Lake Area and Leuwerke had done some freelance contract aviation work in and around the area for awhile. Then in 2002, the gentleman who had the airplane that provided banner towing service and Leuwerke did additional freelance work for asked if Corey wanted to take the plane.
"I did and renamed the outfit to its old name, Airlake Aviation," he added.
Air Lake Aviation provides a variety of services including banner towing for various companies, adding Anheuser-Busch contract in 2006, scenic flights, aerial photography, flight instruction, plane rental, airport service and additional maintenance.
In 2007, the City of Camdenton wanted to take the Camdenton Memorial Airport back to a Fixed Base Operator status (FBO) and couldn't do it alone, Leuwerke said. He and initial his partners, Tim and Tiffany Miller, operated the airport and Leuwerke then based his charter business and banner towing outfit of Airlake Aviation out of Camdenton. He noted his business still has an office out of the Grand Glaize Airport in Osage Beach, too, where it originally was based.
Now, Leuwerke owns and operates Lake Aviation Center and handles all the supervisory roles of the Camdenton Memorial Airport under the FBO status, along with his small, but experienced staff.
Where Leuwerke's one business, Airlake Aviation is more flying, banner towing, training and "in the air" responsibilities with his crew, the Lake Aviation Center is more "on the ground" duties.
Leuwerke said the airport is one of the only in the area that can store large jets and airplanes for temporary, typically overnight, use.
"We have a place for 50 airplanes on the field, total. Of those 50 spots, we only have about 10 vacancies," he said. "In 2009, the City (of Camdenton) approved for us to build another bay. Each bay holds 16 planes, and before that approval we were overflowing and had a waiting list."
The Lake Aviation Center provides a variety of services including flight instruction, two tug, paved ramp, tie-down, permanent hangar rental (as well as temporary hangar rentals), hi-speed wireless Internet access, courtesy car and fueling amenities.
"We have single-point refueling, for example military helicopters use that service, and a crew car so when people land they can utilize the free car service to get around the area," Leuwerke noted. "Fuel services is down across the country right now; last year we were 25 percent down at this time, which had been consistent since our glory days in 2007. However, this March we were up 10 percent on fueling over March last year. So it is picking up."
One of the largest advantages at the Lake Aviation Center in Camdenton is its full-maintenance shop housed right at Camdenton Memorial Airport. Leuwerke said since Kenneth Terry, an I.A. (Inspector Authorization) aircraft mechanic, came onboard the staff in 2008, they have been able to see an increased use of their 7,000 square-foot heated maintenance hangar.
"That has helped our airport a lot. We have a great full-service shop home-based right here with a full-time I.A. mechanic with 30-plus years in the business and all the licenses to sign off on anything and work on just about anything," Leuwerke added. "Plus, we have Rob (Record) who assists Ken in the shop and also works part-time as a flight instructor here at the airport. Our pilots have commented on how nice it is for us to have a maintenance service so if they break down they don't have to fly out of their way to get repairs. We have a lot of great staff working here who are well-experienced and great at their jobs."
Open to the community
Since the Lake Avaition Center took flight in 2007, Leuwerke made sure, as part of their agreement with the City of Camdenton, to promote the airport to the general public, as well. His former partner's wife, Tiffany Miller, had the idea to bring the national program - the Young Eagles - to the airport, and it has been a big hit with the Lake community ever since.
"Since 2007, we have been hosting Young Eagles at the airport every July. What better way to promote the airport than give free airplane rides to kids; and we highly enjoy these events and the community does, too," he said. "Our top numbers for the event have been about 130 kids who have participated. Now, we are in our third year having an additional Young Eagles program as part of the Dogwood Festival, and this year it will be on Saturday after the Dogwood Festival Parade."
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people, ages 8 - 17, an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. These flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers. Since 1992, more than 1.6 million Young Eagles have enjoyed a flight through the program. Young Eagles have been registered in more than 90 different countries and have been flown by more than 42,000 volunteer pilots.
Lake Aviation Center at the Camdenton Memorial Airport will be teaming up with the Lake of The Ozarks Chapter of EAA to once again bring Young Eagles flights to the Camdenton Airport, giving local kids to experience a ride in a small aircraft free of charge. Weather permitting these flights will take place noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
The airplane ride should last approximately 20 minutes. There will be an opportunity to ask the pilot questions before and after the flight. The children may even have the opportunity to assist the pilot in flying the aircraft. There will be an airplane in the greeting area where pre-flight demonstrations will be given.
There is a sign-up process and each child accompanied by their guardian will be entered in a log book and also receive an official Young Eagles certificate, signed by the kid's personal pilot and Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles.
Leuwerke added there will be many static displays of aircraft and emergency rescue equipment to include the Camdenton Fire Department fire truck and the Staff for Life helicopter during the event. Food will be available at the airport, as well.
"Hopefully the Young Eagles program is expanding to other area airports, with a possible one hosted at the Grand Glaize Airport in the future," he said.
Leuwerke said is also excited about the Lake of the Ozarks Air Show, set for Saturday, Sept. 22 (with rain date Sept. 23) at the Camdenton Memorial Airport. He was originally approached about wanting to do an air show by Tim Jacobsen at the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau, and was excited to "seal the deal" for the opportunity when a guy who ran B25 flights approached the Lake Aviation Center to put on last fall's event.
"They guy who runs the B25 flights said they had heard we do some cool events in Camdenton, noting our Young Eagles program, and wanted to put together a B25 event. I couldn't do it myself and with the interest in an Air Show already, Tim took the bull by the horns and said, "Let's do this,'" he said. "We raised enough money to pay for the B25 veterans flight but then raised enough to do the Ping Pong Ball Drop for the kids and worked deals for the air show acts. Last year we raised about $10,000. Already this year, we raised about $30,000."
With the continued support of the CVB, Tri-County Lodging Association, Camdenton Chamber of Commerce, City of Camdenton and numerous business, local organization and media sponsors, the Lake of the Ozarks Air Show is going to continue to grow each year.
The air show will see a salute to our military and the return of the B-25 Bomber, Team Vortex Air Show, the Ping Pong Ball Drop as well as new acts KC Flight Formation Team, Dave Dacy Air Show & Wing Walker, Free Fall Express Sky Dive Team and Jet Truck racing. A tentative schedule of events, sponsors and additional details are available at www.lakeoftheozarksairshow.com.
"We are giving away 20 B25 veteran flights this year, including both World War II and Korean vets; we already have more than 30 applications so far and will do a drawing for those," he said. "We are so excited about this event and it continues to grow and grow. Everyone has come together to support it, and we know it will be a great success."
Preparing for future flight
Leuwerke and his crew at both Airlake Aviation and Lake Aviation Center have many memorable moments from their time both in the air and at ground control with surprise fly-ins from politicians, assisting Life Flight in cases of emergency or disaster and doing major banner towing both at the Lake and around the Midwest.
For Leuwerke, he is also excited to have completed two of his three main goals when he took over Lake Aviation Center, with the third well on its way to fruition. Recently, the Camdenton Memorial Airport saw the installation of a $250,000 Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS), which was 90 percent funded through the state and additional financial assistance from the City of Camdenton. They also saw the better approach of their runway realized with improvements and changes made, as well.
"We are also currently in the process of starting our Environmental Impact Study to increase our runway (currently 4,000 feet) to 5,000 feet. It was approved by the MoDOT Aviation and we expect to start the EIS this year," he said. "We hope to see the expanded runway, if everything goes to plan, within three to five years."
For Leuwerke, the future of the Lake Aviation Center and Camdenton Memorial Airport looks bright; it has already landed him one of the most challenging, fun and rewarding jobs he has had.
"In 2007, we put together three main goals to bring business to this side of the Lake - a better approach on the runway, the AWOS and a longer runway," he said. "We have completed two out of the three since then, with the third on its way. That is what I love about this job - the variety. One day, I am sitting behind a desk doing paperwork or helping out in a hangar, the next I am pulling a banner during a Kansas City Royals game. I love it."
For more information about the Lake Aviation Center, visit www.lakeaviationcenter.com, call 573-346-0030, or visit the Camdenton Memorial Airport at 20 Airport Drive, off south Business Highway 5 in Camdenton. For more information about Airlake Aviation, call 573-348-1088 or visit www.airlakeaviation.com.