Gene McNeely, the slot pilot for AeroShell Aerobatic Team, performed his final air show on November 5th in Stuart, Florida. He had spent the last 24 years flying the slot position for AeroShell.
Gene got the flying bug as a kid. After serving in the United States Navy, he used his G.I. Bill to finish his ratings. He fell in love with the T-6 while watching fellow AeroShell pilot Steve Gustafson’s father, Merle, flying one at an airshow. Gene joined the AeroShell team, then known as the North American Aerobatic Team, for the 1994-1995 season, replacing the retiring Ben Cunningham. Back then, the show was a three-ship routine with Alan Henley and Steve Gustafson as the other pilots. The team became a four-ship when Alan’s brother Mark joined the team, and a few years later they became the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, now going down in history as one of the longest running civilian teams in the world.
Over his career, Gene has logged more than 26,000 hours of flight time doing just about anything you can imagine in aviation. He operated his own agricultural business for over twenty years. He also operated an air cargo service utilizing DC-3s, Beech 18s and MU-2s. Outside of air shows, Gene is active in the Reno Air Races where he races a T-6, and loves building homebuilt aircraft. His fondest memories, however, are the time he spent on the team, with their first night show ever at Oshkosh standing out in his memory.
From all of us at AirshowStuff.com, congratulations on your retirement Gene!