Our Team

A Passion for Aviation

Meet the Team at Smith Field Airport

At Sweet Aviation, flying is more than a hobby or even a career — it’s a lifestyle propelled by passion. Our dedicated team is committed to cultivating that passion in each customer, whether new to the skies or a lifelong aircraft enthusiast.

Chuck Surack
Chuck Surack, Owner

You may recognize Chuck Surack as the Founder of Sweetwater Sound, as the owner of luxury car dealership SweetCars, or as a community leader, serving on the boards of many local non-profit organizations.

What you might not know is that Chuck is a helicopter pilot and aircraft enthusiast. Inspired by his aviator father, Chuck has loved flying since childhood, even keeping his Boy Scouts Aviation merit badge to this day. His first flying experiences were in his dad’s Aeronca Chief based right here at Smith Field. Chuck would go on to own many other airplanes and helicopters, such as the Cessna 414, Cessna Citations, and the Eurocopter EC130, just to name a few. He loves flying and can often be found at the helm of a helicopter. He and his wife, Lisa, have two sons and a daughter.

Joel Pierce
Joel Pierce, General Manager, Chief Flight Instructor & Charter Pilot

With well over 20 years of flight experience, Joel’s passion for flight knows no bounds. In 2002 Joel earned his private pilot certificate, later attending the International Air Land Emergency Resource Team (ALERT) Academy where he obtained his instrument rating along with his commercial and flight instructor certificates.

At over 5,000 hours of flight instruction, Joel now leads the staff at Sweet Aviation and passionately assists the aviation enthusiasts of Fort Wayne with reaching their dreams of flight. He is type rated in Sweet Aviation’s Cirrus Vision Jet, certified to fly client’s T-28, as well as highly skilled in aerobatic maneuvers in the Super Decathlon.

Michael Neese
Michael Neese, Operations Manager & Certified Helicopter Flight Instructor

Originally from Cloverdale, Indiana, Michael graduated from Manchester University, later working in Indianapolis in international logistics.

That all changed for Michael after a helicopter tour around the San Francisco Bay Area. After that, he felt destiny pull him in the direction of aviation which led him to training at Sweet Aviation. He has since obtained his fixed-wing private pilot certificate and helicopter CFI rating.

When Michael has his feet on the ground, he operates a non-profit sports foundation as well as several other community focused ventures in Fort Wayne.

Tim Edmonds
Tim Edmonds, Director of Operations

Tim started his journey in aviation over 36 years ago with an impressive array of flight experience ranging from service in the military to corporate flights. He also has thousands of hours of international, mountain, and overwater flights in helicopters and airplanes.

Tim graduated with a bachelors’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is a graduate of the FAA ATC Academy.

Charter

Joel Pierce
Joel Pierce , General Manager, Chief Flight Instructor & Charter Pilot

With well over 20 years of flight experience, Joel’s passion for flight knows no bounds. In 2002 Joel earned his private pilot certificate, later attending the International Air Land Emergency Resource Team (ALERT) Academy where he obtained his instrument rating along with his commercial and flight instructor certificates.

At over 5,000 hours of flight instruction, Joel now leads the staff at Sweet Aviation and passionately assists the aviation enthusiasts of Fort Wayne with reaching their dreams of flight. He is type rated in Sweet Aviation’s Cirrus Vision Jet, certified to fly client’s T-28, as well as highly skilled in aerobatic maneuvers in the Super Decathlon.

Tyler Beachy
Tyler Beachy , Charter Pilot

From the Army National Guard to Envoy Air, Tyler has had his head in the clouds from a young age. Born in Goshen, Indiana, Tyler graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Professional Flight Technology.

A Learjet 35, Falcon 20 aircraft, CRJ 700, and ERJ 175 are just a few of the aircraft that Tyler has flown along with the Pilatus PC-12 he currently operates.

Tyler is back in his hometown of Goshen with his wife, Tiffany, and their two daughters.

Andrew Herman
Andrew Herman , Chief Pilot

Originally from Bryan, Ohio, Andrew got his first taste of flight back in the seventh grade and hasn’t slowed down since. He went on to earn his aviation degree from Bowling Green – Milwaukee and completed his flight training in Ohio, Connecticut, and North Dakota.

Andrew’s flight time and ratings are in a multitude of aircraft resulting in over 1,200 hours of flight instruction and charter experience.

Lorin Kaney
Lorin Kaney , Charter Pilot & Certified Flight Instructor

Lorin began his journey in aviation in 2003 at the ALERT Academy in Texas, eventually obtaining his private pilot license, instrument rating, A&P license, and CFI/CFII.

Born in Northwest Indiana, Lorin moved to Fort Wayne with his wife and what he enjoys most about Sweet Aviation is the opportunity to share in the joy of flight with his students as well as guide them to becoming safe and proficient pilots.

Joe Kobiela
Joe Kobiela , Charter Pilot

Joe logged his first pilot in command time in 1979, since then he has flown 14,000 hours as a private, charter, and instructor. After retiring from Dana Corporation with 31 years of seniority he is finally working his dream job as a charter pilot at Sweet Aviation. He loves to help his passengers have a safe and stress-free trip every time.

In addition to being a charter pilot, Joe is also a single and multi-engine engine airline transport pilot, single and multi-engine instrument flight instructor, King Air 350 type rating.

Joe lives in Auburn with his wife of nearly 40 years Pat, their Golden Retriever, and a cat, and has two grown daughters. In his spare time he loves to run, lift weights, read military history, and of course fly.

Tyson Whitner
Tyson Whitner , Charter Pilot

A Fort Wayne native, Tyson first got his taste of flying at Smith Field with the Young Eagles. He followed that passion through high school, participating in programs that led him towards his A&P license. He later graduated from Indiana State University with a degree in Professional Flight Technology while playing football for the Sycamores.

Tyson also has his private, instrument, commercial, and CFI/CFII certificates and is eager to share his passion for flying with the Fort Wayne community.

Paul Wilhelmson
Paul Wilhelmson , Charter Pilot & Flight Training Manager

Growing up in Bolivia flying mission aviation airplanes, Paul’s passion for flying is vast. He earned his private, instrument, commercial and A&P licenses at the school of Missionary Aviation Technology in Michigan, later spending a few years working as a pilot and A&P in both Indonesia and Bolivia.

Previously, Paul worked in Indianapolis obtaining his multi-engine commercial and CFI ratings.

He enjoys sharing his unique experience and passion for aviation with others as well as spending time with his wife, Jami, and their four children.

Rachel Cheng
Rachel Cheng , Charter Operations Specialist

Originally from Fort Wayne, Rachel joined the Sweet Aviation family in 2015 and has over fifteen years of customer service experience. She is a graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne with a bachelor’s in psychology and is looking forward to becoming a pilot herself soon.

Will Capeheart
Will Capeheart , Charter Operations Specialist

Will’s enthusiasm for aviation is in his genetics as his father was in the United States Air Force for 20 years as an aircraft mechanic.

Will graduated from Faith International Academy in the Philippines in 2017 and returned to the United States to begin the bachelor’s program in interpersonal communication at Purdue University Fort Wayne. He hopes to continue his education with an associates for professional flight and possibly become a pilot himself.

Instructors

Paul Wilhelmson
Paul Wilhelmson, Charter Pilot & Flight Training Manager

Growing up in Bolivia flying mission aviation airplanes, Paul’s passion for flying is vast. He earned his private, instrument, commercial and A&P licenses at the school of Missionary Aviation Technology in Michigan, later spending a few years working as a pilot and A&P in both Indonesia and Bolivia.

Previously, Paul worked in Indianapolis obtaining his multi-engine commercial and CFI ratings.

He enjoys sharing his unique experience and passion for aviation with others as well as spending time with his wife, Jami, and their four children.

Alex Akins
Alex Akins, Certified Flight Instructor

Alex grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, and graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance. Alex completed his private, instrument, commercial (single and multi), CFI, CFII, and MEI at ATP in Richmond, Virginia. Alex is also a Staff Sergeant in the Indiana Air National Guard.

Alex loves sharing his passion for aviation and is continually looking for new ways to learn and grow as an instructor and a pilot.

Spencer Chupp
Spencer Chupp, Certified Flight Instructor

Spencer grew up in Goshen, Indiana where his passion for aviation grew with him. During his time in high school, he got his first taste of aviation when he took lessons at his local airport and eventually earned his private pilot certificate. Afterward, Spencer started his career by participating in internship programs at his local airport. Later, he pursued a degree in Professional Aviation Flight Technology at Indiana State University where he would earn his instrument commercial, CFI, and AGI certificates. Soon after graduating Spencer joined Sweet Aviation. Spencer is excited to share his passion for aviation while helping others achieve their dreams.

Ryan Anderson
Ryan Anderson, Certified Flight Instructor

After bouncing around between majors in college, Ryan happened upon aviation by accident on his commute through his grandparents’ small town in Northwest Indiana. One discovery flight is all it took for him to radically switch tracks to pursue flying. This is where he, “Caught the bug!”

This passion for flying only deepened upon enlisting in the Air National Guard at Fort Wayne’s 122nd Fighter Wing, home of the Blacksnakes. During his enlistment in the reserves, Ryan worked on his Private, Instrument, Commercial, and CFI licenses, all while holding a full-time job. Currently, Ryan is working to achieve his CFII & bachelor’s degree from Liberty University’s aviation program.

Outside of flying, Ryan is a husband to a great wife, dog dad, major foodie and coffee fiend, musician, and thrill seeker of all things. Ryan believes you should love what you do even on the hard days.

Connor Denny
Connor Denny, Certified Flight Instructor

Connor was born in Germany as the son of an Army aviator and comes from a long line of pilots and aviation enthusiasts. He knew he wanted to be a pilot at a young age and after moving to Utah finally took the plunge into an aviation career. Connor did all his training in Salt Lake City before moving to Fort Wayne to join the Sweet Aviation team. He hopes to pass on his passion for flying to new pilots and continue to grow as a pilot and as an instructor.

Carl Doe
Carl Dole, Certified Flight Instructor

It all began with Carl’s first ride in a Cessna 182 piloted by his uncle. Ever since then, he’s been hooked, leading him to obtain his CFI as well as a bachelor’s from Purdue University and a master’s from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Carl has experience in various single-engine aircraft and is the sole owner of a PA-16 aircraft and enjoys applying his experience as a college course instructor to training new pilots.

Derek Farmer
Derek Farmer, Certified Flight Instructor

Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Derek didn’t have a clue what he wanted to be when he grew up. After visiting an out-of-state college, he was sitting on a window seat home from New York when the plane broke out of the clouds into what he had only seen in his visions of heaven.

His passion for aviation grew quickly and he went to Purdue University for their Professional Flight Program in the fall. While studying there, he got all the way from his Private Pilot Certificate to his CFII. During that time he met some awesome friends, had some great memories, widened his network, and came home to develop and grow more at Sweet Aviation.

Christopher Houser
Christopher Houser, Certified Helicopter Flight Instructor

For Christopher, aviation is in his DNA. As a third-generation pilot, he is a certified helicopter flight instructor with experience on a variety of helicopters including Bell, Robinson, and Eurocopter just to name a few. He is also a certified drone operator.

Christopher graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s in law and society, eventually leading him to becoming an active police officer after graduating from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

Josh Huber
Josh Huber, Certified Flight Instructor

Josh currently resides in Northwest Ohio and is a recent aviation enthusiast. He earned his instructor rating here at Sweet Aviation and continues to pursue additional training, ratings, and certifications.

Rick Knight
Rick Knight, Certified Flight Instructor

Rick’s done it all from Air Force pilot training on T-37 and T-38 aircraft, flying several planes in the American Airlines fleet around the world, to being a check airman and instructor and so much more.

Experience spanning nearly 50 years and an unprecedented passion Rick is the ultimate aircraft enthusiast. His early days were spent right here in Fort Wayne at Smith Field and his passion led him all across the globe.

Keith Phillips
Keith Phillips, Certified Flight Instructor

A native of Holland, Michigan, Keith graduated from Concordia University – Ann Arbor with a degree in business and eventually landed in Fort Myers, Florida,  where he attended flight school. There, he earned his PPL, instrument, commercial ASEL and AMEL, MEI and CFI/CFII certificates.

Aside from flying, Keith is an avid outdoorsmen and enjoys playing golf, hunting, and fishing.

Cameron Snider
Cameron Snider, Certified Flight Instructor

Cameron has had a passion for aviation from a young age. Inspired by two family Navy pilots, he went on to earn an Aerospace Engineering degree from Virginia Tech. After graduation, he enjoyed a stint as a flight test engineer flying on Rolls-Royce’s 747 flying test bed and Boeing’s 787-8 flight test fleet. While working, Cameron completed flight training in a variety of places — Indiana, Texas, Washington, and Ohio, and earned his sport, private, instrument, commercial, and CFI certificates.

When not flying, Cameron enjoys spending time with his beautiful and talented wife and awesome kids. They love traveling, camping, and hiking together.

Bob Schmelz
Bob Schmelz, Certified Flight Instructor

Bob is no stranger to the aviation community in Fort Wayne having been an instructor in the area since 1987. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for aviation with others, volunteering with the EAA Young Eagles, Scouting’s Aviation Explorers, and the Civil Air Patrol.

Bob is rated for single-engine land with instrument and commercial privileges plus glider and multi-engine endorsements.

Carter Stuard
Carter Stuard, Certified Helicopter Flight Instructor

Since the age of six, Carter has had a deep rooted love of aviation. While in his senior year of high school in Danville, Indiana, Carter earned his private airplane pilot certification and has since obtained his airplane instrument rating, helicopter private pilot certificate, helicopter commercial certificate, and his helicopter certified flight instructor certificate.

Carter currently lives in Bluffton, Indiana and is working toward his degree in mathematics at Indiana University East.

Maintenance

Sean Barr
Sean Barr, Director of Maintenance & Certified Aircraft Mechanic

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Sean graduated with honors from the US Air Force Academy with a bachelor’s in political science and a German language minor. He went on to serve eleven years on active duty as an Air Force Special Operations Pilot, logging over 2,100 hours of flight time including 1,000 hours of combat over Iraq and Afghanistan. For his accomplishments Sean was awarded a Bronze Star and eleven Air Medals.

In addition to aircraft, Sean is also passionate about his faith and earned his master’s in Theological Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary while attending A&P school.

Sean enjoys spending time with his four daughters, as well as camping, traveling, and hunting.

Corey Flynn
Corey Flynn, Aircraft Detailer

Corey was born and raised in Fort Wayne Indiana.  As a young kid, he worked with his father pressure washing his commercial accounts. Ever since then, Corey knew he had a passion and attention to detail. He then started detailing vehicles and about two years into that, he became more intrigued by the dynamics of performing paint correction and protection. Along with Corey’s training and courses, he traveled to Atlanta, GA to become a Certified Detailer- Skills Validated, then to Irvine, CA to earn his Detailing Master Technician Training Course Certificate. He is an active member of the International Detailing Association as well.

Tom Mollenauer
Tom Mollenauer, Certified Aircraft Mechanic

Tom is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and received his A&P and FCC licenses from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. He started his aviation career in 1996 with regional carrier Continental Express and then ExpressJet Airlines in Cleveland, Ohio. 25 years later after the pandemic closed the doors, Tom found himself working for GA companies. He received his IA license in August of 2022 from Bakers School of Aeronautics. Tom and his wife Kim have have two sons, two grandkids, and two goldendoodles, Skylar and Reign. They are active with their family, kids sports and church. They love drag racing and traveling.

Brock Nafziger
Brock Nafziger, Certified Aircraft Mechanic

Brock is from Archbold, Ohio and earned his A&P certificate from Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology. His passion for aircraft began in his early teens when Brock decided to pursue a career in aviation. He enjoys off-road adventures in his Jeep and spending time with family.

Jeff Reid
Jeff Reid, Maintenance Admin Assistant

Jeff didn’t know it at the time, but seeing airplanes at an airshow would send him down a career path in the aviation industry. Growing up in the Midwest, Jeff would attend a university where he would receive two Associate of Applied Science degrees as well as a Bachelor of Science business degree. Jeff then joined the Air Force where he would serve six years and be deployed to the Middle East three times. At Sweet Aviation, Jeff handles the administration and logistics for the maintenance shop and plans to earn his pilot license soon.

Andrew Rupert
Andrew Rupert, Certified Aircraft Mechanic

Andrew was hooked into aviation at an early age when his uncle purchased a flight for him and his brother in a New Standard D-25 at the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan. With that start, he graduated from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, with a Bachelors of Technology in Aviation Flight & Maintenance. While finishing his A&P Andrew worked as a part time flight instructor for the university.

In his free time Andrew enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, Alicia. The couple is often found camping, hiking, or Kayaking.

Austin Scheiderer
Austin Scheiderer, Certified Aircraft Mechanic

Austin earned his A&P and commercial pilot certificates from the School of Missionary Aviation Technology and has had a career as an aircraft mechanic and flown aerial survey missions across the United States.

Austin later graduated from Ethnos360 Bible Institute with an associate’s in biblical studies. He and his wife, Katie, have have a daughter and hope to one day fly with Ethnos360 as overseas missionaries.

Steven Schwanz
Steven Schwanz, Certified Aircraft Mechanic

Steven Schwanz grew up in Minnesota where he trained at the Minneapolis Technical College Aviation Training Program as an aircraft mechanic and also received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia University. In his free time, Steven enjoys spending time with his wife and five sons.

Customer Service

Taylor Brennan
Taylor Brennan, Lead Customer Service Representative

Taylor was born and raised in Arizona and earned a degree in psychology from Arizona State University followed by a career in education and playing in her local band.

Taylor later fell in love with aviation after a couple of discovery flights including an EC130 in Hawaii. She is excited to work with those who share a passion for aircraft and to expand her knowledge of aviation.

Hanna Miller
Hannah Allred, Accounting

A lifelong resident of the Fort Wayne area, Hannah joined Sweet Aviation in June of 2014. She is not yet a pilot, but she does enjoy the aviation community and looks forward to her annual trips to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Michael Brewer
Michael Brewer, Pilot & Customer Service Representative

Michael attended Vincennes University in the aviation flight program. There, he received private, commercial, and instrument flight training. He only recently returned to the aviation industry after an exciting 18-year adventure in the live music industry. Now, being a part of Sweet Aviation, he gets to enjoy his passion for both music and flying.

Tim Ormsby
Tim Ormsby, Pilot & Customer Service Representative

Tim has had a longtime love for flying after obtaining his private pilot license in 1987 at Smith Field. He has since owned several different single and twin-engined airplanes and has logged over 3,450 hours of total flight time.

Tim is also a mission pilot with the Civil Air Patrol and a volunteer piloting Young Eagle flights and flying rescue dogs to their new foster homes for Pilots ’n Paws.

Alondra Torres
Alondra Teran Torres, Customer Service Representative

Alondra fell in love with aviation after her first Young Eagles flight at the age of 12. After that she aspired to get her private pilot license while pursuing her career in veterinary medicine.

Alondra is originally from a small coastal town in California but then moved to Portland, Oregon to continue her education. In 2020 she made the decision to switch career paths and finally get her private pilot license, which, in addition, she also holds instrument and multi-engine commercial licenses now too. Alondra plans on continuing her training at Sweet Aviation and hopes to one day become a Certified Flight Instructor, fly charter, and perhaps become a Designated Pilot Examiner too.

In her free time you can catch Alondra volunteering at the local EAA Chapter 2, cuddling up with her dog Dwight, or reading a good book.

Email us or give us a call at (260) 267-5505 if you have questions or would like more information.

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