Tri-States Original: Air USA - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Tri-States Original: Air USA


QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -- Air USA is one of the only companies in the country that uses their own fleet of fighter jets to test the most recently built aircrafts and provide real time training for military exercises.

They might not be doing fly-by's on aircraft carriers anymore, but they can still turn quite a few heads out at the Quincy Regional Airport.

WGEM News caught up with the Quincy-based company as they were gearing up for their latest mission.

It's just another day at the office for Bruce Ellingwood, except his desk is the cockpit of a L-59 Super Albatross.

For the retired Air Force pilot who's spent a career flying higher and faster than most human beings, the idea of getting a regular job never even got off the ground.

"Never, it's great fun. I live in Hawaii and I come all the way here just to fly one or two flights," Ellingwood said.

His military days are now exhaust in his wake, but the missions are still coming at full speed.

"Today we're supporting a flight with a Boeing aircraft out of St. Louis. They're building an F-15 for the Singapore Air Force," Ellingwood said.

The planes at Air USA may be small, but they can put even the most recently built fighters to the test.

"What we are is an airborne target, so they need a maneuverable, high speed target to test their radar systems on the airplane and other sensor systems," Ellingwood said.

Air USA is one of only a handful of private companies who own and operate their own fighter jets and the only company is the country allowed to drop modified bombs and fire laster targeted training rounds.

"The biggest contract we have right now is supporting the Air Force Special Operations and the Marine Corp. by dropping practice bombs from our practice jets," Ellingwood said.

"When people ask what do you do, I say go see 'Top Gun', that pretty much explains it."

Air USA also has one of only two privately owned Russian Mig 29's in the world.

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