AeroShell Team Loses Key Pilot

Gene McNeely retires from legendary aerobatic T-6 team.

Aeroshell
Legendary AeroShell pilot Gene McNeely (left) recently flew his final flight with the aerobatic T-6 team.Aeroshell

If you’ve been to a major airshow in the past two decades or so, chances are really good that you’ve had the pleasure of watching four rumbling T-6 Texan airplanes, dancing closely in the sky in graceful aerobatic patterns. One of the pilots who has been on the team since its inception more than 25 years ago is retiring. Gene McNeely flew his final flight with the team this weekend at the Stuart Air Show at Witham Field in Stuart, Florida.

McNeely fell in love with flying at an early age and has flown more than 26,000 hours in his career. He flew for crop dusting and air cargo, but his love was flying airshows. “For years, I flew in the same southern regional airshows as Ben Cunningham, Alan Henley and Steve Gustafson, who were flying together as the North American Aerobatic Team,” McNeely said. When Cunningham retired in the mid 1990s, McNeely joined the team as did Henley’s brother Mark. “We worked really hard and a few years later we became the AeroShell Aerobatic Team,” McNeely said.

McNeely was flying in the slot position and he was particularly fond of flying the night show. “Our first night show at Oshkosh — the was the biggest audience we had ever flow for at that time and it was absolutely incredible to look down and see all the cameras flashing at night,” he said.

“On behalf of Shell Aviation, thank you, Gene, for your years of representing AeroShell, but more importantly, for your contributions to the industry,” said Shell’s marketing manager of fuel and lubricants Amjad Shahabuddin. “For a career that spans decades, you have brought smiles to the millions of spectators who have watched you fly with the AeroShell Aerobatic Team.”

With team lead Alan Henley being forced to drop out of the team in 2008 due to a tragic accident the team now consists of Steve Gustafson, Mark Henley, Jimmy Fordham and Bryan Regan.