Meet The Team
From the first time John took flight with a model airplane, he was hooked. Aviation has been a constant focus in his life. After building a car in high school , he looked at two F-4 Phantoms rocketing across the sky, he was inspired, and headed straight to the Air Force recruiter. John scored the highest his recruiter had ever seen in mechanical knowledge on the ASVAB test. In 1984, John entered the United States Air Force as a crew chief on F-16's. During his Air Force career, he was lucky enough to crew nearly every variant of the F-16, including the Block 10, Block 15, Block 25, Block 30, Block 32, Block 42, and Block 50 models. He got to know the F-16 Fighting Falcon. For John it was the Viper, a nickname given to the F-16 early in its career.
John also had the opportunity to be selected to crew the most famous Stealth aircraft to ever fly; the F-117A Stealth Fighter. John spent the next several years maintaining military fighters, and earned Maintenance Professional of the Year for three different Fighter Wings. Upon completion of his service, John moved onto running a maintenance repair facility for micro turbine engines. He helped push the JetCat lineup of micro turbine engines to the top of the category with remarkable support and sales figures. He then moved on to design electric model airplanes for Horizon Hobby under the E-flite brand. During his tenure with Horizon, John designed over 52 aircraft models in just 5 years, and helped the brand achieve a remarkable level of success.
John’s model aircraft experience, competitive spirit, and drive took him into another path only a few years ago with the advent of the drone multi-rotor aircraft. His work as a Counter UAS Drone pilot allowed him to fly against the United States Military branches to help train our forces for combat across the globe.
John’s love of aviation continued to fuel his passion of building his own aircraft, and he purchased his RANS S-20 in 2016. While dreaming about building his airplane and waiting for it to arrive, he came up with the thought of building aircraft for other people. He thought if he could keep fighter pilots alive at 500 knots and 500 feet of altitude while pulling 9 G’s and putting bombs on target, he could build a quality aircraft that would be safe and incredible for someone to own and love. John brings a unique insight to the world of experimental aviation. John’s 40 years of model building and flying, combined with his USAF maintenance experience brought Viper Aviation to life. His guidance and leadership have played a part in many successful aviation projects throughout the years. John and his team at Viper Aviation are committed to performance so you can build your passion.
Chris is John’s youngest son, and has been immersed in aviation his entire life. Before Chris was born, his father was a serious model airplane guy and competed across the United States, flying as a sponsored pilot for many companies. Chris attended his first model airplane event at the golden age of 2. While sitting in his stroller, he was picked up by a former Lieutenant in the United States Navy. Mr. Bob Violett walked him down the flight-line of model jets and explained exactly how important aviation was, and that Chris had better get it figured out. Chris nodded with a big smile on his face, and at 9 years old, he took off on his first solo flight. Saying, “dad, I’ve got this”, John threw the plane into the air-secretly hoping it would crash so he could then teach him the lesson of being coached. To John’s chagring, Chris flew four flights that evening in the park and was officially hooked.
From that day on, Chris was flying every day he could in the back lot of the subdivision. While those evenings of model aviation were great, he treasured the weekends at the flying field where he could fly much larger and more complicated aircraft. At 12 years old, Chris became the youngest pilot in the history of the Academy of Model Aeronautics to receive his turbine waiver. This allowed him to enjoy flying jets at speeds in excess of 200 mph with his father. Not only was he the youngest pilot on the field, he also won many awards for his flight skills.
In addition to model aviation, Chris’s other love was baseball. At 10 years old he told his parents he wanted to be a pitcher. Loving and understanding the game, John tried to explain what the position of pitcher was all about. Chris said he knew the mound was the loneliness spot on the diamond, but that was where he wanted to be. His parents found a professional pitcher named Dan Blewet to train and coach Chris for 5 years. That training lead to a complete high school record of 21 wins and only 2 losses. He finished every game he started and had a 1.93 ERA. He became known as “Red” to his teammates, and helped lead his Varsity team to two consecutive Cornbelt Conference Division Championship titles in Illinois.
Chris works his “day job” managing a Pizza Hut on the campus of the University of Illinois.
Chis has never been afraid of hard work, and still looks to the sky at every airplane that flies by. His dream is to become a pilot, and plans on turning that dream into a reality. When his dad asked him if he would be interested in coming to work with him at Viper Aviation, he couldn’t say yes fast enough. A quality mechanic and a solid mind for business positions him to work along-side his father and bring great airplanes to life. Everything Chris does he gives his all towards every challenge he faces, and is committed to quality workmanship and a positive experience for every Viper Aviation customer.
DIrector of Marketing
Stephanie and John met while working at Horizon Hobby in 2007. Stephanie was in Marketing, and John was in Product Development. They worked together on multiple RC brands, and quickly developed the trust and respect needed to form a cohesive team. While at Horizon, Stephanie managed marketing and promotional activities for park flyers, and implemented a new line of indoor micro-flyers for the company. When John began looking for someone to be at the helm of Viper Aviation’s marketing, he thought of the fiery marketing manager he worked with years ago. Stephanie’s no-nonsense approach to marketing, communication, and life in general was a great fit for John and the Viper team.
Stephanie graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2001. Since then, she has been working in marketing in a variety of industries. She began working in Chicago for the region’s biggest wine and spirits distributor. She managed promotions and events, and trained her teams to conduct tastings and events throughout the Chicago metro market. In 2013, she relocated to Central Illinois and began working for Miller Brewing Company, managing their college-market promotions around the University of Illinois.
Stephanie spent the majority of her career coordinating marketing and educational outreach for an engineering and research firm, where she worked closely with the Federal Highway Administration, and state Departments of Transportation.
In addition to being Viper Aviation’s go-to for everything marketing, Stephanie also runs a tight shipwreck of three young and active children, and one exceptionally lucky husband.