Meet Elbie Mendenhall

Owner, EM Aviation, LLC

Elbie Mendenhall’s career in aviation spans over 54 years and 25,000 accident free hours, flying over 140 makes and models of aircraft.  Elbie delivered newspapers earning money to support his habit, model aircraft which he flew for over twenty five years.  His love of aviation led him to Spartan School of Aeronautics in 1960.

Two years after completion of his Flight Instructor rating, Elbie was offered the job of setting up and managing a flight department at the East Central State College in Ada, Oklahoma.  After working in Ada several years he moved to California when he was offered a job at Sierra Academy of Aeronautics.

Desirous of flying larger aircraft and having well over 4000 hours & the ATP written passed Elbie was hired by the contractor who did all flying for the US Atomic Energy Commission, flying the following aircraft: Beagle Aircraft Ltd 206s; Beechcraft D-35, D-18, D-50; Cessna L-19; Douglas C-47/DC-3, C-54/DC-4; Fairchild F-27F.  All light twin aircraft and C-47/DC-3 were used for flying classified material and personnel all over the US, C-54/DC-4 weres used in support of various islands for Atomic testing in the Pacific Ocean; Fairchild F-27F’s (2) were used to transport personnel.

In 1972 after a cutback in personnel, he moved to the L.A. basin, obtaining a job instructing for Martin Aviation, SNA, where he remained until being hired by Air Cal nearly 10 years later. During this time he was Chief instructor of all light aircraft courses and Chief instructor of the Cessna Citation courses, operating 6 Citations for training.  He was also an FAA Designated Examiner and Pilot Proficiency examiner for the Cessna Citation Business Jet.

After being hired by Air Cal as a first officer in Boeing 737, he was asked by the FAA to continue giving check rides and pilot proficiency rides, which the airline approved.  In 1983 he moved to Washington state, commuting to work.  In 1987 Air Cal was purchased by AA where he flew B-737, 757, 767, & MD-80 retiring in 2000. In 1968 he began experimenting with AOA’s, in 1972 the first successful system (?) was flown.

During his time in WA he continued his experimentation with AOA’s.  In 1992 a local friend suggested using an LED display, came up with a prototype a few days later.  Mr. Phil Peterson has been involved in the company since that time, and we formally introduced the RiteAngle AOA production in 1995 followed by RA-1 & RA-II (a hardware system correcting for flap position.

In 2000 we started work on a software driven system that automatically corrected for flap position, producing the RA-3 series with automatic flap correction,  This system and its current version, the RA-5 series, have the same “closer than we can fly” better than one degree accuracy & repeatability our core versions have had since 2000.

We are currently making the RiteAngle BASIC+  & RiteAngle Buddy + for aircraft without flaps and the RiteAngle ELITE + (RA-5) and the RiteAngle Integrity (RA-5a) for FAA Part 23 certified aircraft.  Most of our products up to the Integrity RA-5a have been for the Experimental Amateur Built or homebuilt aircraft with systems flying in 13 countries around the world.  The Wipaire Fire Boss was produced with the RA-3b as part of the forest fire-fighting equipment.

About EM Aviation, LLC

EM Aviation was formed by Elbie Mendenhall in 1995 when he sold his first AOA system on New Year’s day.  Why?, he had been asked in 1968 by a former Navy pilot to design an AOA for his homebuilt aircraft, not knowing it would  involve  many years before he even had a successful system, which flew in 1972 .  The system worked – but also failed to soon to be successful.  In the 70’s the ideas got narrowed down by a senior Aerodynamics engineer at Douglas Aircraft who became one of my best friends Mr. Bob Smith who said pressure works fine in a wind tunnel, but a vane works anywhere in “clean” air.   In 1993 I ran into a friend in an electronics surplus store who asked what I was doing.

Within 15 minutes I knew he had the answer to the question Use LED’s for a display, Phil came over a couple days later with a prototype which after some modification I started flying on a Super Cub and out the window of my Bronco.  By 1994 the system was very simple but it worked, and was reliable. Through my pilot friends, fellow airline pilots the design matured and after selling the first system on New Years Day, 1995 EM Aviation was in business.  From 1995 to 2000 we produced the RiteAngle 1 and RiteAngle 2, both “hardware systems, and in 2000 hired a college student working on his masters to design a software system.  This was the RiteAngle 3, our first system that actually made  money after 32 years!  The design has evolved from that basic core product to what you see today based on what customers wanted and / or  requested. Since that day  in ’93 Phil Peterson has been an viable assistant, doing nearly all soldering of systems and coming up with ideas  to simplify and improve the systems.

My background, over 25,000 hours flying, approx. ½ in light aircraft and ½ in airliners.  I started instructing in 1962, and still hold a current Flight Instructors Certificate  54 years later.  I passed my ATP MEL in 1968, my first type rating in the Citation in  1975, and followed with types in the Boeing 737 & Douglas DC-9 with American Airlines.  Safety has been my objective since I started working on the AOA in the 60’s & 70’s.  Except for a few “intermittent” times I have been flying for a living  until I retired from AA in 2000, and still teach ground schools and do a little little flying as a CFI.