Your Florida Air Tours Team!
Our staff have a tremendous amount of experience.
All of our pilots hold FAA Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot Certificates. Their backgrounds vary from flying for major airlines to crop dusting and banner towing, and some are ex-military fighter pilots. With their thousands of hours of flight experience, you are sure to feel safe and comfortable.
Our chief mechanic holds an FAA “Inspector Authorization” license as well as an Airframe & Powerplant license. He has over 30-years of experience maintaining aircraft.
Our founder, Mark Grainger, began in aviation at the ripe old age of 13 working as a ground crew at a small grass strip airpark in Virginia. He has flown hang-gliders, sailplanes, crop dusters, banner planes, commuters, charters, airliners, fighter jets, and almost everything in-between.
Mark and his wife Cathy live in Cocoa Beach where they are raising two small future aviators, Kevin and Brian.
Director of Operations, Lead Pilot
Steve Nesbitt is a South Lima, New York native who majored in History for his Bachelor of Arts at Geneseo State University. He found his love for aviation and historical airplanes while working through college as a lineman at a local general aviation airport. In his quest for knowledge, while working as a Adjunct Professor at Florida Institute of Technology, Steve earned his Masters of Science, with emphasis on Airport Design, Development, and Management.
Steve’s well-rounded experience brings an extra delight to each of his flights. He loves flying the WACO and the opportunity to share historical flights with our customers. He has flown over 1200 hours in our WACO Biplane.
Originally from Dayton, Ohio, John now lives in Cocoa Beach, Florida. John credits his love of flying to his father and growing up in the “Birth Place of Aviation.”
“My Dad instilled my love of flying, and the Air Force Museum was our 2nd home. I’d run outside every time I heard an airplane. Balsa wood airplanes, model rockets, and radio-controlled airplanes filled my time. My Dad and I would always go to the Dayton Air Show. There we watched the legends; Bob Hoover, Duane Cole, Art Scholl, Charlie Hillard, and Harold Johnson.”
John learned to fly in 1984 when he was 17 at a little airport called Moraine Airpark. He acknowledges this as a defining time for him, “My first lesson was during Easter break in 1984. I had my pilot’s license before I started my senior year of high school. Moraine Airpark also offered aerobatic training. My first aerobatic lesson was in a Super Decathlon before I had my private license. I still remember my first time upside down like it was yesterday.”
John attended college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. He received a Bachelor of Science in Aircraft Engineering Technology and completed the Air Force R.O.T.C. program. His summers always led him back to Dayton. “I spent my
college summers back in Dayton at Moraine Airpark pumping gas, cleaning windshields, mowing the field, and flying everything I could get my hands on.” John was commissioned in the Active Duty Air Force in August 1989. He completed pilot training in April 1991 after a year of flying T-37′s & T-38′s.
John is now retired from military service. During his twenty-one years in the Active Duty Air Force and Florida Air National Guard, all his assignments were flying F-15A & C’s. He amassed 3600 hours of Eagle time and earned the rank of Lt. Col.
John currently flies TF-51′s (P-51D) & L-39′s with Stallion51 Corporation located in Kissimmee, FL. As well, John flies with Florida Air Tours giving scenic tours around Cocoa Beach in WACO UPF-7′s.
Even though John flies one of the best airplanes in the world, he’s always held aerobatic flying close to his heart. “Through all my Air Force years, and now with Stallion51, I’ve continued to fly general aviation aircraft, especially Citabrias and Decathlons. We bought our Super Decathlon in early 2002. It is a great airplane! The Bahama Blue color of her paint really stands out in the sun, so we started calling her ‘Blue.’ I have a little over 800 hours in Super Decathlons, most of those in ‘Blue.’ I always tell people if I’m not at Kissimmee, or flying the WACO, you can find me at the airport tinkering with the Decathlon.
John has flown over 60 types of aircraft, flying more than 5700 sorties and 6300 hours in the last 28 years.
Dwight Bell first started flying at the age of 16 when his brother gifted him flying lessons. He soloed at 17 in a Cessna 150 and a Cherokee 140, flying out of a small airport in Boyne City, Michigan. After taking a helicopter tour over the glaciers in Alaska, Dwight fell in love with helicopters, proclaiming them to be “man’s second greatest invention.” He returned to Florida and quickly earned his helicopter rating.
Dwight also uses his aviation knowledge to help local teenagers. He is executive director of a local ministry that uses aviation as a tool to teach teens how to make good decisions in life. “Successful flying is a microcosm of living a successful life. Safe flying involves training, self-discipline, following rules and setting goals – all important items for everyday life. We teach the specific aviation principle, and then show how they work in everyday life.”
Dwight resides in Indialantic, Florida, with his wife Angelia. They have three grown sons and three grandsons, along with about thirty teen students.
John J. Cherniga
John “JC” Cherniga is a retired Air Force Colonel, having flown over 2400 hours in the H-1″Huey” and H-60 “Black Hawk” during his 26-year career, culminating at Patrick AFB, Florida, as the commander of the Manned Spaceflight Support Office (DDMS). His unit was the Department of Defense’s lead organization for providing worldwide contingency planning, training, and rescue assets for stand-by support to the space shuttle program during every launch and landing. They also directly supported the returning U.S. astronauts from the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz capsules.
In addition to having experience as an Air Force flight examiner, instructor pilot, and functional check flight pilot in the Huey, and as Black Hawk day tactical aircraft commander, night tactical co-pilot, and functional check flight co-pilot, JC holds a Commercial Pilot (rotor wing) and Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI) ratings.
The son of career Air Force Fire Chief, JC graduated from Choctawhatchee High School in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, in 1976. He then graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Management. While stationed at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, he attended Northern Montana College and earned a Masters in Career Guidance and Counseling in 1985. He was then selected to teach in the Dept. of Behavioral Sciences at the U.S. Air Force Academy, attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, as a full-time student, and earned a Masters of Education degree in Organizational Management (Org. Behavior and Development). Subsequently, he taught Organizational Behavior and Leadership courses at the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1990 to 1993.
Other highlights of his non-traditional Air Force career include: 3 years serving as Chief of Training and Standardization & Evaluation for the largest helicopter unit in the Air Force with 8 geographically separated detachments – the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron, F.E Warren AFB, Wyoming (1985-88); serving 2 1/2 years with the 56th Rescue Squadron at Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland (1995-97); serving 2 years at the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay (1998-2000) as the Air Force Representative to the Paraguayan Air Force; and serving 2 years at NATO H.Q. Northeast, Karup Air Base, Denmark (2002-2004) as the Senior U.S. Representative.
When not flying, JC enjoys traveling and cruising. He is also the sole proprietor of “J. Cherniga Images,” and sells his award-winning photographic images at art festivals throughout Florida and across the U.S.
JC is married to the former Joan Philipps of Conrad, Montana. They reside in Satellite Beach, Florida, with their cat Rocky, and are parishioners at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Community, Indialantic, Florida.
Chief Mechanic A&P/IA
Mike has been a Brevard County resident for over 50 years. Mike earned his A&P license in 1982 at the Merritt Island Airport – ironically the headquarters of Florida Air Tours! Mike also holds Inspection Authorization (IA), and is a certified FAA Private Pilot. Mike has been married for 30 years and has two children. In his free time, Mike works on one of his many antique cars and Beechcraft Bonanza. Mike has been a Florida Air Tours team member since January 2013.