CONTRIBUTED PHOTO — From left to proper, Vanguard Squadron pilots David Myers, Steve Thompson, Joe Brewster, and Mark Ketcham. The Vanguard Squadron is an aerobatics workforce that has been round because the early Nineteen Nineties, and Ketcham, a Marshalltown native and MHS graduate, joined the South Dakota based mostly workforce in 2013.

Mark Ketcham’s ardour for aviation was ignited proper in his personal yard when he was nonetheless in elementary college watching his neighbor fly radio-controlled airplanes. Now, he’s an aerospace engineer, and he flies with the Vanguard Squadron entertaining the lots.

Ketcham was born and raised in Marshalltown, and his first introduction to the world of flying was at Kiwanis Park when he was nonetheless in kindergarten, the place his neighbor’s planes nearly instantly intrigued him.

“That was my earliest reminiscence of flying and simply aviation generally,” Ketcham stated. “I bear in mind him at all times telling me that there was a squirrel, little, , a stuffed squirrel, stuffed animal, on this factor and he at all times instructed me that was what was flying it. Again then, I didn’t know any totally different. I believed it was simply cool.”

Shortly after kindergarten and Ketcham’s preliminary introduction to aviation, he and his household moved into a house simply south of the Marshalltown Municipal Airport, and from that location, he had the chance to look at planes fly out and in day by day.

As Ketcham reached center college, he began flying his personal RC planes and even joined an RC membership in Marshalltown. Unsurprisingly, his curiosity didn’t subside when he reached highschool. At age 14, he began taking classes on the Marshalltown Airport to discover ways to fly on his personal. A number of days after he turned 16, he flew solo for the primary time, and a yr later at age 17, he was a licensed pilot.

After he graduated highschool in 2003, Ketcham thought of changing into a full-time pilot and even becoming a member of the USA Air Power, however with respectable scores in math and science, his household satisfied him that school was the easiest way to go. He attended Iowa State College to check aerospace engineering and graduated in 2008 earlier than taking an engineering job in Southern California for a protection contractor.

Ketcham stated his job in California mixed his pursuits within the army, his diploma and his pursuits in plane all into one.

“In Southern California, (I used to be engaged on) very giant unmanned aircrafts, that are sort of like how I began all the way in which again once I was little, flying RC airplanes. Now, they’re simply very giant RC airplanes for protection contractors,” Ketcham stated.

He labored in Southern California for some time, however ultimately, in 2013, he and his spouse determined they wished to start out a household nearer to Marshalltown, the place they each grew up. He discovered a job in Sioux Falls engaged on stratospheric balloons.

Because it occurred, that was the place Ketcham got here throughout the Vanguard Squadron, an airshow workforce that has been round because the early Nineteen Nineties. Over time, a number of totally different groups of pilots have flown formation aerobatics with the Vanguard Squadron, and Ketcham is a member of the third or fourth era of pilots now with the workforce.

The pilots for the four-plane airshow fly experimental airplanes referred to as Van’s RV-3s inbuilt Sioux Falls within the late 80s and early 90s.

Ketcham flies within the quantity two place within the Vanguard Squadron, which suggests he flies the left wing of the chief, David Myers. Ketcham joined the squadron in 2013, however he didn’t fly his first aerobatics present till 2016. Aerobatics differs drastically from on a regular basis flying, so it took Ketcham just a little little bit of time to be taught the brand new model.

“It’s a very totally different kind of flying as a result of we’re not looking for different visitors, we’re not making an attempt to navigate the airplane, and we’re not making an attempt to verify our airspeed. We’re not making an attempt to do something different than simply keep our place in reference to steer and no matter he does, whether or not or not it’s a loop or barrel or no matter,” Ketcham stated.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO — The Vanguard Squadron, which incorporates Marshalltown native Mark Ketcham, performs airshows everywhere in the Midwest, and on Aug. 6, they may make a cease at Fly Iowa 2022 on the Iowa Falls Municipal Airport.

When studying to fly solo, Ketcham stated multitasking is essential to assist with maintaining observe of assorted issues like air velocity and navigation, however on a regular basis flying doesn’t usually require break up second choices like tight formation aerobatics does.

“After we’re doing the airshow, after we’re flying a very tight formation, like say six to 10 ft aside — or six to eight ft aside is typical on an excellent climate day — after we’re flying that shut collectively, we’re just about solely trying on the lead aircraft,” he stated. “We’re probably not our devices or something contained in the airplane. Regardless of the lead does, we do and that’s just about all you are able to do, is focus solely on that factor, as a result of all the pieces occurs very quick.”

The 2 varieties of flying have various ranges of focus and talent required, however Ketcham stated he enjoys each equally. He likes cross-country flying, however the problem of aerobatics additionally strikes his fancy.

“Studying tips on how to do aerobatics is a enjoyable problem after which studying tips on how to do aerobatics actually shut to a different airplane is one more degree of problem on prime of that,” Ketcham stated. “I’d say it’s akin to taking pictures a basket. There will get to be a variety of muscle reminiscence, and it simply takes a variety of apply and a variety of focus once you’re doing tight formation flying. There’s actually no capability, psychological capability to consider the rest, so for a brief time frame all you’ll be able to take into consideration is that this and solely this.”

The Vanguard Squadron flies aerobatics exhibits everywhere in the Midwest, and along with a number of upcoming exhibits in South Dakota and Minnesota, Ketcham and the remainder of the squadron — Myers, Gary Middlebrooks and Joe Brewster — will probably be flying a present simply down the street on the Iowa Falls Municipal Airport on Aug. 6 for Fly Iowa 2022.

Usually, Steve Thompson flies as an alternative of Middlebrooks, however Thompson will probably be unable to attend the Iowa Falls occasion.

Ketcham has loved extra notable experiences all through his time as a pilot than he can rely, and he can’t bear in mind a single time in his life when he wasn’t all in favour of flying or aviation as an entire. Though he lives in South Dakota now, he nonetheless makes some extent to fly out to Marshalltown about as soon as a month to go to family and friends.

To be taught extra concerning the Vanguard Squadron, go to


Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or

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