'Flygirl Painter' brings military aircraft to life

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Eighteen years ago, Shayne Meder took her love of painting that was handed down by her grandmother and combined it with her military background in the U.S. Air Force and made it her new hobby.

"I retired in 1995, and I started working in museums, that's where I kind of found my thing," said Meder.

Meder retired from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant after serving for nearly two decades.

"In the 1970s, it was mostly guys," she said. "I'd always prove them wrong. I could do the job just as good, if not better than them."

Her new nickname became "Flygirl Painter," and Meder said she does this to give an identity to the crews who bravely serve our country.

"Squadrons that may not have a tail bird for a while, for one reason or another, they kind of feel left out because they can't show their bird, they can't fly around and show who they are," she said. "It's a big deal when a squadron doesn't have a bird for a while and they get one painted up they're just happy as ever."

Aside from her day job restoring aircraft at a museum in Riverside County, Meder spends her free time voluntarily giving military squadrons in the Navy, Marines and Air Force personality and an identity while they are up in the sky.

"In the 1980s, nose art made a comeback," she said.

Meder explained that in each squadron, one aircraft is allowed to be painted -- either the nose or the tail.

"It's awesome, that's why I do it; it's to support them," said Meder. "No taxpayer dollars involved, I want to get that clear."

Meder takes the badge that represents each crew and brings it to life with her paintings.

"For an artist, it's like, 'Woah, I got something that's flying around,'" she said.

Meder has painted more than 60 military aircraft, with her latest project being a touch-up on a project she started for the HSC-8 "Eightballers" squadron at Naval Air Station North Island.

She first started the paintjob on the tail before the crew deployed overseas in 2017. Now, they're back at NAS North Island, and she spent her Saturday touching up the paint and getting it perfected for a convention where it'll be shown off. Her husband Scott volunteered his time to help complete touchups.

"It only amplifies that pride when they're able to walk in our hanger or walk out on the ship and see this piece of artwork in a sea of gray," said Cmdr. Justin Issler, Executive Officer HSC-8. "It's just really special that she's willing to do this for us."

"It's fantastic that she kind of continues that tradition because there aren't a lot of Ms. Meder's around that are willing to do this," Issler added.

One special Seahawk she painted for HSC-21 was for the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She called it "Betsy."

Nick Leclerc, Commanding Officer of HSC-21, said having the American flag painted across his aircraft means everything to those serving in the military.

"It kind of speaks for itself," said Leclerc. "It stands for the patriotism of the military and everything that we want to represent. We're just thankful she takes her own time to come out here and make these aircraft look incredible."

For Meder, she said she does it because she knows firsthand what it means to take pride in what you do.

"If you've been in the military, you love the military, you support the military then obviously this is a second home. We love it here," she said.
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