Every air show performance needs a big opening number and this weekend the GEICO Skytypers are debuting a new maneuver to open their demonstration and the 2015 airshow season.
“We love showing audiences what this vintage gem of a warbird can do,” says veteran Skytyper and solo pilot Tom Daly. “We’d never change our entire routine because there are so many crowd favorites but we do enjoy the challenge of inserting a formation like this one. It keeps us sharp.”
Melbourne Beach Air and Space show fans will be the first to see the maneuver performed live but the idea for the new opening maneuver started percolating nearly six months ago. The entire GEICO Skytypers team left home base in Long Island New York last weekend to begin rehearsing the new routine during spring training in Lakeland Florida.
Before rehearsal today the pilots did a complete run-through in their mobile briefing room and then walked through the positions and formations on the tarmac.
Daly spent today’s rehearsal on the ground at the Melbourne Beach airport observing the maneuver and fellow pilot Jim Record videotaped the show for a pilot debrief immediately after.
“It’s all part of safety first and then performance,” Record says. “We get a chance to see how close we are and if everyone is lined up correctly and then we can tweak our positions for tomorrow’s debut.”
The only problem is what to call it. In military terms, it’s a merge. But that doesn’t do justice to the precision and dynamism of watching six, 75-year-old planes rumble overhead, split off in a reverse fan and thread between each other in a criss-cross formation converging at show center.
Here’s a sneak peek at the narration audiences will hear when the announcer broadcasts the play-by-play.
“The squadron will now introduce you to a three-dimensional maneuver as they demonstrate what many pilots experience when they enter the same airspace as their opponents for an air-to-air engagement, known as “The Merge.” If you keep your eyes glued to the center of the airshow, you will see aircraft from all directions aiming at the same point, requiring heightened awareness on the part of the pilots.”
Skyscribe, the team’s official blogger, is asking followers for ideas. Just watch the video in this post and tweet your suggestions to @GeicoSkytper or suggest names on our facebook page.
The entire 18-minute demonstration by the six vintage SNJs shows off the military formations and techniques used by the pilots of “The Greatest Generation” but many of the same techniques are used by military jet teams today.
The aircraft flown by the GEICO Skytypers are the North American SNJ, the Navy’s version of the AT-6 aircraft. During World War II, ALL branches of the military used these aircraft as advanced trainers for fighter, bomber, and transport pilots. More American combat pilots trained in this single-engine, two-seat aircraft than any other World War II trainer. And this weekend, they’ll be making history again.