Reunion week for Skytypers

 

Virginia Beach Heart

IMG_2125When the GEICO Skytypers pierced through the heart-shaped smoke pattern over Virginia Beach’s Patriotic Festival Airshow, one airshow fan couldn’t have been more proud. His name is Charles Joseph O’Brien, but all the Skytypers just call him OBie. That’s because OBie was one of the original pilots, back when Mort Arken owned the team. “I flew with the Skytypers when Larry Arken was just a kid,” says OBie. “Now he’s the commanding officer and this is one heck of a reunion.”

The Patriotic Festival Air Show over Virginia Beach was OBie’s first time seeing the show in many years. “I’d like to say the show was just as good when I was flying with the guys but the truth is that it’s so much better now,” he says. “We were much more seat-of-the-pants and basically just followed Morty’s lead and did what he did. Now the demonstration is choreographed, the flying is tighter and more cohesive. The audience really gets a sense of the close formation skills involved in combat.”

OBie (center) with Steve Kapur (left) and Larry Arken (right)

OBie (center) with Steve Kapur (left) and Larry Arken (right)

 

OBie (left) with Bob Johansen (center) and Jim Record (right)

OBie (left) with Bob Johansen (center) and Jim Record (right)

The team organized a dinner in honor of OBie during the Patriotic Festival because, as Larry Arken says, “OBie O’Brien is a proud retired naval aviator and excellent pilot and a wonderful friend.”

These days OBie spends his time exercising the planes at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. “We have about 50 airplanes on display,” he says. “I’m one of the lucky guys that makes sure they still fly.”

The truth is that the aviation museum couldn’t have found a more qualified volunteer. “A lot of people don’t know this but Obie got his wings in Korea. His first squadron flew Corsairs,” says fellow longtime Skytyper pilot Jim Record. “You see a lot of Corsairs performing in air shows today but they’re all flown by pilots who never flew them in combat. OBie was the last airshow Corsair performer who actually flew a Corsair in combat. He’s that authentic.”

OBie

Record should know. He once flew across country with OBie and the other GEICO Skytypers in honor of the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII. “It took us two weeks to get to Los Angeles from our headquarters on Long Island,” Record says. “It was an incredible honor because on the way back, on each leg we were joined by other pilots flying warbirds along with us.”

OBie takes it all in stride. “The thing I remember was how darn hot it was,” he says. “I love flying but after a couple of days in a tin can that close to the sun you really appreciate the landing part.”

OBie says he misses flying with the Skytypers but he’s proud to have been the one responsible for one of the newest pilots on the team. “I worked with a really talented pilot named Kevin Sinabaldi and was able to convince Larry to give him a shot. I hope he enjoys his time with the Skytypers as much as I did.”

Skytyper pilot Kevin Sinabaldi showing a Virginia Beach Certified Flight Instructor the SNJ

Skytyper pilot Kevin Sinabaldi showing a Virginia Beach Certified Flight Instructor the SNJ