GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team
Pilots + Technicians
Larry "Boss" Arken
Larry Arken is the commanding officer and flight lead for the GEICO Skytypers and also is a captain for a major commercial airline. As an adolescent and aspiring aviator, Larry sat in the co-pilot seat flying over the skies of Long Island and the northeast coast with his father, Mort Arken. Mort was a former naval aviator whose passion for flying led to the establishment of the Skytypers as an innovative advertising company typing large dot-matrix style messages near highly attended events and major metropolitan areas. Under Mort, the team also began performing at select air shows. At a young age, Larry saw the potential to build upon his father’s foundation to create a world-class air show team.
Larry’s aviation career developed while flying a variety of warbirds and corporate jets. He first flew the Falcon 10-, 20- and 50-series jet. He then transitioned to flying DC-8’s for UPS. He later secured a position with a major commercial airline as an airline captain.
When not flying large passenger planes, he flies vintage P-47, F4U and P-51 warbirds for the Air Power Museum in Farmingdale, NY. Larry also holds a North American Trainer Association (NATA) designation and is a check pilot for formation flying. As an airline transport pilot, Larry has logged more than 25,000 flight hours and holds seven large-jet ratings. Larry holds a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from St. John’s University and Bachelor of Science in business administration from Thomas Edison State University.
Chris "CT" Thomas
Chris Thomas grew up surrounded by aviation and developed a passion for flying at a young age. A third-generation pilot, Chris was trained by his father, a naval aviator, and earned his pilot’s license at the age of 17. He earned an Associates of Applied Science degree in fire science from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, VA with a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies-aviation. Chris’ professional career started at the Virginia Beach Fire Department where he was quickly promoted to a master firefighter. After eight years of service, Thomas made a transition in his career and entered the world of professional aviation. He currently serves as a captain and line check airman for a major airline.
Chris has logged more than 19,000 hours of flight time and has piloted more than 100 different types of aircraft. He continues to offer flight instruction with specializations in aerobatics and aircraft upset and loss of control training. Chris became a member of the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team in 2017 after two previous years of ferrying aircraft and flying skytyping missions.
Chris calls Virginia Beach, VA his home where he resides with his wife and two daughters. When not flying, he can be found riding motorcycles, flying aerobatics in his personal plane, sailing, playing mandolin, and traveling with his family.
At the young age of five, Mark Gannucci knew he wanted to become a Navy fighter pilot. His father was a pilot and taught his son about flying. Mark also aspired to fly vintage warbird aircraft with hopes of performing at air shows.
Mark earned his pilot’s license on his 17th birthday and later graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with honors. Mark was selected for Navy flight school and began his training in September 1988 in Pensacola, FL. After earning his wings of gold, Mark was selected to fly the F-14 Tomcat and later served in Bosnia on the USS Saratoga.
As a member of the GEICO Skytypers, Mark continues achieved his childhood dream of piloting vintage WWII aircraft. As the left wing pilot, he is able to perform many of the same maneuvers and formations he learned during his military training.
Mark currently serves as a volunteer pilot at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach and flies several vintage aircraft including the very first U.S. naval aircraft – the Curtiss Pusher. Mark is a captain with a major airline and enjoys life in Virginia Beach with his wife Karen and daughter Connor.
Chris "Soto" Orr
Chris Orr developed a love of aviation while attending air shows as a child. He dreamed of flying as a military pilot and followed a unique pathway to attain that goal. He enlisted in the Army Reserves as an infantryman at age 17. He left the Army after three years of service when he was awarded a Naval ROTC scholarship and began studies at the University of Colorado. Following graduation, Chris began Navy flight school in Pensacola, FL.
After earning his wings, Chris was selected to fly the F-14 Tomcat and completed two tours aboard the USS Constellation, 35 combat missions over Iraq, 300 carrier-arrested landings and two Top Ten Hook awards for achieving some of the highest landing grades in his carrier air wing. He later flew the A-4 Skyhawk as an aggressor pilot and instructor.
Following his service in the Navy, Chris flew the C-130 Hercules for the New York Air National Guard. He completed two more combat tours and retired as a lieutenant colonel from the military with 25 years of service. He began flying with the Skytypers in 2011 and has performed in nearly every position on the team.
Chris is a captain with a major airline and lives on Long Island with his wife and two children.
Steve "SkyKing" Salmirs
Steven Salmirs was born in Newport News, VA where his father worked as an aeronautical engineer for NACA/NASA at Langley AFB and his mother was an elementary school and community college teacher. Steve started flight training with an Aviation Explorer Scout Troop based at Patrick Henry Field as a sophomore in high school.
After graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL, Steve began his career at Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, FL as a calibration engineer working on ground and flight equipment used on the space shuttles from 1980-1982. Steve accepted into the U.S. Air Force in 1982 and selected to fly the F-16 Viper. During his service in the military , he was based in Florida, Las Vegas, South Korea, and Texas and earned the call signs “Animal” and “Chimp”.
Steve has served as a member of the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team since 1996, and currently flies as one of the lead solo pilots. He is a CFII, NATA formation flight lead, and is instrumental in designing, writing, and instructing the air show demonstrations each year. His Skytypers’ teammates refer to Steve as “SkyKing” based in part on his flying abilities and contributions. Steve currently resides in Babylon, NY and Scottsdale, AZ with his wife Ann and daughter Rachael.
Tom Daly graduated from Dowling College in Oakdale, NY and later received a Master of Professional Studies in criminal justice from C.W. Post University in Brookville, NY. Following retirement from the police department, Tom returned to Dowling as the dean of the College of Aviation and later as the dean of students. He currently serves on the advisory councils for the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Western Suffolk BOCES Aviation Program, and the Islip-MacArthur Airport.
In 2013, Tom was promoted to 9th degree black belt in the Chinese Goju Association at Malverne School of Self Defense, a martial arts school he has owned for 45 years. Daly is a racing enthusiast and holds five land speed records on three different motorcycles. He set a record at Bonneville Salt Flats, UT on his turbo-charged750 Harley-Davidson with an average speed of 126.217 MPH. He also set a record in Loring, ME on his Buell with a speed of 137.547 MPH. Tom currently resides on Long Island with his wife and four children.
Jim Record hails from Long Island, NY, the Cradle of Aviation. His father served in WWII on a bomber crew, which nurtured an early interest for Jim in aviation. Jim first flew with the Civil Air Patrol and later earned both his pilot’s license and a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics from Dowling College in Oakdale, NY. He was later recruited into the U.S. Navy at Floyd Bennett Field. During his service, Lt. Cdr. Record served as an instructional pilot in formation, gunnery, carrier landings, andfrequent long cross-country flights. He flew the T-2, F-9, T-28, T-34, S-2, and A-4 during his tours of duty.
Following his service in the Navy, Jim flew corporate jets before becoming a commercial airline pilot. While working for the airlines, he flew the Douglas DC-9, Boeing 757, 747-400 and Airbus A-330 worldwide for 30 years before retiring. Jim later returned to his alma mater to earn his master’s in business administration. After completion of his degree, Jim served as a professor for Dowling in the College of Aviation.
Jim joined the Skytypers in 1992 and is one of the original members of the team. Jim has flown most of the positions on the team including lead solo, wing solo, and backup lead. He currently serves as the team’s advance pilot, ground operations officer, and announcer.
Steve "Sting" Kapur
Pilot / Marketing Officer
Steve Kapur was born in New York and currently resides in Memphis, TN. This is his 25th season with the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team. He is a commercial pilot and a flight instructor.
Steve is one of the few members of the team to develop his aviation credential as a civilian. After earning his private pilot’s license, Steve continued to hone his skills as a pilot earning an instrument rating, commercial license, and instructor license, in addition to studying aerobatics. He learned his formation skills while flying with the Skytypers. He recently earned his FAA aircraft dispatcher certificate and currently works as a dispatcher for a major airline.
Steve earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from St. Norbert College in DePere, WI and a master’s degree in public relations from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. Steve is a marketing professional with more than 30 years of managing successful brands and programs.
Mike "Shooter" Brockey
Alternate Left Wing
Mike Brockey joined the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team in 2018 after participating in skytyping missions since 2015. Mike became interested in flying while growing up in Long Island, NY which later led to a career in aviation. His interest in formation flying used by the Skytypers piqued his interest which later led to his involvement with the team.
Mike is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO and earned his wings while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He started as a C-130 aircraft commander and later became an F-15C instructor pilot and mission commander. Mike completed his military career as a squadron commander and deputy operations group commander stationed at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, TX. In his role as a deputy commander, he led a 1,300-member operations group conducting T-6, T-38, and T-1 flying operations. This experience provided the perfect transition to flying and performing in the GEICO Skytypers fleet of warbirds.
Following his retirement from the Air Force, Mike returned to Long Island where he resides with his wife and four children. Mike currently flies for a major commercial airline and also is the COO and CFO for Kelly & Hayes Electrical, Industrial & Plumbing Supply in Smithtown, NY
Mike "Buick" Eberhardt
Alternate Slot Pilot
Mike Eberhardt has been fascinated by aviation his entire life. He began flight training at the age of 15, flying gliders in Post Mills, VT. He quickly earned his private glider and airplane licenses and later received his commercial rating and CFI for both gliders and airplanes.
Mike attended Daniel Webster College where he continued his aviation work and training. At the end of his senior year, he joined the U.S. Navy. During his 22-year Naval aviation career, he flew the F-14 Tomcat and TA-4 Skyhawk.
Following his service in the Navy, Mike began working as a pilot for Atlas Air flying Boeing 747 cargo and passenger flights.
Mike began flying aerobatic maneuvers in the CAP-10B in sportsman and intermediate competitions during college. At the end of his military service, he became a founding member of the Black Diamond Jet Team flying the L-39 and MiG-17 aircraft. He also performed at numerous shows flying the TA-4 Skyhawk now known as Skyhawk 518.
Mike joined the Geico Skytypers in 2005. He has flown nearly 100 different types of aircraft, gliders and helicopters. He has accumulated more than 16,000 flying hours during his 42 years as a pilot.
Andy “Trav” Travnicek
Alternate Left Wing
At a young age, Andy Travnicek knew he wanted to become a pilot after flying in a Cessna with a local pilot in his hometown, Southbridge, MA. He later attended the U.S. Air Force Academy where he learned how to fly gliders and became a pilot instructor. Following graduation, Andy flew the C-21 Learjet, Lockheed C-5 Galaxy (including for special operation missions), T-34C Turbomentor, T-6 Texan II, and MC-12 Liberty ISR aircraft.
During his military service, Andy completed deployments to Spain, Qatar and Afghanistan and also worked with cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy as a staff member.
He enjoys flying warbirds to honor the men and women of all eras and all branches of the U.S. military. Andy aspires to inspire young people to pursue interests and careers in aviation.
Andy earned his undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy and also has an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. Andy currently serves as a first officer with a major airline and resides in New Hampshire with his wife. When not flying, he can be found riding motorcycles, running, biking, swimming, hiking, reading, snowboarding, or paddling.
Mark “Crunchy” Burgess
Alternate Right Wing
Mark Burgess’ passion for aviation started at the age of eight after seeing the Blue Angles fly A-4s at his very first airshow. At that same airshow, he found his other passion in life after watching a gymnastics team perform on trampolines. He has been doing acrobatics and aerobatics ever since.
Mark entered the U.S. Naval Academy and competed on the Navy Gymnastics Team while pursuing his goal of becoming a Naval aviator. Earning his wings of gold, he flew three combat tours flying F-14 Tomcats, spent three years as an F-14 instructor pilot, and served as the Navy’s F-14 demonstration pilot for two air show seasons.
Retiring after 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy, Mark joined the Warrior Flight Team. He flew air shows for 10 years performing in the L-39 Albatross and raised funds to provide scholarships to veterans for flight training.
Today, Mark serves as the director of operations for Prevailance Aerospace. He teaches Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) in Chesapeake, VA.
DIRECTOR of Maintenance
If the GEICO Skytypers didn’t winter their vintage planes in a hangar at the Republic Airport on Long Island, Frank Atria might never have become the SNJ expert he is today. That’s because Atria is a graduate of the Wilson Tech Aviation Maintenance program at the same airport.
Along with some friends, Frank walked over to check out some cool old planes after class one day. He was so fascinated he asked the head of operations at the time if any help was needed. Frank started working part-time for the Skytypers as a mechanic’s helper before completing his education.
An interest in airplanes was fostered early on as Frank’s uncle was a mechanic in World War II working on bombers in England.
Several seasons with the GEICO Skytypers later, Frank is the Chief of Line Operations and an expert warbird maintainer. Frank travels with the team to air shows around the country conducting maintenance before and after each demonstration. He is part of the year-round team that meticulously maintains the vintage aircraft, checking for corrosion and parts needing replacement.
Frank is married and passing his love of aviation on to his daughter, Emily Ann.
A & P MECHANIC
Maintenance Ground Support
Truck Driver Greg Coons knows all about the friendly rivalry between the GEICO Skytypers and their sister powerboat team, Miss GEICO. He transported the world-champion, 50-foot catamaran for six race seasons and also served as captain for the Miss GEICO safety boat. In 2010, the GEICO Skytypers hired Greg to drive their 53’ maintenance and support trailer to air shows.
Several airshow seasons later, Greg is the man arriving in advance of the team for each air show in the gecko-emblazoned 18-wheeler that becomes the team’s home on the road. Greg performs routine maintenance on the hauler and ensures all inventory, supplies and parts the mechanics might need to keep the 75-year-old planes in peak performance condition are readily available.
For each air show season, Greg logs an average of 60,000 miles behind the wheel. In the off-season, he manages his own home improvement and painting business in Royal Palm, FL.
Greg also assists the maintenance team with ground operations during air shows. His experience as a cross-country driver hauling large and logistically challenging loads prepared him to expertly transport and maneuver the aircraft once on the ground.