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    Posted April 23, 2015 by
    icharles1
    Location
    Lakeland, Florida
    Assignment
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    Soaring to new heights with GEICO Skytypers squadron

     
    The aerial choreography of six World War II-era aircraft of the GEICO Skytypers flight squadron will take to the skies over central Florida performing aerobatic precision flying during this weeks Sun-N-Fun Air Show.

    Tucked between the cities of Tampa and Orlando will be the center stage for America's second largest public air show featuring the Skytypers, the Air Force Thunderbirds and popular civilian aerobatic acts. This will be the team's third air show of 2015 season, and their return visit back to Sun-N-Fun since 2014.

    This aerospace journalist was invited this week to experience a flight demo with the Skytypers over an area east of Tampa Bay. As I arrived, the squadron was poised on the air field to showcase the precision and handling style of the SNJ-2 aircraft.

    The Navy's SNJ-2, also known by the Army as the T6 Texan, was the Allied pilot's classroom as World War II began. The aircraft served as a trainer for up and coming servicemen prior to entering full combat status.

    Retired Naval aviator LCDR Jim Record greeted and offered up a safety briefing just before we boarded Skytyper 2. We strapped into a multi-point harness which included a parachute, donned our flight helmets and Jim went to work to prime the aircraft. The SNJ-2's 600 horsepower Pratt and Whitney 9 cylinder engine awakened a rare silent moment on any air field. Its silver single propeller began rotating to life as Record pumped the throttle on his left to increase fuel flow into the engine.

    As we turned out onto the runway dragging the shadow of the plane's 42-foot wingspan behind us, we waited for Skytyper 4 to a line with us. After a few communication checks with the Lakeland tower, Jim then throttled up the engine, released the brake and off we were rolling gaining speed. As the silver dove began to inch off the runway we were followed in succession by three of the Skytypers fleet of six aircraft.

    "Lift-off!", I commented as my stomach felt a slight drop as the aircraft soared skyward. A routine take-off for Jim was an exciting thrill for this flight veteran of several current military jets. As I peered out the 360-degree glass canopy, I took note of Skytyper 4 below and to our right as we began our flight demonstration.

    After arriving at our cruising altitude high over the jagged coast line of South Carolina, I received permission to open my end of the glass canopy. At that moment, the aircraft became a motorcycle at cloud level, the wind blowing into my cheeks at near 250 knots.

    First, we maneuvered into a four plane diamond formation 1,500-feet above central Florida. Jim held the aircraft in the right wing of the formation for a minute. Seconds later, Skytyper 1 radioed to the four planes, "Smoke on." Atmosphere safe white mist then poured from the right side of each of the Skytypers creating a vapor trail.

    One maneuver you will not see the Skytypers perform is flying upside down. Their feats of aeronautical strength lies in the precise maneuvers, including when the solos cross each others paths by only a few feet; or when the diamond team splits off into multiple directions only to return back to the diamond.

    Seventy years following World War II, each of the Skytypers pilots today carry the torch as they recreate how the pilots of yesteryear flew during combat operations. Each Skytypers air show performance brings to life the story of the early years of aviation, and how the SNJ-2 pilots gave the Allied forces a lift while the world was at war.
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