TAMPA — The GEICO Skytypers, famous for their low level maneuvers and huge sky-typed messages, have released their new air show schedule as they prepare to take flight to begin their long awaited season opener.
Six WWII-era SNJ-2 warbirds form this special flight demonstration team now scheduled to soar across the skies of 15 of the nation’s popular air show sites during 2017 covering much of the eastern United States. The Skytypers will co-headline most of their air shows with either the U.S. Navy Blue Angels or the Air Force Thunderbirds.
The Skytypers twenty minute demonstration will show case these rare aircraft as the pilots tell the story of an age before the jet engine, and how a this prop plane made the difference during the second world war. A flight trainer in the early-1940’s, the SNJ was known among the army’s aviators as the pilot maker.
“Our SNJs trained the pilots of the Greatest Generation,” Skytypers pilot and team marketing director Steve Kapur said on Wednesday. “We consider it a privilege to inspire kids, honor veterans and fly these warbirds on behalf of our sponsor GEICO at air shows all across the U.S.”
The Skytypers air show season will begin on America’s Space Coast on April 1st and 2nd as the seasoned pilots perform exciting maneuvers over Melbourne, Florida’s International Airport. The Skytypers will then travel to neighboring locations at Sun-N-Fun near Tampa, FL, Beaufort, S.C., and Fort Lauderdale in the weeks ahead.
The pilots and their aircraft are marvels of aviation performing incredible feats of aerial skills in their 77-year-old warbirds. The Skytypers will perform over air shows across the northeast during the summer months before concluding the season at the annual Blue Angels Homecoming air show in November.
Much like aircraft headed into a dog fight during the second world war, these pilots moved into delta formation and from there soared into a nose dive with each aircraft then peeling off into a different direction during the opening minutes.
Bob Johansen is the slot pilot in aircraft 4 and a veteran of the Skytypers since 1978. A former naval aviator, Bob spent a storied career in the U.S. Navy performing carrier landings and piloting commercial aircraft. Bob and his son Ken make up one half of the Skytypers Diamond Team.
“The maneuver I enjoy the most is called the bomb burst,” Johansen highlighted as we made a wide left banking turn. “We have four aircraft pretty close nose-to-tail and smoking and we are going right toword the crowd. Then the two solos come from over the crowd and fly right under us. We pull up and the solos pull straight up. It’s amazing.”
Dynamic formations will also include two land-sea duels between the Skytypers six aircraft and the world champion speedboat, Miss. GEICO. “We know our sister speedboat team is the eight-time world-champion,” said Larry Arken, Commanding Officer and the Skytypers Flight Lead. “But one of our pilots, Tom Daly has his own world speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah and he never likes to come in second.”
As the warbirds soar across the sky, they will generate sky typed messages for the air show crowds. “The team also uses 21st-century technology to type giant messages 10,000 feet up in the sky,” said BBIG Marketing’s Brenda Little, spokesperson for the Skytypers, on Wednesday. “These dot-matrix style messages are 1,000 feet tall, can be viewed from 15 miles away in any direction and are created 17 times faster than the more traditional sky writing method.”
The GEICO Skytypers demonstration team is lead by Larry Arken in plane 1. Aircraft 2 through 6 include Chris Thomas, Ken Johansen, Chris Orr, Steve Salmirs, and Tom Daly. Skytyper 7 pilots include Jim Record and Bob Johansen as the team’s advance pilots who arrive a day early to meet with the local air show management.
2017 Air Show Schedule
April 1-2 Melbourne, FL Melbourne Air and Space Show
April 7-9 Lakeland, FL Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo
April 29-30 MCAS Beaufort, SC 2017 MCAS Beaufort Airshow
May 6-7 Ft. Lauderdale, FL FORD Lauderdale Air Show
May 13-14 Pittsburgh, PA Wings Over Pittsburgh 2017
May 20-21 Quonset, RI Rhode Island National Guard Open House Air Show
May 27-28 Jones Beach, NY Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park
June 2-4 Reading, PA Mid-Atlantic Air Museum 27th Annual WWII Weekend
June 17-18 Ocean City, MD Ocean City Air Show
June 24-25 Dayton, OH Vectren Dayton Air Show
July 1-2 Newburgh, NY New York Air Show
Aug 12-13 Westfield, MA Westfield International Air Show
Aug 23 Atlantic City, NJ Atlantic City Airshow Presented by GEICO
Sept 16-17 Andrews AFB, MD Joint Base Andrews Air Show 2017
Nov 10-11 NAS Pensacola, FL NAS Pensacola Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)