ATLANTA — A squadron of six World War II aircraft will perform a series of tight formations and a dizzying array of high speed maneuvers during the Atlanta Airshow this weekend.
The GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team carry the torch forward for the Greatest Generation of pilots as they demonstrate their story high above the air show. The Skytypers’ dedication and skill inspires guests to appreciate the history of these aircraft, and the aviators who piloted these silver doves through the smoke blackened skies of war.
The team has spent the last few days at Atlanta Motor Speedway preparing for the Atlanta Airshow this weekend. The Skytypers flight leader notes this will be their first demonstration over an open stadium.
“We have opened over a (NASCAR) race, but we have never performed over a stadium before,” Squadron commander Larry Arken said on Friday. “It’s gonna be cool to perform for an audience on one side of the stadium.”
Powered by a 600 horsepower prop engine, each SNJ-2 aircraft is the Navy’s variant of the Army’s T-6 Texan. Built during 1940, these 80 year-old planes helped train the future pilots of World War II.
“We are excited to reveal this season’s 20-maneuver demonstration at the Atlanta Airshow,” Arken added. “Airshow attendees will see first-hand what these ‘warbirds’ are made of.”
The GEICO Skytypers‘ 18-minute flight demo is only half of their show during their performance. Weather permitting the Skytypers will create a large dot matrix sky-written message above the airfield.
Flying in a tight, line-abreast formation, the planes coordinate in typing messages with environmentally friendly puffs of white smoke. Using an on board computer in Skytyper 1, a custom-programmed tablet sends commands to the other aircraft via radio signals. The messages can be seen from nearly five miles away.
The Skytypers also spend their down time at an air show site visiting education centers and hospitals. Occasionally, the team will host student groups during an air show for a plane side discussion, and a chance to climb aboard the aircraft.
The six pilots who fly these vintage aircraft are lead by Arken in plane 1. Skytyper 2 through 6 pilots include Chris Thomas, Mike Brockey, Chris Orr, Steve Salmirs, Thomas Daly, and Kevin Sinibaldi. Skytyper 7 pilot and air show narrator is Jim Record. Skytypers 8 pilot is Steve Kapur.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)