GEICO Skytypers Pilot Ken Johansen Killed In Long Island Crash

posted in: Airshows | 5

Geico Skytypers Crash - Ken Johansen

Ken Johansen, a member of the the GEICO Skytypers airshow team, was killed earlier today when his SNJ-2 aircraft crashed in Melville, NY on Long Island.

Witnesses say the aircraft encountered an issue in flight, leading to the crash. The crash site was in a residential area not far from the team’s home airport, the Republic Airport in Farmingdale, NY. Video taken immediately before the crash shows the aircraft in a spin as it approaches the ground.

Nobody on the ground was injured. The fire was quickly extinguished by local and airport fire crews.

GEICO Skytypers

Ken is a second generation Skytyper. His father, Bob is also on the team. Ken first flew with the Skytypers at the age of eight. The team’s website says he caught the aviation bug early in life from his father. Ken graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1989 and earned his Navy wings in 1991.

He went on to fly P-3 Orions on both coasts with VP-23 and VP-46. His career also took him to the Netherlands, where he flew P-3s with the Royal Netherlands Navy from 1996 to 1998. Ken opted to transition from active duty with the Navy and was quickly hired by TWA, where he flew MD-80s, 757s, and 767s. After giving up his active duty status, Ken was also hired by VR-52 in Willow Grove, PA, as a Navy Reserve Instruction Pilot flying DC-9s around the world. Recently, he was the Commanding Officer of VR-58 in Jacksonville, FL, flying C-40s (737-700s) throughout the world. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

An investigation is underway involving the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The GEICO Skytypers are well known for their skytyping and airshow demonstrations. Using their WWII-era SNJ trainers, they create words in the sky the size of the Empire State Building.

The team performed last weekend at the Bethpage Airshow at Jones Beach, very close to the crash site, and was scheduled to perform this weekend at the NAS Patuxent River airshow in Maryland.

AirshowStuff extends our condolences to the family, friends, and teammates of Ken.

GEICO Skytypers Ribbon

Historic “Memphis Belle” B-17 Moved Into US Air Force Museum Hangar

posted in: Museums, Warbirds | 0

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" and "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

On March 14th, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force marked completion of the B-17F “Memphis Belle” restoration project. In view of invited media and 300 Air Force Museum Foundation members, the “Memphis Belle” was towed from the Museum’s restoration hangar to the WWII Gallery where it replaced “Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby”, a B-17G which had been on display there since 1988. The B-17G was removed from the hangar and placed into storage, where it awaits transfer to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at a later date.

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

The “Memphis Belle” bears a paint scheme representative of the aircraft’s appearance on May 17, 1943, when the aircraft’s crew completed their 25th combat mission, thereby completing their tours of duty. They became the first Air Force bomber crew from Europe to return to the United States after reaching that milestone. This achievement earned the aircraft and crew national recognition, a war bond tour, and enduring historical significance.

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air ForceB-17 Flying Fortress "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

The Museum’s “Memphis Belle” exhibit officially opens on May 17th, the 75th anniversary of the aircraft’s historic combat mission. Until then, the aircraft remains obscured from view by a large partition. Plans for the exhibit debut include a static display of B-17 bombers, a gathering of WWII reenactors, and a big band concert, among other events.

– Article and photos by Ryan Grantonic

B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air ForceB-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" - National Museum of the United States Air Force

Rare USAF Heritage Flight Formation To Perform Super Bowl LII Flyover

posted in: Flyovers | 1

P-51 Mustang and A-10 Warthogs - USAF Heritage Flight

Keep your eyes to the sky (or more likely, your TV screen) before the kickoff of Super Bowl LII on February 4th – there will be a special US Air Force Heritage Flight flyover for the national anthem! The formation will feature the World War II-era P-51 Mustang “Sierra Sue II” leading two A-10 Warthogs and an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

It’s interesting that any flyover is planned, because the game is being played inside the fully enclosed U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Nevertheless, there will hopefully be sufficient coverage for everyone outside of the stadium to enjoy the flight. The game, between the Patriots and the Eagles, is scheduled to start at 6:30 pm eastern time and will be broadcast on NBC.

Sierra Sue II is a combat veteran P-51 that is owned by the Wings of the North museum, located just outside of Minneapolis in Eden Prairie. Heritage Flight-approved pilot Steve Hinton will be at the controls during the flyover.

WATCH: This Rare Super Hornet/Corsair Formation Showcases Decades Of Naval Aviation History

Visitors to the Cleveland National Airshow this past Labor Day weekend were treated to a special sight – a US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet and World War II-era F4U Corsair flying together! The pair performed several formation flybys before landing, then taxied together at show center and folded their wings to show their common bond as carrier-based fighters. Check out the entire performance in our video above!

This sort of sight used to be fairly commonplace through the US Navy Tailhook Legacy Flight program, which is similar to the US Air Force’s Heritage Flight program. Unfortunately the budget cuts of recent years stopped not only the Legacy Flights, but also the Hornet demonstrations themselves. As the TACDEMO teams return to full prominence on the airshow circuit, there is hope that these formations can again be flown regularly.

Don’t forget to also watch our video of the full Super Hornet aerobatic demonstration from Cleveland!

TBM Avenger Gathering Promises To Be Even Bigger In 2017

posted in: Airshows, Warbirds | 2

TBM Avenger Gathering 2016

The Gathering of TBM Avengers will return for the second year in a row and promises to be even bigger and better! This year a whopping sixteen TBMs (and TBFs) have verbally committed to the event, which will be held on Saturday, May 20th in Peru, IL. Numerous other warbird crews have expressed interest in flying in as well, including B-25 Mitchells, A-1 Skyraiders, and P-51 Mustangs, as well as an F4U Corsair, F8F Bearcat, F4F Wildcat, F-86 Sabre, MiG-17 Fresco, and T-33 Shooting Star.

TBM Avenger Gathering 2016TBM Avenger Gathering 2016

Over 250 aircraft (including 10 Avengers) and 10,000 people turned out for the first event last April, taking advantage of the beautiful weather to kick off the summer flying season. It was undoubtedly one of the best early-season events in the Midwest, and we are excited that it will be continuing.

This year’s event will be set up very similar to the last one. Attendees should plan to arrive at Illinois Valley Regional Airport (KVYS in Peru) in the mid-morning. Both parking and admission are free this year, thanks to the sponsorship of Marquis Energy! Food and drinks will be available on the airport, and several warbirds will be offering rides.

TBM Avenger Gathering 2016TBM Avenger Gathering 2016

One important difference is that the airspace around the area will be “waivered” from 12 to 4pm. This will allow the warbirds to perform more than they could last year – it should feel a bit more like an airshow. Pilots that plan to fly in will need to be aware of the change.

With a little good weather, this event should again prove to be the grand opening of airshow season in these parts. Our own Anthony Richards designed this flyer for the event, which is being passed around as an open invitation to pilots and enthusiasts alike. We hope you will help us spread the word, and that you will join us there!

Be sure to check in on our forums for future updates, to share your thoughts, and to post your own photos from the event!

TBM Avenger Gathering 2017

CAF Announces New “Prowlers Of The Pacific” Airshow Act For 2017 Season

posted in: Warbirds | 0
Curtiss SB2C Helldiver - Prowlers of the Pacific
Photos courtesy of the Commemorative Air Force

The Commemorative Air Force announced a new airshow act today that will debut during the 2017 show season. The act is titled “Prowlers of the Pacific” and will feature an ensemble cast of CAF aircraft in a performance designed to tell the story of WWII in the Pacific theater. The featured aircraft are a Goodyear FG-1D (F4U) Corsair, a Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, a replica Nakajima B5N “Kate”, and the world’s only flying Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. Pyrotechnic effects and other CAF aircraft can be added to the act for an even larger performance. Look for more on the act at the 2016 ICAS convention and at www.ProwlersOfThePacific.com!

FG-1D (F4U) CorsairB5N Kate Replica

Here is the synopsis of the act from the press release:

The massive roar of the radial engines, the smoke trailing from an aerial dog fight and rare warbirds fighting will re-create the scene over the waters of the Pacific!

The story of the Prowlers of the Pacific begins on that fateful day in December, 1941. The war in the Pacific doesn’t take place over land and airfields are rare. The war takes place over millions of miles of ocean and the aircraft carriers become the chess pieces each side maneuvers. Each carrier was equipped with fighters, bombers and torpedo planes to do battle and we put you at the head of the task force with the Prowlers of the Pacific!

Prowlers includes the only flying SB2C Curtiss Helldiver and rare SBD Dauntless dive-bomber, the famous gull-winged Corsair fighter and a Japanese Kate (replica) torpedo bomber that represent the best of the Pacific War. Additional fighters, bombers and pyro-technics are available on request. The Prowlers of the Pacific exhibits the aerial warfare witnessed at The Battle of the Coral Sea and The Battle of Midway, two events that changed the course of the war in the Pacific.

TBM Avenger Gathering Kicks Off Summer With A Bang

posted in: AirshowStuff, Event Recap, Warbirds | 0

TBM Avenger Photo Flight

Aviation fans got an early treat this year when a whopping ten TBM Avengers came together for one special weekend in April.

The event, held at the Illinois Valley Regional Airport in Peru, IL, grew out of an annual private get together organized by local TBM owner Brad Deckert. The idea for this year was to get as many Avengers together as possible, and things quickly grew from there into an open invitation for aircraft and enthusiasts. As word spread and more pilots made plans to attend, estimates grew from 50 airplanes to 100 airplanes to 200 airplanes. Portions of the airport grass were converted to overflow airplane parking, and fuel trucks were purchased and borrowed since the airport had none.

TBM AvengersTBM Avengers

The day before the main event, Friday, featured plenty of action itself. Throughout the day, the lineup of the giant torpedo bombers on the ramp allowed for a running count of Avengers in attendance. One by one they arrived and joined the lineup. The tenth and final aircraft arrived in the late afternoon. The airport was open for normal business all day, so traffic filtered in and out. One Avenger flight was launched in the afternoon; a four-ship formation along with a Cessna 210 photo ship. It was a warm up of sorts for the main photo flight that evening.

As the sun went down, crews gathered with several photographers to brief a major sunset photo flight. By shuffling pilots between airplanes, eight formation-qualified aircraft were established. The plan was to launch as two four-ship flights, Alpha and Bravo, and then join up together. The Cessna and a T-6 Texan were used as photo ships. With sunset approaching, it was a race to get out of the briefing and into the aircraft. AirshowStuff was able to hitch a ride in Bravo Four, the CAF Missouri Wing‘s Avenger and the last aircraft in the formation.

TBM Avenger Photo FlightTBM Avenger Photo Flight

Unfortunately, 70 year old warbirds are not known for reliability and one aircraft could not get started. The rest launched and headed north to find some sunlight. Another aircraft began trailing smoke just after takeoff and returned to the airport as a precaution, leaving six aircraft – three in each flight. Alpha flight was already established in an echelon formation off of the T-6 photo ship when Bravo caught up, so the three newcomers joined up behind them to form a double echelon formation. After a few moments for photos, the formation was shifted into a six-ship echelon, stacked upwards. From our position on the end of the line, we were looking down at the amazing sight of five Avengers and a T-6, all lined up. Thanks to the skill of the pilots, and some pleasantly still evening air, the formation held together quite impressively until it was time to split apart. Two of the Bravo aircraft, including ours, headed back to the airport while the other four stayed for more shots with the other photo ship.

TBM AvengersT-6 Texan at sunset

Saturday morning was the opening of the official event, which was completely free. Turnout was fantastic, and the airport was well prepared to handle it. Thousands of people wandered the ramp, getting an up close look at the many different kinds of aircraft parked there. Aided by absolutely perfect weather, arriving aircraft filled the pattern and clogged the taxiways. Several major warbirds, such as two P-51 Mustangs, an AD-4 Skyraider, and a T-28 Trojan flew in for the day as well. The Avengers got things going right off the bat, and launched all nine airworthy aircraft (one was hangared for maintenance) together. A three-ship formation led the parade, with the others following in trail for several passes before landing. The airport remained open the entire time, with more aircraft arriving constantly.

TBM Avenger at sunsetP-51 Mustangs

After the main flyby, the flying entertainment was mostly in watching the arrival traffic. The airspace was astoundingly busy, right up there with Oshkosh itself; and at an untowered field no less! Several groups of T-6s performed formation flybys during the the day, and a four-ship of Avengers launched around lunch time for some flybys, including a missing man formation. Several warbirds came back for a flyby before heading home and a pair of T-33s made several passes before landing. Thanks to an aerobatic box at the airport, several pilots took advantage of the opportunity to renew their aerobatic certifications by performing short routines for an observer on the ground. The crowd dwindled as the day went on, and by sunset the Avengers sat peacefully on the ramp.

TBM Avengers at sunset

In the end the event was wildly successful, with over 250 aircraft (52 of them warbirds) in attendance and more than 10,000 people on the ground. Arriving aircraft maxed out at 137 in just an hour – that’s more than two every minute! There is talk of bringing it back next year. If it does return, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better use of a spring day!

TBM Avengers at nightTBM Avenger

The photos shown here are just a small sampling of the event. Please be sure to check out the full Gathering of TBM Avengers 2016 album in our gallery!

Thank you to Brad and Jane Deckert for hosting, to Jordan Brown and the CAF Missouri Wing for allowing us to ride shotgun, and to all of the other pilots and crews that made the event such a success! Be sure to check out Warbird Digest for more photos from the sunset flight!