Some days, you’re the big dog and some days, you’re the fire hydrant. Saturday morning was the Mass Formation, the idea being to put 26 warbirds in the sky and create one big formation to fly over Porterville Airport and the town. We’d done a lot of talking about the best way to photograph the Mass Formation. Robert “Speedo” Genat, editor of Red Alert magazine, planned to photograph it from a helicopter. The plan for me remained a moving target. Plan A was to go up in a T-6, but when a second Texan showed up, it was decided to put both of them in the air at the tail end of the formation. At that point, I was limited to a non-warbird type to be flown by a pilot who was not terribly worried about flying in the Mass Formation.
Someone suggested the Lancair, since it had a nice big canopy, although it could not be opened in flight. It wasn’t ideal, but it sounded like it would work…until I tried to squeeze into it. There was barely enough for my big butt, and no room to maneuver my camera. At that point, we decided to try Dan Mairani’s Marchetti SF260 which, to my untrained eye, looked like a bigger version of the Lancair. I was able to get inside AND have room for my camera, as well.
After an extended briefing for the Mass Formation, we had a separate briefing for us and also Mark Peterson, who was going to perform a fly-by in his Mustang. Our plan was to take off early and wait for the 26 warbirds to form up and prepare for the “Money Run” over the airport and town. We would orbit about 500 feet above the formation and fly alongside, snapping away.
It was a good plan, and Dan and I headed off into the Wild Blue, enjoying good conversation and some great flying weather. We also kept in touch with Mark in the Mustang, since we were the two planes not an integral part of the formation. We finally began picking up various elements of the formation, and began to fall in above and alongside. We kept a respectful distance for safety, but unfortunately, photographing through a plexiglass canopy just didn’t work well. Still, we closed in as the formation approached the proverbial initial point, where the planes would wheel around to the left and form up for the run over the airport.
And that’s when it happened. We were positioned ahead of the formation, so Dan flew a 360 to get a better position on the formation…and we lost them! Don’t ask me how, but we lost a 26-airplane formation. Our eyes were straining as we searched the friendly skies for 26 warbirds. We heard the formation Lead call for smoke on and we figured that would be our ticket to catching up with the formation.
Oh, never mind. The rest is to painful to recall. The bottom line is that I was the fire hydrant on that flight. I was relieved when I set off on my next flight. This was a real dissimilar formation. I flew with Ryder Adams in the Lead plane, a CJ-6.
Craig McCully was #2 in his CJ-6.
Kurt Howerton flew #3 in his Navion.
Dan Mintz was in the #4 position in his T-34.
The final official formation flight of All Red Star was on Saturday afternoon, as I went up in back seat of the Lead T-34 with Don Ramm at the controls.
Kurt Kohler was #2 in the Commerative Air Force T-6
Mike Reirdon flew in the #3 position. My photo of Mike’s T-34 graced the cover of the Winter Mentor Monitor.
And, once again, Dan Mintz flew in the #4 spot.
This formation brought to a close my flying for All Red Star 2018