AirVenture 2018 – Day 5

Friday, July 27, 2018, was Day 5 of AirVenture, and was a “just for fun” sort of flight. When I posted a few of Sunday’s “pre-show” photos on Facebook, I got a note from Kevin Kearney that one of the planes I got shots of was a PT-26 belonging to Mark Howard. I’d met both Kevin and Mark through my photo shoot of the Berlin Airlift C-97. So…I was shortly on the phone with Mark to say hello and see if we could arrange for a little photo shoot of his PT-26.

In that same vein, I gave Hunter Reilly a shout to see if he was up for a flight. Hunter flies a BT-13, and I met him at Oshkosh last year, after previously friending both Hunter and his dad, Jeremy. We had a good photo shoot last year, but we were both happy for another opportunity. So, a plan was formed.

Early on Friday morning, we all met by the BT-13, a.k.a. the Vultee Vibrator, for our briefing. We decided to take off with me in the back of the Vibrator and fly to Appleton WI, (ATW) while I took pictures of Mark’s plane. In Appleton, I would switch over to the backseat of the PT-26 and photograph the BT-13. Howard’s friend Mark Phillips flew in the back of the opposite aircraft.

Hunter Reilly (L), Mark Howard (C), and Mark Phillips (R) go over the briefing items prior to our flight.


We departed Oshkosh and turned north toward Appleton. Hunter kept the Vibrator to the east of Mark, and we had a nice little photo shoot as we headed out over Lake Winnebago. Despite the weak sunlight, the traditional blue and yellow colors of the Basic Trainer stood out vividly against the dark background. There were some challenges with airspeeds as the PT-26 was cranking high RPMs in order to keep up with the BT-13, which as flying as slowly as Hunter was comfortable with. But we made it work.


Our arrival at ATW was routine, despite the higher-than usual traffic. This airport s typically a reliever airport for OSH and gets a lot of overflow from AirVenture. In fact, on the Saturday preceding AirVenture, when OSH was IFR only, a LOT of traffic diverted to ATW. So our arrival was not a stress on the tower and then professionally handled us in the air and on the ground.

After we played “Musical Airplanes”, we departed ATW and headed back over Lake Winnebago to take photos of Hunter’s BT-13. Then it was time to join the furball of arrivals at OSH. I constantly marvel as the professionalism of the controllers at OSH which is, for one week, the busiest airport in the world. They safely and efficiently handle nearly 20,000 operations during AirVenture. Due to the difference in airspeeds, we parted company, leaving Hunter to fly the Warbird Arrival, while we headed south to follow the railroadd tracks leading to a VFR arrival to Runway 27. Our landing was routine, and we taxied back to Warbird Parking. It was another successful photo mission.


After these flights, I took time to seek out Mike “Blade” Filucci, one of the big movers and shakers in the Warbird Community. Blade, currently the Vice President of Flight Operations and Pilot Information Center at Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, was the first President of what is now the Redstar Pilot’s Association.

He says, “In 1997, the Yak Pilots Club was a small and struggling association of pilots flying primarily Yak-52s. It was in critical enough shape that it was in danger of losing its accreditation under the Formation And Safety Training (F.A.S.T). I had recently bought a Nanchang CJ-6 so I was interested in growing the association beyond its boundaries. Along with two partners, we basically bought the assets of the Yak Flying Club and renamed it the Yak Flying Association, later renamed Redstar Pilots Association (RPA).” Blade was the Association’s first President.

When I caught up with Blade, he was showing John Shuttleworth his new airplane, a SOCATA TB30 Epsilon, a French built light military trainer. It sports a Lycoming O-540 flat-six piston engine. He says, “The performance of the Epsilon makes It a terrific formation aircraft. The controls are extremely responsive, and the engine produces plenty of power. Having said that, I will always be an RPA’er at heart.”

While we were chatting, current RPA President Hartley “Postal” Postlethwaite came by to visit. It was a terrific photo op.


After visiting with these gentlemen, I took some time to catch my breath and watch some of the air show from Warbird Parking.

I was particularly pleased to see my RPA Comrades fly a couple of extremely tight formations.


I also caught “Doc” making a tight turn overhead.

All in all, Friday was a good day to catch up with some people I’d wanted to see, and still take some pretty good photos. At the end of the day, I met with a special group of pilots to brief a very special flight for Saturday morning. More on that in the next blog installment.

AirVenture 2018 – Day 3

Wednesday, July 25, 2018, was Day 3 of AirVenture, and one of the more exciting days of the week. A week prior to AirVenture, I had attended the Great Lakes/Howell Formation clinic which was held at the hangar of Ron “Pucker” Staley. Pucker owns a beautiful L-39 and while I was at Howell, he and I talked about photographing his bird at Oshkosh. This finally happened on Day 3 of AirVenture.

The briefing is a mandatory preface to a formation flight. It is the responsibility of the Lead to conduct these briefings, using the input of the other participants. Briefings go over many important aspects of the flight, including mission objectives, radio frequencies, emergency procedures, and a whole list of other information critical to the flight. All flights have stated objectives, usually involving several established formations. This formation included



Tom “Mongo” Proctor,


Michael McCauley,


and Scott Farnsworth.

Mike “Spanky” Terfehr flew the L-39 photo ship that I was shooting from.

After a thorough briefing that included photography, we took off from Runway 27 at Oshkosh. In order to speed up the departure, the first three jets took off in a three-ship vic, followed by Farnsworth in his colorful “Dash” L-39, and our plane. This made for some nice shots of Farnsworth lifting off over the crowd of aircraft on the ground. We were off to a great start.

One of my favorite views is a nice takeoff shot in formation

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d lucked out by flying with Spanky. It was soon obvious that he knew what a photographer is looking for. He understood lighting, sun angle, formation angle, etc etc etc. Additionally, as briefed, Spanky was able to maneuver pretty much at will in order to get me in the best positions for photos. Spanky and Pucker often fly together, so that fosters a level of trust that gave us a great deal of flexibility in our maneuvering. The result was some very rewarding photography.

Here is a shot of a perfect fingertip formation

These guys fly a pretty tight echelon

The clouds made for an interesting background. It was a good day, especially since the weather turned to crap later in the day.

AirVenture 2018 – Day 2

Tuesday, July 24, 2018, was Day 2 of AirVenture. In the morning, I had the opportunity to enjoy my first flight in the venerable Navion. I had the pleasure of flying with Greg “Big Dawg” Young as he went up for a “rec ride” for his Lead card…a four-ship formation flight during which he demonstrated his skills in leading a formation. He flew under the watchful eye of fellow Navion pilot Tom Burlace, who is a F.A.S.T. check pilot.  To round out the four-ship formation, the Navion drivers recruited Yak-52 pilots Dan Booker and Lee Haven.

Booker notes, “Although the Yak 52 and Navion are in much different categories, they actually fly well together. The challenge in flying with cabin-class aircraft is the visibility issue out the right-hand side of the airplane, as opposed to the unobstructed view out of the canopy of a Yak. Some of the hand signals are a little difficult to see from aircraft stacked to the right of the Navion, and rejoins to the right can be a bit tougher, but Big Dawg was very cognizant of this and was extremely careful to make sure that his hand signals were visible to his wingmen.

Tom Burlace, a F.A.S.T. Check pilot, flew in the #2 position off our wing and took copious notes about Big Dawg’s performance.

A four-ship formation is required for a Lead rec ride, so Dan Booker (green) and Lee Haven (red & white) filled in as # 3 and 4.

A good formation makes for bad pictures. This is a perfect formation. You have to look very closely to see Lee’s red & white Yak hidden behind Dan’s green Yak.

I asked Big Dawg to step up a couple of feet so that I could capture this good-looking formation. All in all, he passed his rec ride with flying colors. A couple of weeks later, he passed a final test from a check pilot, and was officially awarded his Lead card. Congratulations, Greg.


In the afternoon, I made my way over to our traditional afternoon photo spot adjacent to Runway 18/36. While it is a great vantage point from which to watch the main air show, the real attraction to me is “The show after the show.” During the scheduled air show, Oshkosh Airport is closed to all traffic other than those participating in the show. The moment the air show is over, the airport is open to regular traffic, and the assortment of aircraft coming and going can resemble another air show. It was a good ending to a great day.

Sometimes, the show after the show can be every bit as interesting as the show! All in all, it was a good day, and I finished the day looking forward to what Day Three was going to bring…