Part 2 of our adventure finds us in Arcadia, Florida as we participate in a FAST (Formation and Safety Team) Clinic put on by NATA, (North American Trainer Association). For me it was a real thrill to see so many T-6s and T-28s in one place.
Check Pilot Bruce Olson and Nathan Harnagel debrief after a formation flight where Bruce flew in Nathan's back seat to help him fine-tune his skills. A FAST Clinic is the ideal place to gain proficiency as a formation pilot. The FAA requires that you are qualified by a check pilot before you can perform in air shows, like the fly-over we'll do at Sun 'N Fun.
Bruce, my pilot and sponsor on this adventure was the "Up and At 'Em" guy for our band of four. He was always ready to go in the morning, with a smile on his face, and his optimism and upbeat attitude put us all in a good mood.
T-6 pilots gather for a dawn briefing before taking to the skies. Our hotel clerk snarled at us when we checked in that evening. Apparently her roommate woke her up, thinking Arcadia was under an air attack.
Walt Fricke, another friend from Minneapolis, took me up for my first ride in a T-28. He was mentoring Keith Baker, shown in the image below.
Flying his award-winning T-28, Keith struggles to stay up in tight on our wing. However simple and graceful it may look like from the ground, this is some tricky flying that takes great skill and patience to master. Having nerves of steel helps, too.
The next day I got a chance to fly with Walt again, in a six-ship flight of T-28s. It's an awesome experience to fly, with five other planes right off your wing, all bobbing up and down and in and out, as they move through the bumpy air of a hot afternoon.
Rick Cureton did an amazing job of staying right in the zone, as we broke off and did a two-ship-pass of the airport. I fired off a dozen great shots of Rick and his plane.
At the end of each flight, there is always a debriefing to discuss what went right and what didn't work as planned. A FAST Clinic is like a classroom in the sky. Walt Fricke, a chopper pilot in Viet Nam, uses his hands in a classic pilot's gesture.
Bruce Olson and Bill Dorris fly "smoke on" above the Arcadia airfield. Below are some of the 17 T-28s that were present for the event.
Our next stop was Sebring, which is also home to the famous Sebring International Raceway. The track and airport practically wrap around each other, so we got to see a bit of car racing as well. Here, two T-28s glisten with dew in the foggy morning light.
Dew made the canopy of this T-6 appear to be filled with steam, as the sun filters through.
Leo Kurtz looks on, as Dave Schmitz expresses "how close". Dave's wry wit and great story-telling abilities kept us laughing throughout the trip.
Later that morning we all took off for Sun 'N Fun, approximately 14 T-28s, and 14 T-6s.
Normally a photographer doesn't get to fly in an air show, but since we were coming in from another airport, I was privileged to witness the event from above, as we soared over in our respective groups.