Celebrating the 4th by going RVing - Baseball, Apple Pie and SMOKE ON! (Part 1)

7:55 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor
With the recent sale of 8527W, a.k.a Katy, our Cherokee 235 we owned for eight years, I decided to take the opportunity to enlist the help of my EAA Chapter 1457 pals to earn my Passenger (Pax) Rating. This means, as a PPNF (private pilot not flying) I would have to snag rides with others in order to build the time required to add the rating to my Pilot's Certificate.
This past weekend, I had two incredible flights - both in Van's RV kitbuilt airplanes - and have logged more time as a passenger. Sure, it's not the same as being PIC, but there are great benefits, such as finally being able to look down instead of at the panel and gauges.
These two Fourth of July flights were perfect as we celebrate our country's independence. I was seated in airplanes that were Made in America, and on both flights, aviators were doing something to give back to the community, a solid American value that the aviation family needs to do any chance we can.
 I had already planned to go help EAA Chapter 31 in Creswell, Oregon fly Young Eagles on the 4th, which included a flyover of the parade to gin up community interest in bringing the family out to the airport that day. But when I got the call on Sunday from Ray Beverly offering a seat on an RV-7 he was flying in a two-ship flyover of the Eugene Emeralds baseball game, I could not pass it up, and the story you are reading began to write itself.
EAA Chapter 1457 members Ray Beverly, left and John Stahr brief the flyover mission before departure
The mission to fly over PK Park in Eugene to add an aerial exclamation point to the National Anthem was planned to perfection by John Stahr, one of the two pilots set to fly this mission. It would be tight formation, and had to be timed to exactly arrive over the stadium just as the singer was belting out..."Home of the....BRAVVVVVE!" Stahr, with wife Patti in the back seat of their incredibly gorgeous RV-8 "American Angel" flew the mission at noon, with Patti taking notes and John setting four checkpoints they would hit inbound, with the last one being a big mall exactly :30 out.

After a few minutes of pilot briefing between Stahr and Beverly, our chapter test pilot who was flying Steve McGirr's beautiful RV-7, rolled onto runway 34L at KEUG, and departed in formation as a "flight of two." Prior to departure, Beverly - a long-time Air Force pilot with B-52 time plus plenty of T-38 formation training - explained the precision tactics he would use to stay in perfect position just off Stahr's right wing.
"I stay a little behind and just a bit lower," explained Beverly, "and line up so the outside right aileron hinge stays in visual alignment with the point of the spinner. Then, to judge distance apart, I need to see the tip of the lead plane's left horizontal stabilizer." Once those two visual clues are triangulated, control inputs are tiny but frequent to stay in position." Even on rollout for takeoff, Beverly was in the exact spot even rolling down the runway, and would lock his ship onto Stahr's wing as if tied together by cables for the remainder of the mission.
With 22,000 hours, including many as a Netjets Captain flying Citation Xs, Beverly had no problem following Stahr's lead as the two ships held just north of the stadium until the synchronized watches on both pilot's arms said it was time to get with the business of smoking the game. It was incredibly interesting to watch Beverly hold the light and nimble RV-7 in exact position, flying about 160 KIAS at 1,500 msl, on a hot, gusty day when both planes were getting tossed pretty hard. What was unreal though was this: While Ray was calmly holding his plane in position, he was constantly telling me stories of his past escapades flying formation in T-38s. You would think he'd be locked onto Stahr's RV-7 with intense focus, but no, this was just another joy ride...less than 100' apart.
Flying in perfect formation: Beverly, flying wing to Stahr's American Angel RV-8, is keeping the second ship in place
After crossing the last checkpoint, Stahr led the flight over the stadium at about 2,000 msl, and blipped his smoke to signal their arrival to the crowd. Down below, the singer was cranking up the enthusiasm with the National Anthem. We dropped to 1,400 msl in a tight descending left turn - still in perfect formation - and returned over the stadium with Stahr trailing the flight with a generous smoke trail. Right about third base, the pair broke hard right and left, and the stadium manager called later to tell us we nailed it exactly. The singer had started :40 early, but we had a brisk tailwind pushing us south to the stadium, arriving, yes, exactly :40 seconds early, thus NAILING the timing. Stahr's plan was perfect.
After re-grouping, we headed back to KEUG, and as the Eugene Pro Rodeo was also underway near the airport, did an impromptu smoke pass over the cowboys. With the patriotic theme of Stahr's American Angel, I'm pretty sure those below loved the surprise arrival.
This formation flight to help some local baseball fans celebrate the 4th really proves how much fun flying can be. When you can be up flying with friends, and also doing something cool for your community, yes, that is what general aviation is all about. It accentuates exactly why I am so very happy being an EAA member, a great association full of awesome pilots who welcome anyone with an interest in flying. Even if you're a pilot but not a "builder" they make you feel welcome. It is, as their tagline says...the "Spirit of Aviation."
I am seriously enjoying working on my Pax Rating, and this story is only half over. Stay tuned for part two, when I report on what it was like to fly the Creswell mission before returning to Hobby Field and turn on some kids to flying.

You Might Also Like