Formation Flying – Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association

aviation, aviation history, Flying Is Fun, general, photo

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Bill and Ken’s Excellent Adventure Continues

aviation, aviation history, Flying Is Fun, photo

 I may not be the sharpest knife in the block but at least I’m smart enough to know when my friend Bill Shepard says “Road Trip” I pack my bags.  This time we were off to Port Clinton Ohio with the CAF Red Tail Squadron and their Rise Above exhibit.

DSC_1273Our destination was the Liberty Aviation Museum, home of the B-25 “Georgie’s Gal” and the Ford Tri-Motor restoration project celebrating the local use of a Tin Goose as an island hopper commuter airplane servicing the area around Put-In-Bay.

 I drove down with good friends Melanie and Tracy and we met up with the rest of the team on Friday evening for dinner and some laughs.  The weather was less than perfect but it didn’t dampen the team’s enthusiasm.  The Red Tail Squadron travels an incredible display around the US in the capable hands of Terry and Jeanette who live in this custom truck and do the majority of the setup and teardown of this theater on wheels.  Hundreds of thousands have passed through to watch an informative movie telling the story of the famous Tuskegee Airmen who fought tremendous battles both at home and in the air over Europe.  Their story inspires the youth of today to “Rise Above” and reach for the sky.

The Rise Above Team

The main sponsor of the weekend at the museum was one of those brave airmen.  Dr. Harold Brown is a resident of the Port Clinton area where he is much loved by the whole community.  Dr. Brown started working at the age of 11 and went on to become one of those famous black aviators who played such a pivotal role as escorts for the waves of bombers flying to Germany.  Shot down near the end of the war, Dr. Brown spent some time as a POW before being liberated and returning to the US where he remained in service for a total of 23 years, retiring as a Lt. Colonel having spent a number of years with the Strategic Air Command flying B-47 Stratojets.  After leaving the military, Dr. Brown went on to play a pivotal role in the growth of Columbus State College. He “retired” but went on to run a consulting business and become a much sought after public speaker.  I was privileged to be able to spend most of Saturday listening to Dr. Brown as he talked to children and met fellow veterans including one who flew a B-24 bomber that was escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen so many years ago.  In this day of packaged celebrity it is truly rare to meet people for whom the term “hero” is somehow less than adequate.  I was in the presence of greatness and I will always hold that day close to my heart.

Dr. Harold Brown, Tuskegee Airman, and the CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang.

Sunday morning, I again got to accompany Bill as he flew the P-51C Mustang back to Tillsonburg Ontario.

DSC_1473An all too short flight in perfect conditions got us back to Canada and Tillsonburg, the home of the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association.  I thought our adventure was over but no so!

  Three of the CHAA Harvards were going to get some formation practice time in and I was invited to come along.

 It is pretty amazing when you’re flying in 60 year old aircraft in close formation and the airplane on your left is being piloted by former Canadian Astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason.  Pure magic.

My thanks to everyone who gave this old AvGeek a special treat.  I love my aviation family.





Toronto Pearson – 2013 Statistics

Flying Is Fun

Going through the stats for 2013 available at the GTAA website.  The Greater Toronto Airports Authority operates [[Toronto Pearson International Airport]] (CYYZ) and employs me on a part-time basis on the Toronto Pearson Welcome Team.

Some highlights:

  • Passenger traffic was up 3.4% to 34,911,850 passengers boarding or deplaning in the 2 terminals
  • Aircraft movements were actually down 0.2% at 433,975
  • August was the busiest month with nearly 3.7 million passengers
  • February was the slowest month with 2.5 million
  • Nearly 40,000 people are directly employed at YYZ

With movements down but passenger count up this shows that the load factors are up which does explain why both Air Canada and WestJet reported good earnings.

Prepping for Oshkosh

aviation, aviation history, Flying Is Fun, fun, Oshkosh, Travel

1-DSC_3195Two very, very long weeks from now I’ll be arriving to take part in EAA AirVenture 2013 – better known simply as “Oshkosh”.  The world’s biggest aviation celebration and the greatest week of the year.

This will be my third Oshkosh and my second where I drive instead of fly.  All the arrangements have been made – hotels. fast ferry pass and all the tickets needed to get through the week.  The cameras have been cleaned and polished with a few accessories to be delivered next week.  I’ve cleared about 100gb on the hard drive to load the thousands of pictures that will come.  The Jeep goes in for an oil change and some scheduled maintenance next week to make sure she’s ready for some long drives.  Everyone and I mean EVERYONE at work knows that Oshkosh is coming and I will effectively disappear from the face of the earth for 11 days as far as they are concerned.  I missed one Oshkosh because of business pressures and it will not happen again.

My friends can be broken down into 2 categories.  Those who understand my passion for aviation and those who think I am nuts.  The latter ask why I continually go on and on about Oshkosh and why I get that crazy look as the end of July draws nearer.  The friends who understand what this means are happy for me. Well some are jealous but still happy.  My wife, bless her heart, is somewhere in the middle but she let’s me do this and supports me all the way which is why, along with about 10,000 more reasons, that I love her.  She’s prepared to wave goodbye not knowing if I will call her every day (I DO try) and if she’ll be able to understand me over the roar of a jet or radial engine.

For those who don’t quite understand what Oshkosh is about, let me try and convey some of the wonder that is Oshkosh.


Oshkosh takes place at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) in Oshkosh Wisconsin.  For a week every year, KOSH becomes the busiest airport on the planet.  Up to 10,000 aircraft come and go over the course of the event and listening to the ATC feed gives you only a hint of how busy they are.  The term “Rock Your Wings” is synonymous with arrival at Oshkosh and getting a “Good rock” response from a controller is a badge of honor for any general aviation pilot who braves the traffic.  People camp in their airplanes, under their airplanes and near their airplanes.  Communities of like aircraft arrive and depart together and gather in groups.  Last year, over 100 Piper Cubs arrived to celebrate an important anniversary and there was a sea of yellow wings in the Vintage area.


Oshkosh celebrates aviation in 3 major areas – Warbirds, Vintage and Homebuilt.  Each group has their own prime real estate for aficionados to meet, gather and celebrate their particular passion. I’m more of a generalist and I’ve gotten smart enough to plan my week to spend a day or more in each area.  In the era of sequestration, the normal military presence will be noticeably absent but the crowds won’t really miss them (at least they won’t acknowledge that they miss them).  Oshkosh veterans can be a little snobbish and will tell you at great length why AirVenture shouldn’t have any modern military or commercial participation.  I’m such a rookie I can say that I will miss not seeing the might of the USAF, Navy and Marines in the air and on the ground.


Two years ago Boeing sent the 787 Dreamliner to Oshkosh to show it off.  Though the news is filled with reports of problems with the ‘87, in 2012 its future looked very bright and the arrival at KOSH was one of the highlights of the week. 1-_DSC3401Last year, the Orbis flying eye hospital made an impressive entrance to the event and stayed for tours.  Oshkosh is known as a showplace for the newest, the oldest, the fastest, the most unusual and simply the most aircraft in one place at the same time. Upwards of 1/2 million people visit Oshkosh during AirVenture.

There will be 8 major airshows during the week – 6 during the day and 2 at night.  There will be movie premieres (Disney’s Planes), live music (Chicago, Gary Sinise, Tony Orlando).  There will be astronauts (Canada’s own Chris Hadfield), there will be veterans’ flights and there will be a thousand other things to do.  My schedule goes from 7 in the morning to approximately 9 in the evening.   I will probably walk close to 100 miles over the course of the week.  I fly in a vintage B-17 bomber on Thursday.  A bunch of us are meeting up at “Camp Bacon” for  an evening meal and I’m bringing the maple syrup.  I’m even up for an award in the Social Media world.

I will be dog tired, I will be hot and I will be in heaven.  Planning on attending?  Look for this goofy hat and grin.  Follow me on Twitter at @eyeno or on Facebook 


Bill and Ken’s Excellent Adventure

aviation, aviation history, Flying Is Fun


I’ve been trying very, very hard to keep this as quiet as I can but the anticipation is driving me crazy.  If everything goes right, I’ll be strapping into the back seat of this P-51C Mustang and flying from Tilsonburg Ontario to Dayton Ohio this Thursday morning.  The pilot is Bill Shepard who I first met a few years ago with the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association and have run into at a number of shows from Fun ‘N Sun to Oshkosh.

Bill is one of a handful of pilots who has the privilege to fly the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Mustang which pays honor to the Tuskegee Airmen.  Their inspiring story is told very well by the traveling Rise Above exhibit.  More information here.

You can bet I’ll be grabbing pictures and video of the flights and also the Vectren Dayton Air Show. 

US budget woes threaten the airshow industry

airshow, aviation, Flying Is Fun, politics

If things don’t change, come April 1st US military participation in airshows may become aesl_45_rd thing of the past. 

The International Council of Airshows (ICAS) released the following today:

“By now, most ICAS members in the U.S. have seen news items reporting that the Blue Angels’ 2013 air show season may be in jeopardy if the federal government does not take action to avoid mandatory budget cuts. If these cuts are allowed to be made, they will impact not just the Blue Angels, but all aspects of the U.S. military’s involvement in air shows.

The road to possible sequestration cuts has been a long and complicated one. These cuts may have a significant impact on the entire U.S. air show community, so it’s important that ICAS members familiarize themselves with the evolution and newest developments in this crisis. This article in, a politics- and commentary-oriented website, provides just such an overview (along with a bit of commentary). This article in, a politically oriented newspaper and website, reveals why additional extensions to the sequestration deadline are not likely to avoid short-term budgetary pressure on the Pentagon and, by extension, the impact of that pressure on the U.S. air show community. USA Today published this article outlining in general terms the military’s likely approach to sequestration cost-cutting tactics. This article from a Florida news website explains how even the congressman who represents Pensacola, the home of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, is suggesting that the Blue Angels may become a victim of indiscriminate budgetary cuts…cuts that were originally approved precisely because they would be so impractical and unappealing that they would prompt elected representatives to reach a compromise on the difficult issues related to deficit reduction.

Currently, all four branches of the U.S. military remain hopeful that sequestration-related budget cuts will be avoided between now and the March 1 deadline. Indeed, most are proceeding as though the air show season will continue as planned; just this week, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command released the 2013 performance schedule for the F-22 Raptor. But, as has been reported extensively in the media, the military’s senior leadership is also making contingency plans in the event politicians do not reach some agreement. Three weeks ago, ICAS provided some details on those contingency plans for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. Those plans are explained in this January 14 memo from the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff and the Acting Secretary of the Air Force, and in this memo from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget. In each case, those plans call for massive restructuring and emergency cost-cutting steps, including a reduction in non-essential flying.

More recently, as the March 1 deadline for implementation of the cuts approaches without a political solution in sight, military leaders have begun releasing even more detailed instructions on how the budgetary cuts will be accommodated with the least possible impact on the country’s ability to provide for national defense. If no compromise is reached by March 1 and sequestration cuts are implemented, the four service branches will institute a hiring freeze and begin furloughing civilian defense employees. They will eliminate all non-essential travel. They will suspend many defense contracts. And they will delay a large number of construction and maintenance projects.

As it relates to air show activity specifically, the current plan is to continue air show training and participation through March 31 and then end it on April 1. This would include suspending performances by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, as well as single-ship demo performances, static display participation, and previously scheduled air shows and open houses at military bases. If the sequestration-mandated cuts are subsequently restored, some of the air show activity – like the training and performances of the two U.S. military jet teams – may resume, following a period of retraining. As an example, a jet team that did not train for three months might require two or three weeks of practice before it can resume its performance schedule. It is not clear right now if military air shows and open houses will be held on the dates for which they were originally scheduled. It is also not clear what the impact of deficit reduction initiatives will be on the military’s involvement in air shows even if sequestration-related budget cuts are avoided.

The ICAS memo goes on to discuss contingency planning:snf12_072

Just as the military is developing plans to implement budget cuts even though they still hope and expect to avoid those cuts, air show professionals are developing contingency plans to operate their air show businesses without the involvement of the U.S. military.

“Although the pending budget cuts could present considerable challenges to our North American air show community, many of our members are already contemplating changes that can be made to minimize the disruption and impact of a reduced military presence during this year’s air show season,” says ICAS President John Cudahy. “The potential disruption is considerable, but our industry has a demonstrated record of being imaginative, resourceful and resilient in the face of these kinds of challenges.”

For proven tactics among event organizers, many shows will likely look toward those shows with a history of doing well without a jet team or single-ship demos. Many shows are already contacting and considering alternative acts to provide the same “grand finale” entertainment that the military has provided in the past. For example, Tora Tora Tora, the Patriot Jet Team, Robosaurus and Art Nalls will likely be getting more phone calls in the next few weeks.

Performers and support service providers who are planning on participating in shows at U.S. military bases will face their own challenges in developing contingency plans that could include the cancellation of those shows, but the process has already started for some. One-time cost-cutting steps and renewed marketing efforts will likely be part of those plans.

As this issue develops during the coming days and weeks, ICAS will use this space to pass along useful ideas, relevant case histories and other information to help our members adjust and adapt during a 2013 air show season that now appears likely to present some unusual challenges.

Unusual challenges indeed.  Canada is not immune from these effects as our airshows have already found it next to impossible to secure US military assets either for flying demos or as static displays.

Another photo published

Flying Is Fun, photo

Hawk One Historical Report 2012_5-1

I’m always incredibly excited when one of my photos makes its way into the public domain.  I’m doubly pleased to see one of my shots of the Discovery Air Hawk One F-86 Sabre show up in their 2012 report.

Hawk One flies out of Vintage Wings of Canada in Gatineau Quebec and I’ve been able to see it quite a few times.  The triple roll shot was taken in 2011 at the Open House.

Mid-Winter Social

airshow, aviation, Flying Is Fun, Waterloo Air Show


Being a volunteer at an air show is hard work but it has more than its share of perks.  The obvious one is that you’re directly involved with an event that attracts thousands of visitors to see and hear fantastic flying and static aircraft.  Equally, if not more valuable, is the friendships that develop.  Volunteers are good people.  Aviation volunteers are GREAT people!  A shared passion that keeps everyone smiling through the sun (or rain), heat, crowds, noise and the million others things that can and invariably will go wrong.

I’ve been helping out at the Waterloo Air Show for a few years now and one of the best perks is the mid-winter social put on by the organizers to acknowledge the volunteers and give us an opportunity to forget about the cold and snow for a few hours and talk about past shows and the one to come.  Friday night I braved some crappy driving conditions to join the group at the Flite Line Services hangar at Waterloo International Airport.  A great time was had by all!

2013 Snowbirds Schedule

airshow, aviation, Flying Is Fun


May 9 Moose Jaw, SK
May 18-19 TBD
May 22 TBD
May 25-26 TBD
Jun 1-2 Waterloo, ON
Jun 5 North Bay, ON
Jun 8-9 TBD
Jun 12 Greenwood, NS
Jun 15-16 Hamilton, ON
Jun 22-23 Bagotville, QC
Jun 26 TBD
Jun 29-30 St. Thomas, ON
Jul 1 Ottawa, ON
Jul 3 Kenora, ON
Jul 6-7 Saskatoon, SK
Jul 13-14 Airdrie, AB
Jul 17 Roblin, MB
Jul 20-21 Lethbridge, AB
Jul 24 Rocky Mountain House, AB
Jul 27-28 Fort St. John, BC
Jul 31 Nanaimo, BC
Aug 3-4 Quesnel, BC
Aug 9-11 Abbotsford, BC
Aug 14 Prince Rupert, BC
Aug 17-18 Comox, BC
Aug 28 Brantford, ON
Aug 31 – Sep 2 Toronto, ON
Sep 3 Whitby, ON
Sep 7-8 Charlottetown, PE
Sep 11 Roverval, QC
Sep 14-15 Yarmouth, NS
Sep 18-21 TBD
Sep 28-29 Memphis, TN
Oct 2 Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 5-6 Sacramento, CA
Oct 9 Redding, CA
Oct 12-13 El Paso, TX
Oct 18 Moose Jaw, SK