After a very long winter of rainy days and non-flyable weather, the Cascade Warbirds decided to try for an old-fashioned fly-in to get us in the spring flying mood. The plan was to schedule a fly-in at Bellingham to coincide with the normal 'Third Saturday' scheduled warbird flying at the Heritage Flight Museum.
Bob Jones volunteered to fly his Cessna 206 from Puyallup's Thun Field to Paine Field in Everett, to allow a number of the Cascade Warbird members to 'airpool' from Paine to Bellingham. I arranged to meet Bob Jones in Puyallup, since it was a shorter drive for me than heading all the way to Everett.
Saturday morning dawned overcast and rainy, with a stubborn convergence zone parked over the Everett/Paine Field area, with low clouds, rain, and solid IFR conditions. Bob Jones and I waited for the Everett weather to clear, while telling war stories in Bob's Thun Field hangar. I learned that Bob had flown and raced in T-6 #8 at Reno for years, and that #8 was still flying well at Reno.
After waiting two hours unsuccessfully for Everett weather to clear, we decided to skip the Everett stop and head directly for Bellingham. We used Bob's well-equipped 206 to navigate around and above the weather, allowing us to arrive in clearing, sunny conditions at Bellingham.
A few hardy aviators had arrived from points north and west, while others drove. Bob and I appeared to be the only flyers that had made it up, via air, from the south. Alan Anders put on an impressive flyby series in the Heritage Flight's Skyraider, after Greg Anders had to ground abort the P-51 with starter problems.
The weather continued to clear in the Bellingham local area, so Greg, Alan and T-6 (SNJ) pilot Craig Nelson decided to provide a T-6 three-ship demonstration and formation flyby. I 'volunteered' to help provide a better CG by flying in one of the backseats, and Alan accepted the offer and loaned me a helmet to fly in his AT-6F, N706F, painted in classic blue and yellow Army Air Corps trainer colors.
Alan and I flew as #3, and we cranked in unison and 'S'-turned down the taxiway to runway 34 at Bellingham. The crosswinds had really kicked up from the west, so we flew 15-second trail departures, and Craig and Alan made very expeditious join-ups as Greg led a 270- degree turn back to the runway for a fine three-ship pass over the visitors at the Heritage Flight Museum.
Bellingham tower was very helpful in sequencing our three-ship in between arriving jetliners, and we made two more three-ship formation passes as I got some decent photos from the backseat. Greg slid the formation to echelon left as we headed up initial for a pitchout to the overhead pattern. All three T-6s made a low approach with an aggressive single-ship pitch-up for our last pass, and then Alan executed a smooth crosswind wheel landing as we joined up in a three-ship for taxi back.
Thanks for the fun flight, Alan. It felt great to put a few G's back on my body, and it really gets me motivated for my first tailwheel 'Pilot-In-Command' flying later this spring.
Also thanks to Bob Jones for the shuttle to Bellingham in your Cessna 206, and the great T-6 Reno racing stories!