After a winter and spring of heavy rains and low clouds, the Cascade Warbirds planners, Smokey Johnson and Dave Desmon, had the difficult task of trying to coordinate a 4-day Formation Clinic while avoiding rain and the fickle 'June Gloom' often present before the 4th of July. We all breathed a sigh of relief as the Great Northwest weather gods outdid themselves with deep blue skies and excellent visibility during the entire 22-25 June 2017 formation clinic at Bremerton, WA. OK, maybe the blazing sun and mid-90s temperatures on Sunday were a bit over the top, but that's what sunscreen and partially opened canopies are made for!
Roger Collins provided his excellent hangar and facilities for our use on the northwest ramp at Bremerton, and the early arrivals on Thursday afternoon were treated to a joint evening banquet with the attendees for the Bonanzas to Oshkosh (B2OSH) Northwest formation clinic, as they shared the Bremerton ramp and airspace with us during same weekend.
Four Nanchang CJ-6s arrived early, including three CJs arriving from Victoria and Langley, British Columbia, with a fifth CJ arriving Friday and a sixth CJ from Arlington arriving on Saturday. Three T-28s, three T-6s, two IAR-823s, a couple of Navions, a T-34 and a Scottish Aviation Bulldog rounded out the weekend warbird fliers.
On Friday from 10:00AM-2:00PM, Smokey Johnson provided an excellent formation ground school course, based on NATA (North American Trainer Association) procedures, which included lunch hosted by Colleen Hale, assisted by Nora Elliott. Formation instruction and signoff were provided by three JLFC (Joint Liaison Formation Committee) instructors, 'Tall Tom' Burlace, Kurt 'Cowboy' Landis, and Allyn Beaver, with Dean 'Frito' Friedt representing the RPA (RedStar Pilots Association), Jim Ostrich covering the T-34 Association, and our own Smokey Johnson representing NATA. We also had excellent briefing and lead support provided from RPA Lead Pilot David Gagliardi.
With perfect weather, formation flying began in earnest on Friday afternoon. My goal was to get more formation flight training, in any position, to prepare for an initial wingman certification. With 4 Nanchangs available, we briefed two missions, both with me as #3 and Tom Burlace in my back seat. On our first flight, #2 was delayed due to an inadvertent backseat parachute initiation, which was quickly remedied with a new chute. Unfortunately, #4's battery had drained overnight, so we were only able to muster a 3-ship for the first flight. It was still an outstanding exercise to 'get the rust out', with close and route formation practice, pitchouts and rejoins, echelon turns and crossunders, all while flying in beautiful airspace just southeast of Bremerton. Pitchouts and landings looked and felt great, and we returned with T-28s, T-6s, Navions and IARs all getting a great first day workout. I was able to snag a second flight in Smokey Johnson's T-6 during a 2-ship practice flight, while pizza and margaritas in the Bremerton airport offices with the Bonanza flyers rounded out an excellent first flying day. Dave Desmon led a dusk 'rescue mission' to bring back Dave Osgood's Navion from Chehalis, and Kirstan and Vic Norris joined in their IAR-823, Bob Hill in his IAR, along with Tom Elliott in his Nanchang CJ-6.
Saturday dawned clear and gorgeous again, and the formation flying continued throughout the day. I was able to complete a Nanchang 4-ship, again as #3, and got to practice a 30-degree bearing line reference compared to Friday's 45-degree bearing line, while flying numerous crossunders, echelon turns, close trail, pitchouts and rejoins. During the 4-ship, we were able to complete the RedStar wingman certification for visiting Canadian Nanchang pilot Chris Walker. In the afternoon, I jumped in Larry 'Spooky' Pine's big engine Nanchang for a mixed formation of 3 Nanchangs with Bob Hill's IAR-823, and got some great in-flight photos. Many wing and lead certifications were renewed, with Dave Desmon and Bob Hill obtaining their certification as 2-ship formation leads. After the long day of flying in the hot sun, the Cascade Warbirds members relaxed with Italian food and lots of Chianti at Tony's Italian, where Dave Osgood received his new callsign of 'GUSO'. Check with Dave for the details, or better yet, check with other Cascade Warbirds attendees for the REAL story behind the callsign! Hint: GUSO is an acronym - for 'Gear Up - Stool Out'.
On Sunday, most formation flying occurred in the morning, as pilots and aircraft headed home in the afternoon as the temperatures climbed into the mid-90's. Thanks to Air Boss Smokey Johnson and Ground Boss Dave Desmon, Roger Collins for the use of his awesome hangar and facilities, Colleen and Nora for keeping us well fed and hydrated, and Pete Jackson, Paul Youman and our ground crew volunteers for keeping us safe and organized on the ground. To remember the excellent four days of flying, Karyn 'SkyQueen' King, Dan Shoemaker and John Clark captured some great photos of the clinic. Also thanks to instructors Smokey Johnson, Tom Burlace, Kurt 'Cowboy' Landis, Allyn Beaver, Dean 'Frito' Friedt and Jim Ostrich for flying and teaching. It was an awesome weekend of formation flying and Cascade Warbirds camaraderie!
Justin, thanks for another great opportunity to exercise your well-maintained Nanchang while refreshing my formation flying skills.