Want to know the coolest thing in the world? Watching your favorite person kick ass achieving a major goal. In my case, I got to see Mr. T perform in his first official air show at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. (For those keeping score, he flew in a very cool flyover for the
40th anniversary of Vans RVs in 2012, but it was not during the waivered show.)
a previous post, I likened the AirVenture air shows to the Olympics, and I barely exaggerate. Only the best of the best get to perform at Osh, and my heart just about burst watching T and his dear friends achieve such a milestone. (Seriously, I was embarrassing. There was squealing, some bouncing. I tapped strangers who were heads down in their phones and made them watch.)
In the following photos, I chronicle two excellent events. The first is a showcase of 34 RVs in formation on the Tuesday of AirVenture. The collection of pilots from across the country (see
photos of the practice here) made several beautiful passes mid-day. The second event is from the air show Thursday which included a special 30-ship formation to honor the 30th anniversary of the Vans RV-6. After a fly-by, the West Coast Ravens (including T) peeled off and performed their dynamic maneuvering show. SQUEAL!
Mr. T (aka Tim “Tank” Redden) in his RV-4 getting ready. Nordo (aka Dan West) is back and to the left in his RV-8.
Mercedes “Cougar” Eulitt in her brand new last year home built RV-7.
Tim “Slick” Cone.
The Tuesday formation taking off. The pilots took off in four-ship elements and then regrouped over Lake Winnebago. Digging that Corsair in the foreground.
A 34-ship formation pass over EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Pilots came together from across the U.S. including the West Coast Ravens, Falcon Flight in Texas, KC Flight from Kansas City, Bulldog flight from Arkansas, and more.
The variety of colors and configurations charms me almost as much as the pilot call signs. I won’t name them all but there’s Nasty, Goose (for a bird strike, not the movie), Lizard, Slick, Spike, Bulldog, Jawbone, Shorts, Driller, Cipher and 25 more. Most have fantastic stories about how they earned their call signs. (I’m Tankerbelle, of course.)
It takes a ton of coordination, practice, and precision to fly so close together. Every pilot pictured is credentialed to fly formation in airshows.
Loved walking around hearing people on the ground comment about how good the formation passes looked. Proud wife time!
Have I mentioned these pilots practice ALL the time. All. The. Time.
34-ship formation at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
Arrow formation with stingers.
Diamond Pass. Although I played photographer during the weekend practice, I gladly gave up the job to a pro during the show. Love this view from the ground.
And it was a good decision. Look at this gorgeous shot by Chet Wehe! Of course, the photographer is but half the equation in a “money shot” like this. Kudos to Carl “Jawbone” Brownd who flew photoship and got his Super Six in exactly the right spot!
Look at that line-up. Number 11 is my favorite, of course.
A happy happy man.
West Coast Ravens team. Back row, from left: Mercedes “Cougar” Eulitt, Tim “Slick” Cone, Scott “Spike” Randolph, Brad “Tailwind” Ransom, Tim “Tank” Redden, Sean “Goose” Farrell. Front row, from left: Dan “Cowboy” Hammond, Tommy “Turbo” Ishii, Bob “Nasty” Mills, and Mike “KB” Smith.
A huge part of formation flying is unsurprisingly, communication. Every flight involves a brief which includes a run-down of what maneuvers will be accomplished, as well as check-ins and questions/comments from each pilot. In this photo, the West Coast Ravens formation team lead, Nasty, is walking through the maneuvers that the big formation will perform. Sometimes the team will even “dirt dance” the entire show.
In the foreground, the two solos – Tank (aka Mr. T) on the left, solo lead, and Slick, on the right, solo wingman – talk through their maneuvers.
In the center, KB looks on with Cougar to his right. Now retired, KB flew Skyraiders (and several other aircraft) during his service in the Air Force (see pictures of the Skyraiders here).
Cowboy and Sunblock listen intently.
Turbo is the only one who stopped pretending not to see me.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Vans RV-6.
Look at those beautiful lines!
30-ships in formation. Right before the pass, there was a showcase of other RVs, including the RV-12 flown by a newer pilot, which actually crossed under the formation to land. George “Cipher” Ford’s video of it (shot from the ground while he was flying in the above photo!) is hilarious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiamdglvkjU&feature=youtu.be
Paul “Rosie” Rosales served as announcer for the 30-ship RV-6 anniversary formation pass and the West Coast Ravens show. Nasty’s son Matt stands to the left in the red shirt. Kitty (that’s her actual name, not a call sign, is up there somewhere.)
West Coast Ravens!!
Solos peel off from the opening pass. Mr. T as solo lead is far right.
Tank and Slick tearing it up. (Photographer’s note: This zoom limitation is going to require a lens upgrade, for crying out loud.)
Setting up for the “roll reversal.”
Line abreast recovery from the roll reversal.
Slick and Tank inbound.
“Clover 360” downline.
Tank and Slick performing the “roll and cross.”
Roll and cross.
EZ (e.g. Rutan Vari-Eze) Pass
EZ (e.g. Rutan Vari-Eze) Pass.
Tank and Slick on the opposing pass.
Head-to-head closing in at more than 400 mph! (Don’t try this at home, kids.)
West Coast Ravens “Delta” pass. Tank and Slick lurk high above for a high-energy rejoin.
Delta pass turning for the final pass. Would it have killed mother nature to give us some blue skies? I’m just grateful they got to fly though. It was rainy and grey all morning.
Solos hustle to rejoin the Delta in time.
Last pass over Osh.
Post-flight debrief hoorah.
Just trying to get a post-brilliance picture with my love, and got mobbed by all of these pesky ravens.
Five of eight awesome West Coast Ravens, and me. From left: Tankerbelle, Slick (behind), Tank, Cougar, Goose, KB. Great job, folks!
Flight lead Nasty and his son, Matt. Matt and I bonded over a shared love of cheese curds. Preferred style? Fried and melty of course.
West Coast Ravens EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
And then the Ravens got a little bit mobbed by a joyful group of pilots and aviation enthusiasts from the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican crew especially loved Cougar.
Tank and Tankerbelle at the famous Oshkosh Brown Arch.
On the way out, we met the Ravens’ number one fan.
Who promptly freaked out during picture taking and ran back to his mom.
And refused to stand anywhere near the group. Too funny.
Happily exhausted Ravens under the C-5.
If you’re in Southern California in a couple weeks, check out the West Coast Ravens at
Wings Over Camarillo August 20 and 21.
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