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Fly-in a big hit in South Kitsap
The Northwest Beech Boys aviation club descended upon a crowd of onlookers at Bremerton National Airport during the Blackberry Festival Fly-in Saturday.
The group demonstrated flying skills, using a variety of sophisticated maneuvering techniques, such as formation flying. During the event the four-plane band of Beechcraft performed maneuvers known as “Diamond Formation” and “Parade Position” that put the pilots dangerously close together all while under the command of flying mentor Jim Posner, who rode in the lead plane during the fly-in.
Posner, who moved to Kitsap County in 2005, taught his fellow flyers, known as the Northwest Beach Boys, how to fly in the difficult and dangerous fixed flying runs. Lead pilots and their “wings” must exhibit the discipline and nerve to travel at excessively fast speeds while simultaneously depending on each other to not move out of alignment.
"The wingman can look at nothing else — he never knows what position he is in and they never know where they are physically. The only thing he looks at is his lead,” Posner said. “The wingman always is able to see the lead because he is on the wing. When the lead turns, the wingman turns with the lead or climbs with the lead or descends with the lead. The lead always takes flight around.
“It's a standard formation of the aircraft where you have the lead and the wingman. That's the biggest thing to learn for your wing is to always look at the lead and in position.
“If you're out of position, do something to adjust it—more power, less power, maintain the wing position—if you get behind a bit, adjust your power and if you're up too close, back off of the power a bit.”
Doug Haughton, who lead the Northwest Beech Boys in formation with his V-Tailed V-35 Beechcraft agreed.
“We're a tight breed — formation flyers," he said. "It's an entirely different level of flying completely.
“You really get a lot of respect from other pilots if you can do this. It's a good feeling when we come back and haven't swapped paint and there is no paint from the other plane on our wingtips. That feels good. I didn't enjoy formation flying at first, but Jim Posner, with his coaching, he saw me through to the point where I better understand the discipline.”
The “missing man” formation is another formation that builds respect among pilots — and is a fixed flying run that Posner, Haughton, Seppanen, Van Winkle and Jones perform not only at air shows and festivals such as the Blackberry Festival Fly-In or the Arlington Fly-In, but also at funerals and memorials at the request of friends or family members of pilots they have flown with over the years.
“Missing man formation is where the third pilot in the ship of four — it is a tribute to killed airmen,” Posner said. “We have done a lot of missing man formations over the years — over people's houses, their churches, or whatever. The idea is to create a hole for the dead airmen or pilot. The pilot of number three leaves the formation abruptly and fly's west. This is to replicate someone departing.
“I think it is quite an honor for a missing man or woman."