Show time

Y’know the “no news is good news” thing? Well, sometimes no news is just complete lack of web connectivity.

We’re here, at OSH, and have been for two days, and I’ve finally found a public terminal in the UWisc student union. But that means I’m writing stream of consciousness, not able to spend my time crafting and polishing the nuance of my prose. What polish and nuance, you ask? No, let me live my little fantasy.

In any case, it also means that the stack o’ photos I’ve taken since Sunday are still locked on my camera, rather than up on the photo album. But there are some good ones.

Let’s see, what to report?

The flight in was great fun (for me, but a rather sweaty deal for Martin). Briefed in at 10 that morning, with on-the-minute points: engine start 1245, check in 1250, launch 1310, join up at… you get the idea.

Lumbered across the southern Wisconsin skies at 3000′, northward in loose diamond formation. Our flight was “tail end Charlie,” an extra diamond of four ships trailing about 100 feet behind the main diamond. I got to sightsee and pick out landmarks while Martin strained his eyes for an hour, fixated on staying in position with our flight lead. Fixating obsessively is how one survives formation flight. I narrated like a good navigator: “Well, don’t look, but off our left wing we’re passing Carlton, Wisconsin; current rate, we’ll make our hold at 1415, fifteen minutes ahead of mark…”

Of course, being in formation, there was no need for navigation. We were in a massive game of follow the leader.

Anyhow, the first sign that anything was odd was when flight lead switched to “Airboss” frequency. The airboss is the radio guy who owns all the airspace around the airshow and makes sure that everyone in the big steel and avgas ballet arrives and leaves exactly on queue.

Our “time on target” for the show was 1445, so we were holding, pretty much as I’d calculated, for about 15 minutes. Listening to the other flights checking in, I noticed that the Yak flight and T-34 flight had also been given time over target of 1445. Hmmm. But the airboss knows what he’s doing. I’m just riding backseat on tail end charlie.

We’d briefed a north arrival over the field “diamonds in trail”, breaking left for runway 09. Which basically meant that we were to show up in sequential formations of four separated by about 500 feet; once we were over the north end of the field, we’re supposed to cut power, turn hard left, drop gear and flaps following a roughly constant steep descending turn until we were over the threshold of the runway, flaring to land.

Well, we were midfield, about 15 seconds before the break, when stuff began to fall apart. The first two diamonds had broken, and were turning in the last 180 degrees to runway when the airboss called. “T-6 flight, extend downwind to follow T-34s on three mile final.” That’s like telling uh… I don’t know what that’s like. But our lead had to swerve back away from the runway, cram power back in, and limp into an improvised downwind pattern while the rest of the virtual freight train of T-6s behind him piled up and came around the corner in a game of crack the whip. Airplanes everywhere. Our flight lead was straight above us, number four off our wingtip, no idea where number three was.

There’s a military technical term for what had just happened, but this is (at least nominally) a family blog. No, it’s not “SNAFU” – there was nothing “SN” about this. Somehow we managed to get vaguely back into sequence and stretch it out enough to compose a safe landing sequence. Martin bobbed us through the improvised pattern and planted us expertly right where we needed to be behind our lead. Cleared the runway in formation, rolled the canopy back and took a breath so slow and deep I could hear it over the rumble of our engine. “Well,” he offered in his ever-understated manner, “that was interesting….”

Things have been less eventful since. Walking around the flightline, catching up with old friends, sitting in the shade of a wing just watching airplanes. Great fun. Pics of all this when I get better connection, though, okay?

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