|By Carmelo Turdo|
The pilots gathered at Creve Coeur Airport at about 8:00am, and they taxied the aircraft from their hangars. The familiar blue and yellow, all yellow and even the black and white striped recall paint schemes adorned the classic Stearman trainers neatly arranged on the apron.
Stearman Flight Lead, and the pilot for The Aero Experience, John Rettick, briefed the flight on the details - takeoff order, flight positions, radio frequencies, altitudes, maneuvers and other pertinent items. Various formations would be flown, and two main maneuvers would be practiced - Tail Chase and Lufbery Circle - to develop precision and teamwork in the air. Safety was paramount in the flight planning, and the maneuvers could be immediately aborted with a "Knock it off" call.
The crews were ready for takeoff around 11am. Pilot John Rettick graciously offered the front cockpit of his lead Stearman to The Aero Experience, and he was extremely helpful in assisting with strap-in and cockpit orientation. The Stearman cockpit is fairly tight, and presents a challenging photo platform, especially in the lead position. However, the priorities of the formation training mission came first, and so we planned to capture what was possible during the flight. Due to the skill of the Stearman Flight pilots, and their willingness to provide great photo opportunities, we were able to record the highlights of the approximately one hour aerial training session.
Upon return, Flight Lead John Rettick conducted a debrief that proved extremely valuable to all crews on the flight. The good, bad and ugly of each formation, join-up, and maneuver were discussed, with praise given and improvements suggested where appropriate. The session was effective in crystalizing the lessons learned and reflected the love these pilots have for flying the Stearman with great skill. The Aero Experience thanks the Stearman Flight for including us in their weekend activities, and we look forward to posting more Stearman Flight stories in the future.