|By Carmelo Turdo|
|By Fred Harl|
The Aero Experience continues our coverage of the recent Stearman Flight Formation Clinic operations from Creve Coeur Airport. We revisit Friday's flight activity, covered more completely in the Day One edition of this series, to feature one formation training flight as seen from the front cockpit of the lead aircraft. After several sorties in the morning and a lunch break, local Stearman pilot and CFI John Ladley offered the front cockpit seat to us on the upcoming flight. He would be lead aircraft for pilot Julie Thomas in her Super Stearman, Queen of Memphis. Thomas would be flying left/right wing formation, cross under, close trail and break/rejoin maneuvers.
The crews were ready to taxi around 12:30 p.m. after we donned parachutes, strapped in and received a cockpit briefing. 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 that followed the winding Missouri River during the return leg.
Suiting up before takeoff can be cumbersome the first time, as seen here! Once finally strapped in and settled, the rumble of the radial engine was a welcome sound. The following sequence shows the takeoff sequence from the airport view, followed by the view from the cockpit:
Following takeoff, Julie Thomas joined John Ladley's lead as we flew to the practice area. During the flight, we were able to capture images of her Stearman on the right and left wing positions, both close and farther away, as the training objectives were completed. Mobility is limited due to the 5-point harness used on this once military basic trainer, so the left wing shots were somewhat peripheral at times while right wing shots were made by turning the camera upside-down and pointing over the right shoulder. The wings prevented clear views at times, but they also made for a great frame, giving context to the view from the cockpit. After spending some significant time editing, we have some images of a great aero experience:
All too soon, it was time to land back at Creve Coeur Airport. Smoke, break and land in the grass!
The Aero Experience thanks John Ladley for a great flight, and also thanks to the entire Stearman Flight leadership and crews who invited us to report on their training weekend. Also Check out our coverage of the 2016 Stearman Flight 6-ship formation flight!