Company Shuts Down Red Baron Pizza Squadron
December 6, 2007 — The popular Red Baron Pizza Squadron, which performed frequently at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh air show and was a sponsor of KidVenture in 2007, is being retired by its owner, the Schwan Food Company of Marshall, Minnesota. The squadron, which flew vintage Boeing PT-17 Stearman World War II primary trainers, conducted more than 2,000 performances over the past 28 years.
Bill McCormack, Schwan's executive vice president, cited changing market conditions as the primary reason the company decided to pull the plug on the popular performing group. "The retail grocery industry has experienced considerable change over the past few years, and, as a result, we have decided to refocus our Red Baron marketing program and to discontinue the Red Baron Squadron," he said. "The Red Baron Squadron has been an incredible asset to our company and we are very proud of its long successful history."
McCormack explained that more resources today are invested in commercials and other advertising. "It just made sense for our consumer branded business to do some other things with their funding," he said. "They have done a great job, are part of the heritage of the company, and have helped us grow the brand." The dozen or so Red Baron Squadron employees, including six pilots, mechanics and ground personnel, may be offered positions elsewhere in the company, McCormack said. "We are also working with all the (affected) employees to see if there are other jobs at Schwan's if they would like to stay with us."
Schwan is also looking to sell the squadron's assets, which includes seven airplanes, tooling, and ground support vehicles. "We'd be happy to dialogue with any company or people who would be interested. We hope to find a good use for them," he said.
Jayson Wilson, director of flight operations and left wing pilot, commented, "We are very proud to have been a part of such a legendary program. We can all say we were a part of something really special. The air show community and our fans have been great. We'll miss all of them."
A total of 42 pilots flew for the team over the years, traveling more than six million miles and flying more than 80,000 passengers. The team won the World Airshow News Bill Barber Award for Showmanship in 1993 and garnered the Art Scholl Award for Showmanship in 1995.