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Stearman Group Flies in Formation Over Oshkosh
September 8, 2016 - A small group of pilots gathered in Oshkosh over Labor Day weekend for their sixth annual Stearman formation flying clinic at EAA’s Pioneer Airport.
The group, members of Stearman Flight, said they return every year for the camaraderie, the flying, and the experience of Pioneer’s antique airfield.
“If you built a field for Stearmans just to do what we do, it would look just like this,” pilot Carey Hardin said.
Although the pilots have fun flying in formation, they said doing so requires a high level of skill as well as trust and respect for the others in the group. They plan their flights with an intense level of detail, spending more time briefing and debriefing on the ground than actually flying up in the air.
“Formation is so intense,” said David Burroughs, one of the pilots who participated in the clinic. “It’s basically marching band in the air. Everybody has to be in step.”
Holding the clinic in Oshkosh also provides the opportunity for Stearman Flight to practice the formations they do over the flightline at AirVenture each year. But just because it is practice doesn’t mean the group is any less focused on flying a spotless routine.
“I don’t think the group we fly with flies any different whether we’re performing for 300,000 on the flightline or whether there’s not a soul down below,” Burroughs said. “The performances are the same because we have to please each other.”
The group stays in EAA’s Air Academy Lodge, which is available to be rented out for special events, while in Oshkosh.
“We feel extraordinarily blessed to be able to come up here to EAA Pioneer Airport in Oshkosh,” pilot John Ockenfels said. “We’ve done this in other places and without a doubt this is the best place to be.”