Every afternoon during last month’s AirVenture, the Showcase featured airplanes of all sorts. On two days, however, the sky was filled with RVs.
The flight of 35 RVs flying in formation marked 35 years of participation in AirVenture by Van’s Aircraft. It also was designed to honor Van’s founder, Richard VanGrunsven.
According to Stu McCurdy, organizer of the flight, the Oregon-produced aircraft kit is very popular among former military pilots who want to keep their formation flying skills sharp.
McCurdy, who flies an RV8, is a retired Air Force pilot who runs Formation Flying Inc. and conducts formation-flying clinics around the country. In 1997 he organized a formation flight over AirVenture to honor Van’s 25th anniversary. When number 35 rolled around he thought he’d try it again.
“There are pockets of groups that do formation flying around the country in Van’s RVs,” he explained.
He contacted pilots he had worked with in the past to see if they were interested in doing such an ambitious flight. Pilots came from as far away as California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Oregon, Illinois and Ohio.
On July 20 the participating pilots and their RVs met at Whiteside County Airport (SQI) in Illinois to practice the formation flights.
“The practices went extremely well, which is a real tribute to the Formation Flight set of standards,” said McCurdy.
On July 22 the pilots flew to Oshkosh en masse.
The big show took place on Tuesday, July 24, and Wednesday, July 25, during the Showcase. The 35 ships taxied out for four-ship fingertip formation takeoffs.
“After takeoff the fours dropped into the slot for four-ship diamond formations and then the four-ship diamonds formed two 16-ship diamond of diamond formations with a three ship tacked on to the second,” McCurdy explained. “The two formations then entered the airspace over Oshkosh with a criss-cross maneuver followed by a join up into a double diamond shape. The 35 ships then transitioned into a figure eight pattern over OSH, into an arrow formation, then a cluster formation, and then for a final pass they joined into a huge diamond formation. The formation then broke into four-ship echelons for landing.”
Richard VanGrunsven was invited to join in the flight but declined. “He did attend our pilot briefing on Tuesday and said a few words,” said McCurdy.
During the formation flights, arrangements were made for VanGrunsven to be at the announcers stand with employee Ken Scott interviewing him to provide color.
“As far as we know, this is the largest close formation shape ever flown at AirVenture, or anywhere else,” said McCurdy. “It was a fitting acknowledgment of 35 years of Van’s Aircraft producing quality homebuilt kits with more than 5,000 now flying.”