Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Evolution of Civilian Jet Teams

It seems I cannot walk down the street these days without someone asking me about Jets. Not the NY Jets, but the Civilian Jet Teams or the Jet Class at the Reno Air Races. Oddly enough, the growth of these groups seems to be related.

While at the International Council of Air Shows Convention last month, much was said about the Jet Teams being formed or adding members. It’s a phenomenon worthy of note.

It all started with the Stoli MiGs. Around 1998, Randy Howell and Jerry Gallud could be seen in their beautifully restored, bright red MiG 17s at Airshows and events around the country. While performing an Airshow routine, MiGs burn approximately 1000 gallons of jet fuel per hour, an enormous amount of fuel. Stoli, wisely, chose to sponsor them in a big way and claimed it was the best advertisement in Stoli history, This was known as the birth of the Civilian Jet Team. Later they changed sponsors to Smirnoff.

*Special thanks to Mike Idacavage for the use of his picture

Several of you were there at the “Birth of the Jet Class at Reno”. The Stoli MiGs were joined by Jimmy Leeward in his MiG, Steve Hinton in his T-33 and Rick Vandam in Wild Child. The first jet class demo was just before the 500mph attempt with Skip Holm and Dago Red, five jets took to the air for the first Demo Jet Race. It was AWESOME. Randy and Jimmy were flying together, Rick and Jerry were together and Steve was somewhere in the middle. It seems Jimmy doesn’t like to have someone flying too closely, so he went into burner on the back of the course and pulled way ahead, and practically off the course. I was there and remember it as incredibly fun to watch.

The Patriots

In 2003, the MiGs became L-39s and the Patriots were born. The first year they were a two jet team = exciting, unusual and pretty darn cool. Their schedule, fans, team and #s grew yearly. In 2011, they will have a SIX JET TEAM! This will be amazing to watch.

The Patriots are let lead by Randy Howell; who I have known since the late 90s. He has always had a vision of what he wanted to do with the jets. His hangar is filled with MiGs, L-39s, and other aerobatic and non-aerobatic airplanes. His personality, commitment and professionalism are the cornerstones of the team.

*Thank you to The Patriots for the use of their photo

It all comes together with Sponsorship! From the beginning, the Patriots were lucky enough to find Fry’s Electronics. Randy Fry is a fan of aviation and has been there helping support the Patriots from the beginning. They also have Hot Line Construction (owned by Carol Bade) as another enormous supporter. The General Manager of Hot Line is also one of the Patriot pilots, Troy Myers.

When Randy wanted to go from a 4-ship show, to a 6-ship show, he went to his two largest sponsors and asked for their help. They made it happen – and the West Coast Airshow Fans are the lucky recipients.

If you haven’t seen the Patriots, they put on a high powered Jet Show. The formations are terrific – there is always something in front of the crowds, and the multi-colored smoke just makes the show.

Exciting news to Reno Fans – they will be performing this year at the Reno Air Races. And for the SF Fleet Week Fans – It sounds like the Patriots may be joining the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds and Canadian Snowbirds over the skies of SF in October. I have already circled that weekend on my Ruby Red Calendar! Check for their full schedule at their website

Heavy Metal Jet Team

Word came out a few months ago that there is a new Jet Team in town. The Heavy Metal Jet Team is led by Dale “Snort” Snodgrass and Jerry “Jive” Kerby, both familiar names to Airshow fans.

Jared “Rook” Isaacson made it happen when this accomplished Warbird and General Aviation pilot joined the group and added his company’s sponsorship. Jared is the Founder and CEO of United Bank Card, the sole sponsor of the Heavy Metal Jet Team.

*Thank you to the Heavy Metal Jet Team and to Kristina McCarthy-Martin for the use of this photo

The team will consist of five jets, four L-39s and a T-33. The stark Arctic camo color scheme will certainly catch the attention of Airshow fans on the East Coast this year. I wish them luck and can’t wait to see their show! More information and their schedule can be found at their website

Teams, Sponsors and Foundations

Three things came to me when I was researching the Jet Teams for this column. Nearly all of the pilots are military trained. Actually – not just military but Military Jet Team. There are Blue Angels, Thunderbirds and even a Snowbird on the rosters -- high powered talent, to be sure.

The second thing was the sponsors. All of them said they couldn’t have done it without the support of sponsors. And I have to say Thank You to all of the corporate sponsors of Airshow Performers!

The final thing is their Foundations. The Patriots have formed a Foundation that is centered on motivating kids to have careers in Aviation. And the Heavy Metal Jets are dedicating their first Airshow season to another worthy cause, the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Good luck to all of you and have a great 2011!

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing