So I was out covering the Indianapolis Air Show this weekend. Friday was media day and I showed up early to roam around and meet people and generally get a whiff of freshly-mown grass and recently combusted avgas and JP-8 jet fuel.
Billy Werth of Grayout Aerosports was there with his Pitts S-2C about to depart on an air-to-air photo shoot that the Indianapolis Star was doing of the aircraft. The front seat of the Pitts was open and Billy’s PR person (now his fiancée – more on that later) offered the seat to me. Not being stupid, I immediately said yes and strapped in.
We took off and maneuvered in formation. The photo ship, a Cherokee Six with the door off, generally flew a pre-arranged heading and altitude and Billy kept the Pitts on-station to the left of, and below, the photo ship.
This was my first experience with formation flight. We here within about 30 feet of the photo ship most of the time, except when we made passes below it or rolled around it for the camera. Matt Kryger of the Star sat belted into the seat next to the open door and shot both stills and video of the Pitts.
Like so many of these opportunities, this one inspired a lot of respect for the airmanship of both pilots. Especially Billy, who had to have excellent control of his airspeed, altitude, and attitude the entire time to not only avoid colliding with the photo ship but stay in good light and adopt exciting-looking attitudes. I have a tough enough time just keeping the airplane tracking in a general direction when flying inverted. Billy did it while stationkeeping on the wing of the photo ship and flying uncoordinated to point the nose in a good direction for taking the pictures.
Lastly, I got to see a very special thing at Indy. At the conclusion of his act, Billy made a pass down the show line and Rob Reider patched Billy’s radio through the public address system. Billy proposed to Haley, his significant other and PR person, in front of 20-odd thousand people. She said yes, by the way. Congratulations to Billy and Haley!
More good stuff from the Indy Air Show soon! And more experiences from several other upcoming airshows!