IT’S A (JET) BLAST: Classic jet planes will soar through Mississippi skies this weekend – Magnolia State Live
The morning calm at Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport was broken early Friday by the whine of turbines and gasoline from jet fuel as pilots revved up their engines and took flight over Madison Parish, Louisiana , and Vicksburg.
The airport hosted a jet training clinic from Thursday to Sunday, bringing together 12 classic planes and their pilots to get certified to fly with other planes in formation.
“It’s what we call a jet blast,” said Sonny Schilleci, president of the Classic Jet Aircraft Association. “It also coincides with our 2022 convention, which will be held here on Saturday evening.”
The Classic Jet Aircraft Association is an organization of pilots who own and fly classic jet aircraft. Some of the member pilots who fly are former military pilots, Schilleci said, adding that the majority of the association’s instructor pilots are also former military pilots.
According to its mission statement, the association’s mission “is to protect the right to fly conventional jets with the least amount of regulation and restriction commensurate with the safe operation of our aircraft.”
To do this, the CJAA works periodically with government agencies at all levels, with other flight organizations “and the general public, to ensure that our voice is heard and that we are part of any process that could affect our ability to fly our planes. ”
The association also demonstrates its commitment to the safe and professional operation of members’ aircraft through the continued development of safety, training and maintenance programs and publications and by providing the results of these programs to members.
A jet blast is one such program.
“This is where classic jets come together and get certification training,” Schilleci said.
He said the certification process is similar to the pilot certification process for propeller-driven aircraft.
“This is how we get pilots with a wing card and a head card to fly in formation in FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) exempt airspace (like airshows)” , he added.
Getting a wing card, he said, means pilots can fly in FAA-exempt airspace on the wing of another plane in formation. Lead-carded” means you can lead the flight. To fly at a formation airshow in exempt airspace, you must have these cards.
He said the Safety and Training Team, or FAST, a global civilian educational organization dedicated to teaching formation flying safely in restored vintage military and civilian aircraft, manages the process of certification and sets the standards that people must adhere to in order for them to own the cards.
The difference, says Schilleci, is the plane.
“In jets, you fly at much higher speeds; it is a much more capable aircraft and their behavior is very different from that of a propeller aircraft,” he said. “Jets fly through the air much easier than a prop, so it takes a different skill set to fly jets in formation.”
He said Classic Jet Aircraft Association clinics are held at various locations throughout the year.
“We like to stage at least six jet blasts across the country. It gives people from diverse geographic locations the opportunity to attend the clinic and sharpen their training skills,” he said. “They have to recertify every year.”
Schilleci said each training clinic begins with a safety briefing with information about the area, “Then we set up the flights and start training with planes going into formation.
“Everything is very coordinated; we brief every flight and we debrief every flight. It’s structured the way the military trains,” he said.
During flights, a check pilot who flies in the back seat of the jet may accompany a pilot.
“When it’s time to go through a checkpoint to give someone their FAST card, they’re the ones who sign on it,” Schilleci said. “We have three check pilots. They’re always in someone’s back seat.
“I test them for skills in formation, so if they go for a wing certification, they know all the signals, they can fly the plane in formation, they can handle the plane safely in formation – very specific things you need to know how to do if you’re in training if things go wrong to make sure they don’t get worse,” said Scott Glaser, one of the check pilots.
If the pilot succeeds, he obtains his FAST card allowing him to fly in formation. In addition to serving as a check pilot, Glaser is also an instructor and may, when not doing check flying, instruct a pilot on proper formation flying.
The majority of jets flying at the Mound Clinic included the L-39 Albatross and L-29 Delphin and L-139, all manufactured by Aero Vodochody for the Czechoslovak Air Force; the Jet Provost trainer flown by the Royal Air Force and the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star trainer used by the US Air Force.
Schilleci’s plane is an L-39 Albatros.
“It’s actually a ZO L-39; it is his designation. He spent his time in the East German Air Force,” he said.
And although some of the association’s classic jets are trainers, he said: “Some planes are actually fighters. We have owners of classic jets who were military veterans.
Schilleci said his plane was used by the East German Air Force as a light attack aircraft.
“They were doing border patrols when you had East and West Germany,” he said.
Schilleci said the FAA allows pilots to own military planes, but the planes must be “de-machined”; all armaments and weapon systems must be removed.
And while his plane still has the original armament panels, all of the wiring and timers or anything to do with dropping bombs has been removed.
Schilleci said planes like his, the L-29, L-139 and other planes can be acquired from the United States or overseas.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed, cash was king, so you could go there with a suitcase of cash and buy whatever you wanted,” he said. “It’s always true.”
He said that some members of the association own and fly Russian MiGs like the MiG 15 and the Mig-17.
“We had a jet blast a few weeks ago. Many MiGs had Russian red stars; we put ukrainian aircraft stickers on russian stars to support ukraine.