It was a dark 3 a.m. when the alarm clock went off last Sunday morning. A glance outside revealed a starlit sky; finally, the June gloom had given way to our photo flight plans. I was going to shoot Bill Stein and his first formation mentor, Denis Arbeau, in their classic Globe Swifts over the classic Golden Gate Bridge at dawn’s first light. My photo ship pilot, Mitch Robinson, was already at the airport preparing for the mission. As lead on our three-ship formation, his responsibilities would be the most challenging. En route to the Bay Area, Mitch had to navigate around the Bravo airspace, make all of the radio calls, and manage in-flight maneuvers and positioning of airplanes while flying his Citabria as smoothly and consistently as possible. In Bill’s second installation of our formation flying series (featured in this issue), he discusses techniques for flying lead, including the mental challenges and the importance of extensive preflight planning and proper training.
Also this month, Jim Lawrence concludes his series on earning a sport pilot license in a Flight Design CTLS. After his cross-country solo (where he had to execute a go-around over a large flock of birds hanging out on the approach end of New Haven’s runway 2), at-home flight-simulator training and prep DVD study, the big day arrived: checkride! The much-anticipated flight with the FAA-designated examiner was a culmination of Jim’s training with “rock ’n’ rollin’” instructor John Lampson. Like many checkrides, it was a roller coaster of nerves and excitement, “phew!” and “yes!”
“Life has been great since getting my license,” a gleeful Jim reports. “I’ve flown several LSA, including a SeaMax amphib in Florida. We flew it over Tiger Woods’ house and then landed on a nearby lake, just a stone’s throw from Shaquille O’Neal’s house. I’m looking forward to a tour of the Southwest in an LSA.” This month, he flies the Sting S3, a composite, low-wing LSA that sports a large bubble canopy, which Jim likens to a “goldfish bowl over your head.” To demonstrate the airplane’s versatility—from smooth to snappy—Bill Canino, president of SportairUSA, takes Jim through a series of gentle, graceful wingovers, after which he accelerates the nimble airplane in a dive and then recovers to straight-and-level with a firm pull.