Tuesday, January 22, 2013
This civilian aerobatic jet team showcases military flying skills and gives back to aviation
Patriots team lead pilot Dean "Wilbur" Wright leads a walk-through prior to the team's six-ship formation performance at the 2012 MCAS Miramar Air Show. The team is made up of former U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds and highly experienced civilian pilots.
Jet Team Foundation
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Patriots is their dedication to taking aviation to tomorrow's pilots. It's no secret that aviation's future in the U.S. is on shaky ground with declining student pilot populations and diminishing interest in aviation careers. In response, the Patriots have created their own youth-directed foundation.
Launched in 2010, the Patriot Jet Team Foundation is a 501c(3), non-profit organization whose mission is to provide air and space education programs to youth to inspire them to seek careers in the aerospace field. Formed by Howell and his wife, Marie, the idea for the foundation was, "Developing innovative educational programs that combine the high energy of our Patriots Jet Team partners with exciting, hands-on curricula that will provide students with learning skills and experiences of a lifetime."
The Patriots eschew their counterpart's lengthy and ceremony-laden walkout to the jets and get to what everybody came to see: the flying. After a precision taxi out to the runway and a formation takeoff, the Patriots get down to business.
A Patriots show has several highlights. First, the team can't rely on the sheer power of the Blue's F-18 Hornets, or the T-Bird's ferocious F-16—both equipped with afterburners. The lithe L-39 isn't as large or domineering as those fighters. Instead, the team keeps jets at air show-center constantly, eliminating the "dead time" common to the military teams.
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