The GEICO Skytypers is a squaderon of six vintage WWII SNJ-2 aircraft which perform at airshows all around the U.S., and are the only civilian World War II squadron performing today. They are sponsered by the insurer GEICO, and no - a gecko does not fly one of the aircraft!
Last year one of the pilots died while practicing maneuvers with the team. Jan Wildbergh, aged 74, had flown with the team since 1986 and had a history of heart problems, and was taking medication for heart problems at the time of the accident. The accident occurred after the team had completed a practice and executed the closing "pop up break" before landing.
However, Wildbergh continued flying straigh ahead with the aircraft in a slight descent until it struck the ground and burst into flames. During the practice flight Wildbergh had gone through more than 15 minutes of high-G flight just prior to the accident. The NTSB determined that Wildbergh's health clearly indicated restricting him from commercial or aerobatic flight. He had visited his cardiologist three days prior to the accident complaining of multiple chest pains over the previous three months.
The GEICO Skytypers team demonstrate low level precision flying and deliver aerial messages, known as "Skytyping", at 10,000 feet with letters as tall as the Empire State Building and eight miles wide. The letters can be seen for over 15 miles in any direction.
The pilots fly their five aircraft 250 feet apart and "type" between 25 and 30 character messages in a dot matrix pattern. The lead aircraft sends a radio signal to the smoke system on each aircraft in the formation creating a customized message. More information about this interesting team, including some short videos, can be seen at www.geicoskytypers.com.
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
For once you have tasted flight
you will walk the earth
with your eyes turned skywards,
for there you have been
and there you will long to return. -- Leonardo da Vinci