Posted by: Chris Davis | July 22, 2010

Captured Vision

The following post is a recollection of a recent formation flight that took place over the hills and valleys around Moontown Airport. The author, Peter Van Staagen, is a friend of mine who goes by the call sign “Squatch” which you may recall from an earlier post entitled God’s G. Pete is one of those pilots who always strives for perfection and continuously hones his skills to make himself a better pilot. To those of us who share Pete’s drive and passion, his story sparks memories of our own where training and persistence paved the way to an unforgettable moment in time.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

-Clear Skies & Tailwinds

Posted with permission:

Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you wish you had a camera, or could somehow print out what you saw so that you could share it with your friends. You know, the gaze of a girl with beautiful cerulean eyes, something that was so amazing that it almost leaves you speechless.  To convey the sight in all its glory would take a thousand words. Well I saw that sight last night during our formation flight and I can’t get it out of my mind, not that I want to get rid of it, but rather share it with all.

We decided to fly some late afternoon formation, the sky was clear even though it was nasty hot. The sun was easing its way toward the horizon, there were white puffy clouds at about 5000 feet and blue sky behind them. I was lead, Steve was three and George four. We had a phantom two and were out practicing rejoins to positions three and four. It was all going well and I was getting bored. So I decided enough of that and put my chicks into extended trail.

Steve’s pretty new to extended trail, but he was spot on in the rest of the flying and so I was expecting him to hang in pretty good. George was just going to have fun playing with lead and lag on the both of us. I put my plane into some gentle vertical maneuvers essentially performing giant wingovers and whifferdills. Steve and George were in, I thought ‘nice’. I push harder on the envelope diving more aggressively and climbing harder, nose pointed towards the puffy white clouds. I’m getting jazzed up because this is why I come out here, this is where my therapy lies, in the air around me and the feel of g’s and the tinge of lightheadedness at the bottom of a maneuver that you stop with intense muscle contractions.

At the top of the maneuver I roll the plane, letting the nose fall through the horizon pointing at the ground and accelerating. The air is blasting by the partly open canopy and the motor is simply singing it wonderful radial tune. I’m euphoric now and pull to level at 300 kph. I bank right and check 6 to see where the chicks are. I see them perfectly in position. I level out to the north and once again pull to the heavens, trading airspeed for altitude, climbing and slowing. At 200 kph I start a slow roll to the right I let the nose fall through the horizon. Three quarters of the way around the roll I stop rolling and pull the nose hard to the west, into the sun. I again check 6 to see what the chicks are up to and I see it. The image I can’t get out of my mind. The image I never want to forget and wish I could print or draw.

Imagine… The sun is low on the horizon now and is illuminating the clouds from below. The clouds are white and gold. Perfectly illuminated are two Yaks, Steve and George at the controls, following me in perfect trail formation. Steve is knife edge to the ground, his lift vector right on me, three quarters of the way around the roll and pulling hard to stay with me. He’s probably 400 feet behind me, though he looks much closer. I can see the top of his whole plane basted with the gold sunlight. Right on Steve’s tail is George. His Yak is inverted, nose coming through the horizon, in perfect pursuit of Steve. The sunlight is amazing and I can see every detail on both planes as if they were painted on the white-gold clouds and blue sky. I can see Steve’s head is back, neck craned to see me, oblivious of the ground or anything around him, one hundred percent focused on me and one hundred percent trusting me. I think to myself, “he’s got it!”

It’s moments like that I feel intoxicated. There is nowhere else in the world where I feel that way. Mind completely focused, senses completely aroused, and all the complications of life are completely gone, boxed up, put on a shelf, on a planet in a galaxy a universe away. This glimpse is only a moment in time, perhaps a second or two out of the millions that I’ve been alive yet the memory is so long and meaningful that I guess time really is irrelevant.


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  1. Beautifully written. I was feeling it with you.

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