By Marie Gilmore
The World Famous GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team was in Tampa for the Lakeland SUN ’n FUN Int’l Fly-In Expo in April and invited media to join the team during a practice session aboard their WWII era SNJ-2, 600 horsepower planes. Being a bucket-list adventurer, I volunteered and can honestly say, the ride aboard the plane was less turbulent on my stomach than some of the roller coasters at the theme parks.
My pilot was team-owner Larry Arkin who has been flying commercially for American Airlines for 28 years and comes from a family of aviators. His team is comprised of seasoned pilots with commercial and military experience with thousands of flight hours of experience.
During our flight with three of the team’s six planes, we performed close proximately maneuvers close enough that I could wave to the other passengers and performed some smoke passes above the Fly-in crowds. This was an exhilarating experience that gave me a taste of flying and a huge respect for the pilots and their skills.
“We have a great camaraderie on this team,” describes Arkin, “The planes spend the winters in Florida and we all have a love of flying.”
In addition to air show performances, the team does Skytyping of messages that are three miles long and can be seen for up to 15 miles around. Some of the popular messages include, “Geico Welcomes You,” in the sky! This message takes 5 of the team’s 6 planes to ‘type’ and is amazing to watch in the sky. “We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our relationship with Geico,” adds Arkin. “We are very proud to be connected to the Geico brand.”
The squadron of six World War II-era aircraft performs their low-level precision-flying demonstration in SNJs that were originally used as training aircraft for WWII and Korean war pilots. “We consider it an honor to demonstrate the amazing abilities of these vintage warbirds on behalf of our sponsor, GEICO, while sharing a bit of aviation history,” said Arkin. “Despite being 75 years old, the SNJ-2 is a testament to the engineering genius of the Greatest Generation. These planes are a dream to fly.”
The “Skytypers” portion of the team, based in Farmingdale, NY, name stems from the proprietary manner of creating giant messages in the sky. Flying five aircraft in a tight, line-abreast formation, the planes coordinate in typing dot matrix-style messages with environmentally friendly puffs of white smoke. Messages can be seen from 15 miles away in any direction with 20-25 characters generated in less than two minutes. Individual letters can be as tall as the Empire State Building.
The team will return to Florida May 6-7 for the Ford Lauderdale Air Show. For more information on the GEICO Skytypers, visit http://www.geicoskytypers.com.
GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) is a member of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies and is the second-largest private passenger auto insurance company in the United States. GEICO, which was founded in 1936, provides millions of auto insurance quotes to U.S. drivers annually. For more information, go to www.geico.com.