The pilots and aircraft maintainers of the GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team spoke to the cadets of the Civil Air Patrol on Thursday to inspire and educate the next generation of aviators and aeronautical engineers.
GEICO Skytyper pilots Chris Thomas and Steve Salmirs, along with the director of maintenance Frank Ateria addressed the cadets of Forsyth County. They offered insight into a strong education and the value of teamwork in their career.
The cadets are teenagers who learn the disciplines of the U.S. Air Force each week. Each carries a strong interest in an aeronautical career serving in the military or as a civilian.
As an extension of the Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol provides local communities with volunteer services. They offer aide to search and rescue aircrews, disaster relief and volunteer with humanitarian services.
“I began flying when I was 17 years old and my dad was my instructor,” said Chris Thomas, GEICO Skytypers right wing pilot. “I love our aircraft, it’s a big aircraft, it’s loud and rumbly, we fly with the canopy open and you smell like gas and oil when you get done flying.”
The GEICO Skytypers showcase low level maneuvers and create huge sky-typed messages over an air show. The civilian squadron’s history dates to the 1970s, and 15 years as the GEICO Skytypers.
Their flight demonstrations highlight the Navy SNJ-2 aircraft as the pilots tell the story of an age before the jet engine. A flight trainer in the 1940s, the SNJ was known among the U.S. Army’s aviators as the pilot maker.
Lead maintainer Frank Atria enjoys his full-time career with the Skytypers. Atria carries a passion for aviation, especially working on the squadron’s silver warbirds.
“The plane’s engines are like a Swiss clock with everything just perfect, and to think they were designed before computers with slide rulers and old school technology,” Atria said. “The engines were designed in the late-1920s, so for them to perform as well as they do is amazing.”
Thomas, who has logged over 19,050 hours of flight time in 100 different aircraft, loved the high-schoolers interest. The cadets offer insightful questions related to the operations of the aircraft.
“How many of you have taken geometry so far,” Thomas asked the cadets as he demonstrated the usefulness of math. “Flying in formation is geometry. How I would follow Steve and get back on his wing tip is geometry.”
Steven Salmirs launched his career at the Kennedy Space Center as a space shuttle ground and flight equipment engineer. Two years later, Steve entered the U.S. Air Force becoming an F-16 Viper pilot.
The GEICO Skytypers performed at the largest air show of the year this week. The squadron took to the air at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisc.
“Everybody on the squadron wakes up in the morning excited to do what we’re doing,” Thomas said. “It’s a team as Frank’s not a pilot, but I’m not a mechanic, but we all have the same goal and we all work together.”
Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.