Team to debut 20-maneuver demonstration Oct. 26 and 27
The Geico Skytypers Air Show Team will reveal this season’s new 20-maneuver demonstration in the Jacksonville Beach Sea and Sky Air Show on Saturday and Sunday.
“Airshow attendees will see firsthand what these ‘warbirds’ are made of,” said Larry “Boss” Arken, the squadron commander and team flight lead.
In addition to their air show performances, the team “skytype” 1,000-foot-tall messages that are often as tall as the Empire State Building and seen from a 15-mile radius in any direction.
Five of the planes fly in a tight, line-abreast formation to produce the messages by coordinating dot matrix-style messages using environmentally friendly puffs of white smoke.
The six WWII North American SNJ aircrafts built for the Navy are equivalent to the Air Force’s Texas T-6.
On both days, the aircraft will race against the Miss Geico Offshoring Racing Team boat. The races are scheduled between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. each day.
The team bills itself as the leading vintage airshow performance squadron and will perform an 18-minute, low-level, precision-flying demonstration featuring tactics and maneuvers designed by team members who previously served in the U.S. military.
According to Arken, the squadron is composed largely of former veterans and military aviators as well as current airline pilots from a variety of airline carriers.
The SNJ was built as an advanced WWII military training aircraft designed to perform all the maneuvers of a fighter plane at slower speeds in 1940-1941.
The trainer Geico Skytypers Air Show Team was established by Larry Arken’s father, Mort Arken, a former naval aviator who served in the Navy for 16 years and the Army for 10. Geico is the team’s longest-running sponsorship, at 17 years.
Larry Arken vividly remembers the Navy Times scattered around the house during his childhood that his dad was always reading.
Mort Arken’s passion for flying led him to establish the Skytypers as an innovative advertising company that typed large dot-matrix style messages near major events and metropolitan areas. Under his direction, the team also began flying at air shows.
Even at a young age, Larry Arken saw the potential to build upon his father’s foundation to transform the team into the world-class organization.
As an adolescent, Larry joined his father in the co-pilot seat flying over the skies of Long Island, N.Y., and the northeast coast of the U.S.
Larry Arken’s aviation career developed flying a number of warbirds and corporate jets, from Falcon 10′s, 20′s and 50′s, before transitioning to flying DC-18′s for UPS.
He later secured a position with a major commercial airline and has remained a captain for 18 years.
When he’s not flying large passenger planes and leading the air show team, Arken flies vintage P-47, F4U and P-51 warbirds for the Air Power Museum in Farmingdale, N.Y.
He holds a North American Trainer Association designation and is additionally a check pilot for formation flying. He has over 25,000 flight hours and certification ratings for seven large jets.
In order to make time to continue his father’s foundation and continue development of the Geico Skytpers, he manipulates his schedule to ensure that he and other pilots can do side flying and still return to work.
The squadron typically performs at 15 air shows a year, six of them purely military. It’s equally important to Arken to continue their military-style performance from start to finish.
From the march to the aircraft, to the uniform and mannerisms of the team, their theme revolves around the military, as Mort Arken originally established.
Larry Arken said the only difference now is the level of performance and precision that the squadron displays, as well as orchestrating the display to thematic music.
“We’ve upped the level of the show and created a full entertainment experience for everyone,” said Arken. “The level of performance was much simpler, now it’s more complicated, dynamic air shows,” he said.
The team plans to end its year with their last show at the Blue Angels Homecoming Show in Pensacola in November.
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