A Look at the Geico Skytypers Team
It’s a skyward display of epic proportions as the 2019 Sea & Sky Spectacular returns to Jacksonville Beach. The free, three-day event offers breathtaking demonstrations from many of the premiere flying teams including the Geico Skytypers Airshow Team.
With the Blue Angels bringing the sleek, fast-flying maneuvers that make them a crowd favorite, the Geico Skytypers Team demonstration features WWII-era aircraft and combat tactics and maneuvers taught to the pilots that flew in WWII and the Korean War.
The Geico Skytypers will perform their 18-minute low-level precision flying demonstration utilizing six WWII-era SNJs on October 26-27 with a unique display of skill and history. “We’re so grateful to Geico bring this stuff out and show it off. The aircraft that we fly were built as advanced trainers for the second World War. Many of the maneuvers that we demonstrate in our routine were taught to the Naval aviators when they were learning to fly themselves,” says Skytypers team member Steve Kapur.
“They still flew with an instructor, and they would learn some additional aerobatics and ACM, air combat maneuvering, which is dog fighting. They would come aboard the boat for the first time in these aircraft. They all had tail hooks and a single gun on them, so they would start the aerial gunnery in these aircraft. I like to say these are the aircraft that trained the Great Generation to fly.”
Nearly every Allied pilot who flew in the Second World War trained in a North American Aviation T-6 or SNJ. The GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team fly the Navy’s variant, the SNJ – a bit shorter and equipped with a larger fuel tank for its over-water mission. The 5,500-pound vintage aircraft use a 600-horsepower Pratt and Whitney nine-cylinder radial engine.
In 1940-1941, North American Aviation designed the SNJ as a transition trainer between basic trainers and first-line tactical aircraft. A total of 15,495 planes were manufactured, training thousands of pilots across 34 countries. The planes were used as a “classroom” for the majority of the Allied pilots flying in WWII, and they have been recognized by various names, including the T-6 Texan and the Harvard, but most often referred to as the “Pilot Maker” by crew members. While most commonly used as a trainer, the SNJ won honors in WWII and the early portion of the Korean War.
“These maneuvers were used to train military pilots during WWII and the Korean War, many of which are taught to current generation aviators,” Kapur says. “We do a lot of tight formation work. Like the Blue Angels, we fly a diamond, which is when four aircraft fly together in like a diamond shape. We demonstrate many of the formations and many of the tactics that were actually used to train the pilots in WWII, and some of these things are still taught today.”
The Geico Skytypers Team begins its routine with a six-plane cross where all six aircraft break and go into directions away from the crowd then reverse and all cross within 200 feet vertically of one another at a given point at show’s center. The solos also do some head-to-head passes that excite the spectators.
“We come together for some deltas, which joins into a delta of all six aircraft together, and, as we come at the crowd, we break into six different directions,” says Kapur. “One of the interesting things that the people will see is a rejoin right in front of them. That’s one of the basic skills you have to learn to fly in the military is formation flying. We have a lot of fun with it. The crowds always ooh and ahh.”
They wouldn’t be known as the Skytypers without the ability to leave dot matrix-style messages skyward in smoke in letters 1,500 feet high – as tall as the Empire State Building. “We are able to type messages in the sky, and we do it at 8,500 feet. You can see them 15 miles in any direction. They’re just enormous,” sayd Kapur.
“It’s all done with the smoke systems in the aircraft. We have a computer in the lead aircraft, and as we go across the sky, the computer commands the smoke system in each of the aircraft, and it puts out a puff of smoke at just the right time.”
While many of the pilots come from a military background, Kapur is among the team members who earned the wings as a civilian. He has been a team member for over a decade and also has his commercial pilot’s license and serves as a flight instructor. Growing up, Kapur’s uncle was also a commercial pilot, traveling “across the pond” from New York to London in a 707. Kapur recalls meeting his uncle at the gates and boarding the cockpit while he completed his post-flight checklist.
“Like a lot of kids, I wanted to fly since I was young. My uncle used to come in through Kennedy Airport, and he would take me out to the plane he had just flown. We used to sit in this 707, and he would tell me about the various systems in the aircraft and run the checklist. It was a great inspiration for a young boy,” he recalls.
Kapur says it’s an honor for the Skytypers to pilot a team of planes that were constructed before any of them were born. The planes have all been updated with state-of-the-art electronics, radar systems, color weather and moving map displays. The guns and tail hooks were also removed for safety.
“We enjoy the flying, of course, and we’ve become like brothers, but we enjoy the people. We get to see all these great places, and you meet local people and we have the opportunity to meet these guys that flew in the aircraft, fewer and fewer unfortunately. That’s always a rush for us,” he says. “The other end of the spectrum, when we sign autographs at the Geico exhibit, we meet a lot of kids, and it’s kind of fun to hopefully inspire some of them to pursue a career in aviation. If we can play a role in inspiring young people to have an interest in that, then we’re excited about that, too.”
2019 Sea & Sky Spectacular Information
Parking at Jax Beach will be extremely limited during #JaxSeaandSky. We recommend parking at FSCJ South Campus for free and riding the Sea and Sky shuttle for $5 per person for a roundtrip shuttle pass! Purchase your shuttle passes in advance at https://bit.ly/2VP2cgi
|Saturday and Sunday – October 26 & 27
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Air Performances Begin at NoonPerformer Schedule
Show narrated by Rob Rider
Show schedule and performers are subject to change
|Noon – 1 p.m.
Air Show Welcome & Opening Ceremony
U.S. Army Golden Knights
Redline Air Shows
Military Flyby featuring VP-30, P-8, and P-3
Jim Tobul Corsair
Scott Yoak Quicksilver P-51
Class of ’45 featuring the P-51 & Corsair
| 1 – 2 p.m.
Aeroshell Aerobatic Team
U.S. Air Force Air National Guard Flyby featuring F15
U.S. Coast Guard Search & Rescue Demo
Bill Stein Edge 540 Airshow
Vampire Airshows Aerobatics
U.S. Air Force F-35 Demo
|2 – 3 p.m.
U.S. Army Golden Knights
Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron
CAF Red Tail Squadron
U.S. Navy Blue Angels
Located in the Jacksonville Beach Pier parking lot located at 501 1st St. N. Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250. Available tickets can be purchase online at the VIP entrance or at the link below.Amenities include:
- Premium viewing access with seating open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
- Climate-controlled restrooms with running water
- Complimentary soda products and water
- Tented areas with cooling fans
- Dedicated food and bar service for purchase (additional cost)
- Complimentary stroller parking
- Complimentary earplugs (while supplies last)
- Adults (Ages 13 and Up): $25
- Children (Agest 4-12): $15
- Children ages 3 and under: Free
Park for FREE and ride the shuttle for $5
Parking at Jacksonville Beach will be limited during the event. Patrons are encouragedd to take advantage of the convenient Park and Ride Shuttle. Park at FSCJ South campus for free and ride the Sea and Sky shuttle for $5 per person, for a round trip shuttle pass.
One pass per person is required for all ages.
Complimentary parking is included at the FSCJ South Campus 11901 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL 32246
VIP Viewing is not included with a shuttle pass.
This ticket is for a round-trip. The shuttles will operate Saturday Oct. 26 – Sunday Oct. 27, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The Shuttle will drop off at the Beaches Museum near Beach Blvd. and 4th St. North. The event is a 0.3-mile walk from the shuttle stop. The VIP Viewing Area is a 0.5-mile walk from the beaches shuttle stop.
VIP Viewing Area and Shuttle tickets are non-refundable. Please note, this event is free to attend, options on this site are for upgraded experiences.