The RedStar Pilot's Association's (RPA) plans to
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nanchang CJ-6 Chinese military trainer in
Oshkosh this summer are rapidly progressing. RPA will mark the golden
anniversary of the aircraft's production with a series of formation flights and
other events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008.
Jim Goolsby, an RPA national director, said
planning for the event started a year ago and 77 aircraft are already signed up
to participate, including 61 CJ-6s and 16 Yaks.
"There seems to be a lot of interest and
excitement," Goolsby said. While the group has done mass formation flights
in the past, including at Oshkosh, they have never done so with this many
To fly in formation, pilots will need to receive
their Formation Air Safety Training, or FAST cards. Of the 61 CJ-6s
participating, about 40 already have the necessary training, Goolsby said.
Practice flights will begin on July 24 at West
Bend, Wisconsin. "We'll be at West Bend for four days doing last-minute
flight checks and practicing," Goolsby said. "Some pilots have only
done four-ship formations in the past, but they'll find out they just need to
do their normal thing. It's not much different flying formation with 35-40
airplanes than it is with four."
Then on July 28, AirVenture opening day, a mass
formation arrival will help open the EAA Warbirds of America (WOA) air show.
Goolsby said he's not sure how many aircraft
will arrive on Monday. "But we are planning on a 'max effort' each day of
the Warbird show."
The big day will be on Wednesday, July 30, when
a formation flight of 50 CJ-6s is planned. Thirty-one CJ-6s will fly in 5-0
formation, while others will fly in a separate formation.
But much more is being planned for the
anniversary celebration than just formation flights.
On Tuesday, July 29, the group is planning a pig
roast, and on Thursday, July 31, the RPA will present a forum and a Warbirds in
The RPA will be handing out trophies for
"best of this and that" at its Friday, August 1 banquet, featuring
former test pilot Bud Evans as guest speaker, Goolsby said. "Plus a
special one-of-a-kind coin will designate each pilot's special place in the
The minter will be destroying the die of the
commemorative coin so no one can copy it, he added.
In addition, the group is making a special
plaque, including the No. 1 coin, for the CJ-6's designer, Bushi Cheng, and
will unveil it at their banquet. Cheng was invited to attend the festivities,
but because of his age and health, is not able to attend, Goolsby said.
Then, during the WOA banquet an August 2, the
RPA will present a painting of CJ-6s, done by one of the RedStar members, to
the EAA AirVenture Museum.
Why all this fuss for an airplane's golden
"It's really the first time the RPA has had
an airplane that has reached a milestone like this," Goolsby said.
"Plus the Chinese still build them."
But it's more than the longevity that makes the
trainer so special. "It's just very pretty," Goolsby said. "It
has warbird lines, and you can put any kind of military paint job on it."
Add to its looks the fact that it handles well,
can easily fly cross-country or do aerobatics, and it's easy to see why the
CJ-6 has been so popular for so long. But Goolsby said they are also very
reliable, reasonably priced and inexpensive to operate. A new CJ-6 airframe can
be purchased for about $125,000, and depending on the engine, will burn around
15 gallons of fuel an hour.
About 2,300 CJ-6s have been manufactured, and
approximately 220 are now in the United States, many regularly participating in
air shows across the country under the RedStar banner.