There will be more than just stars in the
sky Saturday night at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010; for the first time in
years, Oshkosh hosts a night air show, complete with pyrotechnics and a
fireworks display, at 8:30 p.m. on the flightline.
And the performers involved all must
address and overcome challenges non-existent in their typical daylight
Night air show performers include the
AeroShell Aerobatic Team (T-6s), Bob Carlton (jet sailplane), Bob Davis
(Sukhoi), Gene Soucy (Showcat), and Matt Younkin (Twin Beech).
Flashes of light twinkling in flight…
Matt Younkin said his night air show is completely different than his
day performance. "My day show is a ballet," Younkin said.
"My night show is in your face."
Bob Carlton said he loves doing the night
air show. Including having to perform higher at night per FAA
regulations, there are many things to keep in mind when performing at
"A lot of times, there are no
references," Carlton said, adding that you have to learn to perform
maneuvers with fewer visual cues.
"You lose your horizon," night
air show performer Younkin said. Without a visible horizon, Younkin said
he picks out straight lines, like runway lights and cars, to follow.
"Those things sort of build an imaginary horizon."
Night vision protection
Another important factor in flying a night air show is maintaining
night vision. "I just avoid looking at the pyro, and I tell them to
turn the runway lights up," Carlton said.
Younkin, who doesn't use pyrotechnics,
said he has 12 strobe lights, which are situated out of his sight on the
bottom of his airplane. Younkin's plane also has more than 30
spotlights, which he blocks with a black shower curtain draped behind
Carlton has pyrotechnics attached to his
wingtips, far away from the fuel tank. "It needs to be designed
well to avoid accidents," Carlton said, pointing out that there
haven't been any accidents while off the ground, but some people have
had pyrotechnics go off on the ground.
"Since 1903, airplanes and fire have
been mortal enemies," Carlton said.
With a computer system controlling the
pyrotechnics, Carlton said he doesn't even think about it while he's
performing. "I just flip the switch and enjoy flying for six
minutes," Carlton said.
Though it may make some people nervous,
Carlton's wife, Laurie, loves the pyrotechnics. "It's one of the
neatest things to light your aircraft on fire and go flying," she