If anyone knows about wishes coming true, it’s Jared “Rook” Isaacman.
Five years after earning his pilot’s certificate, he is today one of the pilots in the newly formed Heavy Metal Jet Team that thrilled AirVenture audiences this past week.
And the team—which Isaacman sponsors through his company, United Bank Card—has dedicated its debut season to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to youngsters with life-threatening medical conditions.
“We meet with kids at all the shows,” said Isaacman, who has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the charity.
“We make sure every air show we perform at has a VIP tent for the Wish Kids and their families, and an allotment of tickets for them.”
The five-ship Heavy Metal team, one of only three civilian jet teams in the world, performs with four L-39s and a T-33.
A MiG 17 was recently added to the team’s stable and all are painted in a distinctive Arctic camouflage livery.
From rookie to showman
Isaacman began flying in 2006 after dedicating the previous half-decade to building his business, which provides back-office services to credit card companies.
“I needed a hobby outside my work,” he said.
He quickly moved up from a Cessna 182 through business jets, and has now accumulated 3,100 hours of flight time.
He got the idea for the jet team last August while taking instruction in his L-39 Albatros, the high performance Czechoslovakian jet trainer.
“You get one jet, and you start learning about formation flying, so you need two jets, and then you want to play with more buddies, so you need three jets.”
Isaacman recruited his instructor, Jerry “Jive” Kerby, to assemble and lead the team.
Does Isaacman’s rapid ascent from novice to air show ace mean any pilot with enough time and money has the right stuff to fly jets in a precision aerobatic team?
“Absolutely not,” said Kerby. “That’s somewhat of a misconception. You have to have a lot of talent to do this. Some people just don’t have it.
“We’ve surrounded ourselves with individuals who do.”
Those people include Capt. Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, USN (ret.), former F-14 demo pilot and noted air show performer, who planned the maneuvers package with Kerby.
The maneuvers include the team’s signature “Make A Wish” roll, a four-ship diamond flown straight and level as the #5 ship makes continuous rolls around the formation.
“Every time he rolls around the smoke, that’s a wish for the kids,” said L.M. Sawyer, the team’s announcer.
Other team pilots include Doug “H-Dog” Demko; Major John “Slick” Baum, USAF; Major Sean “Stroker” Gustafson, USAFR; and Commander Mike “Buick” Eberhardt, USN (ret.).
The Heavy Metal Jet Team will perform at more than 20 air shows this year. After seeing them in action at AirVenture, many attendees are doubtless wishing the team will make a return visit next year.