Pilots Keep the “Show” in Air Shows
The silver C-47 World War II transport plane lifts off the runway and gracefully soars to 2,500 feet at the Commemorative Air Force’s Bluebonnet Airsho in Burnet. Once the aircraft reaches altitude, it levels off and circles the air space as onlookers crane their necks, shade their eyes, and squint to watch the plane perform maneuvers. At the controls, pilot Jed Doggett masterfully handles the demanding aircraft.
“At airshows, we try to show the crowd what the airplane did during the war. We fly by the crowd at 500 feet to allow the people to take pictures of the airplane and to hear how World War II airplanes sound. Basically, we show off!” Jed says. In the course of the day, skydivers will jump from the airplane, as will static line paratroopers simulating parachute jumping as it was done in World War II. Civilian passengers can pay a fee to ride in certain planes as well.
In addition to showing crowds what various aircraft look like, what they sound like, and their maneuvers, the Bluebonnet Airsho held every April and sponsored by the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) strives to encourage young people to get involved in and to appreciate aviation history. After all, as pilots age, who will fly the planes? Pilots like Jed feel that it’s crucial to encourage young people to become pilots.
“The C-47 is one of the most rewarding airplanes to fly,” says Jed, who began flying at age eighteen. He is a commercial pilot and an instructor for the DC-3, the civilian equivalent of the C-47. “Most of the [younger] pilots think [these planes] are old junk and are unwilling to put out the effort to fly, much less fly them well. It requires your undivided attention during takeoff and landing,” he explains. “You must do things correctly when you are close to the ground after takeoff [because] in the event of an emergency . . . the outcome will be poor [if you don’t]. They’re not like the jets of today,” which have many controls that are at least partially automated.
One look at the dozens of dials and toggle switches on the instrument panel proves how complex the plane is to fly. That’s why Jed is teaching his twenty-five-year-old son, Ben, how to fly the C-47. Ben, who soloed when he was sixteen and received his pilot’s license in 2007, now has a Second in Command rating in the C-47.
“What I like about flying old airplanes is their history,” Ben says. “When you fly an old airplane, it is really like stepping back in time. My generation may be the last to fly tail-wheel aircraft.”
Like his father, Ben enjoys the challenge of flying the C-47. To be First Officer (Second in Command) in the airplane, Ben had to pass an oral exam; he then took a proficiency test of required maneuvers that included three takeoffs and landings unassisted by the check pilot. To be Captain, he will have to take a check ride to get a full DC-3 rating, which he expects to do in 2014. Ben flew a Stinson L-5 liaison plane in the 2013 airshow.
Thanks to pilots like Jed and Ben Doggett and others like them, future generations can enjoy seeing the aircraft that played such important roles in the history of America fly for years to come.
The Highland Lakes Squadron is a proud wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). Together, we preserve, display, and honor the people and aircraft that have kept our nation free.
- To acquire, restore, and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft that were flown by all military services of the United States and selected aircraft of other nations for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans
- To provide museum buildings for the permanent protection and display of these aircraft as a tribute to the thousands of men and women who built, serviced, and flew them
- To perpetuate in the memory and in the hearts of all Americans the spirit in which these great planes were flown in the defense of our nation
- To establish an organization having the dedication, enthusiasm, and esprit de corps necessary to operate, maintain, and preserve these aircraft as symbols of our American military aviation heritage