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Look to the skies this Fourth of July

This year there will be nine pilots that make up the San Juan Formation Flying Team that will start the Pagosa Springs Rotary Fourth of July Parade.

These veteran pilots will kick off the parade as they fly over the start of the parade at 8th Street at exactly 10 a.m.

This is a great group of very experienced men with diverse aviation backgrounds.

Pagosa will certainly understand this year’s theme of “Celebrating Community” in the skies above us, as well as the many extraordinary floats and entries on the parade route below this year. The group’s time, talent and expenses are donated to help events for non-profit organizations and our schools.

The pilots are Jim Lane, Ray Laird, Dave Peart, Michael Arbuthnot, John Weibener, Tom Broadbent, Craig Taylor, Mike Rice and Tim Gallagher.

The team plans on two passes over downtown. The first pass comes from the west, starting with a flight of four in a standard fingertip right formation. The lead aircraft, flown by Tom Broadbent, is a Stearman 450 and will be generating a smoke trail. The second four-ship formation will come over in an extended V pattern (lead plane with four wingmen, two on each side). The lead aircraft in this formation will be John Weibener, flying a vintage Air Force T-34, which will also produce a smoke trail. They will then circle out past the Echo Lake area, reform and fly back over town from the east.

As the second flight comes over Reservoir Hill, they will break out into a Starburst with the last two aircraft going in opposite directions at a 60-degree banked turn away from the formation. Then, two seconds later, the No. 2 and 3 aircraft will do a 45-degree banked turn.

Not only is this a thrilling show for the parade spectators but it is a real feat to put eight different types of aircraft through maneuvers that require the same speed and precision.

Jim Lane will be flying his Beech Bonanza. Jim has been flying for 30 years since leaving the U.S. Army as a paratrooper. He started civilian flying in the early 1970s and has made many formation flights with the Bonanza Society to Oshkosk, Wisc.

Ray Laird is a veteran of Vietnam, where he flew F-100 fighters. Retiring as a commercial pilot for American Airlines after 32 years, Ray has over 27,000 hours of flying experience. Ray will also be flying a Beech Bonanza.

Dave Peart was a paratrooper in the Special Forces in Vietnam. With many years of flying experience, Dave will be piloting his Mooney Ovation.

Michael Arbuthnot received his private pilot’s license in 1968 and built his own aircraft in 1988. Michael has over 1.900 hours of flying time and has flown across the USA five times. Michael will be flying his Glasair III.

John Wiebener is a retired Lt. Col. and a former Air force A-10/ F-16 pilot and squadron commander who retired in 2003. He is currently an international pilot for FedEx flying the MD-11. John will be flying the former air force pilot training aircraft, the T-34.

Tom Broadbent has been flying for over 40 years starting with helicopters in Vietnam. Tom will be piloting his 1942 Boeing PT-17; more commonly known to those in our community as the Stearman, or that beautiful bi-wing airplane.

Craig Taylor has been a Navy carrier pilot, flying an A-7 Corsair. Craig then flew for the Southland Corporation (7-11 Stores) for 20 years, as a corporate pilot. He later went on to start a business of building engines for professional race cars. Craig will be flying an RV 8.

Mike Rice is a retired Air Force general andcommander of the New Mexico Air National Guard and has served on the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta board of directors. Mike will be flying his Beech Bonanza V-Tail.

Tim Gallagher started his flying career in Alamosa when he found he needed it to operate his farming and used farm equipment business. He was on the Alamosa Airport board of directors for 25 years. Tim is the newest member of the team and will be flying a Piper Comanche.

The San Juan Squadron Formation Flying Team would like to thank the public for their understanding of the additional air traffic noise while practicing and during this day of commemorating our country’s birth. History reminds us that the sound of an airplane is the sound of freedom.

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