Stearman flight to touch off Torchlight Parade

Published On: May 17 2013 06:47:41 PM PDT   Updated On: May 17 2013 06:49:03 PM PDT
Stearman flyover
SPOKANE, Wash. -

For years now it's been up to a Fairchild aircrew to let everyone know the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade was starting. But with the sequestration in effect, that role will fall to a group of local Felts Field pilots.

In the past, a carefully timed KC-135 tanker flyover right down Sprague Avenue always got the first floats moving at the parade. This year the sequestration has forced Fairchild Air Force Base to cut a lot out of its budget. No float in the parade that honors its own airmen. No tanker flyover.

That's where Larry Tobin comes in.

"It's important for the parade and veterans to do this parade kickoff," Tobin said.

At exactly 7:45 p.m. Saturday night, Tobin and three other pilots will take to the skies in their Stearman biplanes and buzz the parade route, the squadron of trainers first doing a flyby and on their second pass execute a missing man formation in honor of the fallen Fairchild aircrew killed in a KC-135 crash in Kyrgyzstan earlier this month.

"When I give him the command he's going to turn on his smoke and he's going to elevate, rapidly from level flight to a big climbing, noisy smoking turn and he will fly west. And in aviation terms when you die you fly west," Tobin said.

It will be a somber flight for the group of Stearmans. Captain Tyler Voss, the aircraft commander of the kc-135 that crashed, was rebuilding a plane in one of Felts Field's hangars and was well liked by local pilots.

"It hit all of us pretty good when you see somebody like that disappear and he was a very sharp academy graduate. His other pilot was an academy graduate, same class," Tobin said.

Fairchild is planning to honor the fallen aircrew in the Torchlight Parade; look for the 23rd entry in the parade and you'll see a trio of banners with the names of three fliers killed in Kyrgyzstan.