Willie Paterson will be taking to the sky above the Nanaimo Airport with the Fraser Blues Formation Demonstration Team during the Wings and Wheels event taking place on June 4 at the airport.

Trust from takeoff

Chemainus formation pilot performing at airshow

  • May. 30, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Flying within a few feet of other planes requires a great deal of trust.Trust not just in your own abilities, but also in the other pilots racing through the sky like bullets while executing manoeuvres they are hoping will leave onlookers breathless.Chemainus pilot Willie Paterson has been a member of the Fraser Blues Formation Demonstration Team, since it started back in 2000. The team will be performing at the Wings and Wheels event taking place at the Nanaimo Airport on June 4.Paterson remembers his first formation flight well, noting it was a thrilling and chilling experience.“It’s trust and co-ordination. You have to have implicit trust in everyone around you or it doesn’t work.”That trust is built, said Paterson, from flying and spending a lot of time together and respecting others’ skills.“The ones who have more skills teach the ones that don’t have as many,” said Paterson. Even with his years of flying experience, Paterson said he still gets that nervous feeling before a show.“When you are in those close quarters, you still get excited and you still get worried, but that’s all part and parcel of what we do.”It’s an expensive hobby, but Paterson said the rewards are still too great to stay grounded.“It keeps you young,” said Paterson, noting the high energy and enthusiasm of the people on the Fraser Blues.Paterson’s love for formation flying started back in 1994 when he purchased a North American Navion L-17A, an aircraft that was built toward the end of the Second World War, but did not see military use until Korea.“They weren’t fighters,” Paterson said of the Navion. He has since purchased a newer model.Having a warbird, a military plane now owned by a civilian, Paterson was noticed by a group from the U.S. and soon started his formation flying journey.“When you have planes like that, you always end up meeting other people with similar aircraft.”He joined the Cascade Warbird Squadron out of Seattle and the jump to formation flying seemed natural.The only team member without military experience, Paterson has been flying with his current team since 1996. Paterson is only one of a few formation flyers with experience in several positions in the group. From left wing to the ‘box’ (the guy in the back), Paterson said he learned the different positions since not all the members can make it to each show.Paterson has called Chemainus home for the last 10 years and Ladysmith the 10 years before that. The Wings and Wheels event takes off at the Nanaimo Airport on June 4 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.Barbara Riddy, president of the Nanaimo Flying Club, said this is the first year since 1971 the club has undertaken such a huge event.The Air Cadet Band will open the show which will be followed by hours of fun for fans of vehicles that drive on the pavement or soar above it.Riddy said there will be two airshows, one with model planes and the other with the regular-size aircraft.The larger model planes will be showing off mid-air combat and flying demonstrations for one hour.There will also be a glider demonstration that is sure to capture the attention of onlookers.“He is the only guy in North America that really does this show,” said Riddy. “So it’s a big, big deal.”For enthusiasts who prefer to stay more grounded, there will also be a car show at the flying club.“We’ve got everything coming,” said Riddy, listing off a 1929 Indian, 1918 Model-T Ford, muscle cars and trucks as a few of the more than 80 registered vehicles.Ladysmith and Nanaimo Air Cadets will be on site to answer questions and provide information about their organization. The cadets is the only non-military option in Canada allowing youth to obtain a private pilot licence virtually without cost, said Riddy. Also look for appearances from ‘Fan Man,’ a magician and there will also be children’s games.The club will also be providing free COPA for Kids flights on June 5 to aid in boosting cadet recruitment. You can pre-register at the club’s website or at the event.Riddy said Island vendors have also been invited. General admission will be $7.50, but seniors and kids are $5 or pay $24 for the whole family. Kids under 6 get in free.There will also be draws throughout the day with the big winner walking away with a free certified diving course. Admission gets you entered in the draw. The money raised is going to help the cadet squadrons and School District #68.For more information, visit www.nanaimoflyingclub.org or www.fraserblues.com.

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