By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer
Steve “Hoss” Smith often sees the world upside down as he flies his Beech T-34 Mentor in air shows across America as a member of the six-man Lima Lima Flight Team.
The aerobatic team is scheduled to perform Friday night at the Owensboro Air Show at Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport and again Saturday at 1 p.m. over the downtown riverfront.
Friday’s hours are 4 to 9 p.m.
The bright yellow planes, used by the Air Force and Navy to train pilots in the 1950s, fly in precision formation — two to three feet apart — at speeds of up to 200 mph through a variety of aerobatic maneuvers.
A picture on the team’s website — http://www.limalima.com — shows the planes diving straight toward Lake Michigan with Chicago in the background.
On Thursday afternoon, the Lima Lima pilots took members of the local news media and the business community for a flight above the city to demonstrate some of the tamer moves.
Over Spencer County, Ind., they roared through a series of moves that resembled dog fights in aerial combat, soaring straight into the sky and rolling a couple of times above the Ohio River, with smoke streaming behind them.
Smith, who lives in Ellicott City, Md., graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1982 and spent the next 12 years flying F-15s and C-130s.
But, he said, “This is a lot more fun. I fly for myself now, and this is a lot of fun.”
Smith, who’s in his second year with the team, never sees the crowds that stare in awe at the team’s performance.
He flies a couple of feet off the right wing of the team leader.
“All I see is that wing,” he said. “Sometimes, I might catch a glimpse of the ground in my peripheral vision.”
The Owensboro show is the team’s fifth this year.
They usually fly 10 or 12 a year, Smith said. But the federal government’s sequestration has cut into the number of air shows by limiting the number of military aircraft that can perform.
The planes taxi down the runaway two by two and take off that way.
Once in the sky, they join up in formation and head out over the city.
“From the ground, it looks like everything up here is still,” Smith said. “But you can see we’re bouncing a lot.”
That makes precision flying even more difficult.
When Smith isn’t flying, he’s executive vice president for Survey Operations Arbitron in Columbia, Md.
Lima Lima traces its roots to the Mentor Flyers Inc., a group organized in 1975 in Naperville, Ill.
Since then, the team says it has performed for more than 100 million spectators.
The name “Lima Lima” comes from the FAA designation for Naper Aero Club field — LL-10.
“Lima” is the military word for the letter L.
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