It takes courage, care and a certain seriousness to become a member of the Team RV formation flying crew.
Some assembly may also be required.
The formation flying team, performing this weekend at the annual Boshears SkyFest, fly Van's RV series aircraft. There is no showroom, no dealers looking to connect pilot with plane. Instead, each RV arrives in a series of boxes and is assembled, piece-by-piece and rivet-by-rivet by its owner.
Michael Stewart heads up Team RV from his home in Atlanta, although team members can be found in six states. He said successful formation flying is an amalgamation of talent and technique.
"It's a mix of art and science," he said in a recent telephone interview. "We start with the science first and then the art occurs. The science is all about energy management, positioning, the physics. All of that is very much science. The art occurs when the pilots become more efficient, more capable."
Mr. Stewart said there's a correlation between the pilots who find formation flying appealing and the pilots who will dedicate thousands of hours and dollars to the assembly of an aircraft.
"We are all very serious," he said. "There is an added level of dedication. So much of what we do is about dedication, and that applies to both formation flying and building an aircraft."
An admitted Type-A personality, Mr. Stewart said that a great Team RV member shares that intensity and drive. He said being part of the team means more than being able to handle the stick of one of the quick and agile RVs, but also the pressure that comes in keeping cool in close aeronautical quarters.
"We all understand the risk," he said. "We are putting our lives in the hands of others every time. It's something that ratchets up the intensity and the gratification. We are highly judgmental and highly critical and always after that perfect formation flight."
Perfection is the goal, chased first on paper as each close-rank maneuver is plotted and then in the air, where they are executed. But Mr. Stewart admitted that the thousands of variables that come into play when the gear leaves the tarmac make perfection difficult, if not impossible, to attain.
"We never get (the perfect mission), but it's what we are after," he said. "I guess it's a lot like a perfect game of golf."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: The Boshears SkyFest, featuring Team RV, Bob Essell Airshows, Sky Soldiers, Draco the Dragon and Charlie Culp the Flying Farmer
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 9 a.m.
WHERE: Daniel Field, Highland Avenue at Wrightboro Road
COST: $12 in advance, $15 at the gate. Children 12 and younger admitted free; advance tickets available from Augusta Aviation and at Circle K locations; www.boshears.com.