Local pilots to fly at the Dayton Air Show

Interview with Redline pilots
Redline Airshows practicing at Hartzell Field
Redline Airshows practicing at Hartzell Field
Jon and Ken in flight
Jon and Ken in flight
The Redline Airshow team planning
The Redline Airshow team planning

FOX19 - Be proud folks - we have a local connection flying at the Vectren Dayton Air Show this week.

Pilots Ken Rieder and Jon Thocker form Redline Airshows, Cincinnati's precision, two ship formation performance aerobatic team, showcasing an impressive set of nerve, skill and showmanship June 18 and June 19.

This will be the first year the men will perform at the Dayton Air Show, and it's a thrill for flight lead Ken. Having attended the Dayton show growing up, he hadn't envisioned one day being part of the hometown show; he never saw it coming as a kid. He considers it an honor to fly in the birthplace of aviation, and both gentlemen are excited to have family and friends attend. We might be spoiled to think of Dayton as a hometown venue, but it ranks high among most pilots. The team has also been invited to perform at events in Cleveland, Pensacola, Reading, the prestigious Oshkosh, and have even flown in Costa Rica air shows, to name but a few.

Aerobatics flying gained a foothold in the United States after WW1, when returning pilots sought to continue flying. Delivering mail and barnstorming became dangerous, thrilling ways to stay aloft in the wild blue. Horsepower grew mightily out of necessity during WW2, yet still the desire to push boundaries and have fun drew pilots to new heights, eventually morphing into aerobatics.

"It's an unforgiving sport," Ken admitted. But, that's part of the allure. Each time they go up and perform, they test the boundaries of their talent and skill.  Fortunately, their families accept and support their passion for flight.

Jon and Ken fly planes that they actually built from kits in their garages, basements, and barns over the years. They fly the Van RV8. A two seater, the RV8 can fly up to 230 mph and can land short, as slow as 50-60 mph. The propellers are Hartzell Advanced Structural Composite, and are made in Piqua, OH. Sporting a 200 horsepower engine, the RV8 is a light, sport aerobatic plane that is also a nice fit for cross country travel.

As if regular aerobatics isn't interesting enough, Jon and Ken incorporated a night show into their routine. A whole different animal, with no horizon line to work with, the night show introduces pyrotechnics into the show by building specific rigs that hold fireworks beneath their wings, then are electronically fired from the cockpit. It takes eight hours of rigging in show prep for the fireworks, but lasts about six minutes of a spectacular light show.

Jon admitted with a smile that when the racks are under their wings, it makes it look like they're going to war. Which was a perfect lead in to the hypothetical question/worst case scenario/let's write a screenplay …if we were invaded, could Redline protect and defend the Tri State Area?

"Oh, we could come up with a way to do that," Jon said confidently. "We would improvise, adapt, and overcome."  But back to the fireworks. They look like a cluster of rockets, five pods beneath the wings. With that much drag on the plane, the pilots have to constantly think further ahead and plan all maneuvers accordingly. Speed, lift, drag; all complicated components to keeping aloft.

One thing about air shows that both men love is meeting the kids after the performances. In one way, that's why they appreciate the smaller shows where they can pass out "hero cards" and talk to the kids who might not have the opportunity to see a large air show.

The camaraderie with other pilots is also a draw for Redline. Ken loves hanging with the other performers before and after the shows, to compare notes with people who they trust and respect, earned over many years. Jon added that it was always interesting to talk to the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, since they too fly opposing solo.

For Ken, the formation aerobatics part of aviation is the best. Not only does he have a drinking buddy who buys beers wherever they go- gestures to Jon who grins and squirms- but's he's proud to have an unshakable partner who in turn trusts him implicitly. Their lives depend on it.

You can tell these guys are a team in every sense. They work fluidly together, but as we listened to them you begin to notice how when one answers questions, the other smiles attentively. Ken insists that, "You gotta have a partner that's unshakeable," and explained how Jon flies at his side, mimicking his maneuvers and staring at him constantly. It's imperative that they remain in synchronization at all times with precision flying. And sometimes after practicing, they might go throw burgers on the grill to relax, and have a beer on the back porch. Eavesdropping on their practice via their friend Tom with his walkie talkie on the ground, it was evident they enjoy being a team, and love what they do.

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