Between April 8th and 12th, one of the several formation clinics which the North American Trainer Association (NATA) holds annually took place at Gainesville Regional Airport in Gainesville, Florida. The event saw roughly 65 pilots take part, flying some 40 training sorties with the thirty or so T-6s and three T-28s on hand. The D-Day veteran C-47 Skytrain Placid Lassie also took part as well.
For those who don’t know, NATA is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to the preservation, restoration, safe operation and enjoyment of military aircraft designed and manufactured by North American Aviation (NAA). NATA provides members with acquisition, operational, maintenance, and safety information, formation training, advocacy, and flight training, and parts and repair referrals. Membership is open to all pilots, owners and enthusiasts of these aircraft worldwide, and includes a majority of U.S. owners of these aircraft, and owners, pilots, enthusiasts and historians from thirteen other countries.
NATA provides type club support for all variants of the P-51 Mustang, B-25 Mitchell, T-28 Trojan, and T-6 Texan/SNJ/Harvard, NA-50, NA-64. Other NAA types welcomed include the P-64, Navion, T-2 Buckeye, F-86 Sabre, and F-100 Super Sabre.
A key mission for NATA is promoting, teaching, and maintaining a pilot’s skills for flying aircraft in formation. NATA is also a signatory of the Formation and Safety Team (FAST), a worldwide educational organization dedicated to teaching safe formation flying in restored, vintage military aircraft and civilian aircraft. The association is part of a larger group called the Formation and Safety Team, which focuses on educating individuals about flying in vintage military and civilian aircraft.
The idea behind the clinics is for new members to qualify in formation flying and for returning members to re-qualify. In order to do this, pilots must fly in a four-ship formation and have a leader observe and sign off that they possess sufficient proficiency and skills to fly in formations outside of the clinic. The clinic is highly structured to ensure safety when flying. The clinics are typically two days of flying, day before is arrivals and day after is departures. The clinic’s two days encompass training days, during which the pilots ensure they are comfortable with their aircraft and can fly safely. New members undergo a one-on-one evaluation flight to prove they can take off smoothly, stay to one side of the runway, and keep their visibility forward.
Due to the global pandemic, the association had to cancel many of its larger events in 2020, such as the Oshkosh clinic in Iowa and the Sun n’ Fun clinic in Brooksville. However, by September or so, the organization was able to start hosting clinics across the country again. For more information about NATA, please visit www.flynata.org/
Many thanks to Aaron Haase for the fabulous images pictured here. For more information about his work please click HERE.