Prepare for takeoff.
Those traveling through Reserve may soon see some of the more distinctive and eye-catching aircrafts lined up at the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport in Reserve, as the Classic Jet Aircraft Association (CJAA) is set to hold a Jet Blast event there from April 8 to 11.
The event is a fly in and training opportunity for jet aircraft pilots from all over the country. The event is not open to the public, however the planes will be on the ramp for viewing – and much of the action will likewise be in view to nearby observers, as an airborne fighter jet is among the tougher things to hide from sight.
A viewing area of the ramp will be set up at the airport. Fly in on any of the days will be from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Only takeoffs and landings will be visible from the airfield.
“We do formation flying and proficiency flying,” said Sonny Schilleci, event coordinator and Vice President of the CJAA. “It’s a gathering of our members to keep their currency up for formations and other types of flying. We have an event each month somewhere in the country.”
As Schilleci alluded to, each pilot involved in the organization must “stay current” in terms of their flight experience so that they may be able to fly in formation. That currency is tracked and recorded through something called a Fastcard – members of different experience levels will have different levels of a Fastcard. The first level, for example, is called a Wingcard, and pilots work their way up to higher and ultimately the most elite ranks.
“It’s something you have to maintain to be able to fly an aircraft in labor airspace, to fly in formation … we also have instructors and we train new members,” Schilleci said. “We’ll be out there for four days, kind of doing our thing.
Schilleci estimated there will probably be eight to 10 jets at the airport for the event. Many different kinds of aircrafts make appearances at these events, but all are former military aircrafts from trailers to fighters. Group members fly over 30 different types of classic jets.
“We’ll probably have L39s, L29s … we might have a G33,” Schilleci said.
This will be the first time the event will be held in Reserve. The jet blast was initially planned to be held last October, but it was postponed.
“We were planned to go then, but the hurricane halted that,” Schilleci said.
The organization just got rolling again in general over the past few months, as COVID-19 grinded everything to a stop.
“We’re trying to get somewhat back to normal now,” he said. “We’re taking precautions wherever we have to.”
The CJAA was established more than 20 years ago, but the history of jets and trainers flown by civilian owners and pilots began in the United States in the late 1950s. The first military jets operated in the United States were surplus British Vampires and Glouster Meteors. In the 1970s a few Canadian T-33s and F-86s began flying in the U.S. These aircraft were placed into the experimental category and were used mainly for air shows and air racing.
With the Canadian T-Birds leading the way, the aircraft types flown and the numbers slowly increased. A Houston man, Jim Robinson became the initial mover behind what ultimately became the CJAA. He made calls to aircraft owners and pilots to gauge interest in establishing a jet organization. This resulted in the first organized meeting, held in Denver in 1989 with 60 people in attendance. During this first gathering of jet operators, Robinson was elected the first president of the organization.
Today, the group has hundreds of members who restore own and operate classic jets.