Dis­play team pro­file

In the arena of for­ma­tion aer­o­batic dis­play fly­ing, a new Bri­tish team is wow­ing crowds around the world

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Words & Pho­tos Keith Wil­son

New in­ter­na­tional dis­play team, The Global Stars plans to run rings — and fly loops — around the com­pe­ti­tion

Over the last thirty years, I have been lucky enough to fly along­side and pho­to­graph the amaz­ingly ta­lented Mark Jef­feries as he flew ev­ery­thing from a Bücker Jung­mann, Pitts, Laser, Yak-52, and Yak-11 to a va­ri­ety of Wal­ter Ex­tra’s aer­o­batic de­signs. The lat­est as­sign­ment saw me hang­ing upside-down in my straps in the front of an Ex­tra 300L−su­perbly flown by Chris Heames− while fly­ing above, be­hind and be­side the UK’S new­est for­ma­tion dis­play team, The Global Stars. Im­ages from that shoot il­lus­trate this pro­file, and you can see why the team is achiev­ing great suc­cess on the in­ter­na­tional air dis­play cir­cuit.

Team man­ager Mark has been in­volved in avi­a­tion for as long as he can re­mem­ber. He flew reg­u­larly with his fa­ther Len from their fam­ily strip at Fullers Hill Farm− now bet­ter known, tongue in cheek as

‘Lit­tle Grans­den In­ter­na­tional’− reg­u­larly tak­ing to the air in a Tiger Moth or Bel­lanca Scout, of­ten in­volv­ing aer­o­bat­ics.

Mark wanted to learn to fly as soon as he was old enough and at seven­teen gained a glid­ing schol­ar­ship with the Air Cadets at Henlow. Later, at 21, he was placed un­der the watch­ful eye of Nor­man Whistler (a wartime RAF in­struc­tor on Har­vards in Canada) to learn in the fam­ily ACA Scout. He quickly went solo and soon pro­gressed to ad­vanced stall and spin train­ing. Later in his train­ing, when Nor­man sent him off solo “to fly around for an hour”−but didn’t spec­ify what type of fly­ing−mark climbed to 5,000 feet and prac­tised spin­ning on his own for the hour; his first solo aer­o­bat­ics.

Af­ter pass­ing the GFT (‘skills test’ to­day) and with a few more hours re­quired to fin­ish the course, Nor­man and Mark used the time for dual aeros. Clearly, Mark was hooked! Around this time, Mark had been re­build­ing a Span­ish-built CASA Jung­mann but recog­nised that it was prob­a­bly a lit­tle ad­vanced for a new PPL holder to fly, so he racked up some fifty hours in a Tiger Moth, once again un­der Nor­man’s watch­ful eye, be­fore fly­ing the Jung­mann.

In 1984, at his first ‘un­of­fi­cial’ com­pe­ti­tion at a Moth Club event, Mark (along with his friend Neil Jensen) was chal­lenged by Barry Tem­pest to en­ter and fly what for Mark and Neil was an un­known se­quence, although ev­ery other com­peti­tor had re­ceived ad­vanced warn­ing and had time to prac­tice. Neil won the event, with Mark fin­ish­ing sec­ond, ahead of all of the Tiger Moth own­ers!

In 1985, Mark started com­pet­ing se­ri­ously in the Jung­mann, fly­ing in the Bri­tish Aer­o­batic As­so­ci­a­tion’s Stan­dard Level aer­o­batic events. He was placed sec­ond in the first event and won all the oth­ers, in­clud­ing the Na­tion­als that year, and quickly pro­gressed through the In­ter­me­di­ate and Ad­vanced lev­els, hav­ing a num­ber of suc­cesses in a Pitts Spe­cial. He built a Laser and started com­pet­ing in

it in 1991, rep­re­sent­ing the Great Bri­tain Team in 1992 and 1994 at the Euro­pean Aer­o­batic Cham­pi­onships, and at the World Aer­o­batic Cham­pi­onships in 1992.

With Kester Scrope, in 2003 Mark ac­quired a ‘very tired’ Ex­tra 300S. Af­ter re­build­ing it, they started to com­pete at the Un­lim­ited Level and Mark won the Na­tion­als in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He then com­peted in the Ex­tra 300S in the World Un­lim­ited Aer­o­batic Cham­pi­onship in 2007, when most com­peti­tors were fly­ing Cap 232s and Sukhois, the Ex­tra be­ing con­sid­ered five years out of date. He fin­ished a very cred­itable eighth in the men’s and ninth over­all, beat­ing a num­ber of the Rus­sian greats−“they must have been hav­ing off days,” in­sists Mark. To date, he has won nine na­tional cham­pi­onships at var­i­ous lev­els and rep­re­sented his coun­try on ten oc­ca­sions, his great­est suc­cess be­ing a sec­ond-place fin­ish at Ad­vanced Level in a World Cham­pi­onship.

Us­ing his aer­o­batic com­pe­ti­tion track record to open doors, Mark then took up dis­play fly­ing. “On a farm labourer’s wage you couldn’t earn enough to pay for your fuel to go fly­ing,” so, ef­fec­tively “the dis­play fly­ing paid for the com­pe­ti­tion fly­ing while also pro­vid­ing free prac­tice for the com­pe­ti­tions!” Recog­nis­ing the need al­ways to stay ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion, either with new ma­noeu­vres or by putting two or more air­craft to­gether, Mark joined

Mark re­alised he needed the very best aer­o­batic pi­lots...

forces with Andy Bick­more and flew a pair’s rou­tine at an event in China. Soon af­ter­wards he ap­proached Tom Cas­sells− an­other well-known name in both Un­lim­ited com­pe­ti­tion and dis­play aer­o­bat­ics−and formed the first it­er­a­tion of The Global Stars, a team that quickly grew in pop­u­lar­ity. When Mark or­gan­ised a four-ship dis­play team for a large Chi­nese event in 2014, with pi­lots Tom Cas­sells, John Tay­lor and Chris Bur­kett fly­ing Ex­tras along­side Mark, the ker­nel of to­days Global Stars was formed.

How­ever, af­ter com­plet­ing the Chi­nese com­mit­ment, Mark flew to Korea where, just a few days later, he or­gan­ised a dif­fer­ent four-ship Global Stars dis­play

us­ing four Yak-50 air­craft and with three dif­fer­ent pi­lots: Rolan­das Pak­sas (the for­mer Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of Lithua­nia), Rober­tas Nor­eika and Al­gi­man­tais Zen­telis.

Mark quickly recog­nised the prob­lems of fly­ing with a for­ma­tion dis­play team com­pared to op­er­at­ing solo. “The whole thing needs to be calmed down con­sid­er­ably, with the leader fly­ing very steadily while think­ing for his wing­men. It is about slow­ing it down, con­trol­ling the G and be­com­ing more graceful. While some for­ma­tion dis­play teams need to move away from the crowd to pre­pare for the next ma­noeu­vre, The Global Stars re­main ‘crowd-cen­tre’ through­out.”

Mark also re­alised he needed the very best aer­o­batic pi­lots. The nor­mal line-up (fea­tured in the Pi­lot pho­to­shoot) is led by Tom Cas­sells fly­ing a Cap 232; Steve Carver flies an Ex­tra EA260 on the left, in po­si­tion num­ber 3; Mark Jef­feries flies an Ex­tra 330/SC on the right, in po­si­tion num­ber 2; with Chris Bur­kett in an Ex­tra 300/L fly­ing in the ‘box’. How­ever, Steve Carver has a full-time job as an air­line pi­lot, so to meet its world­wide com­mit­ments the team needs more than just four pi­lots to call upon. The line-up is sup­ple­mented by the very ta­lented Michael Pickin (who was the UK’S youngest-ever au­tho­rised dis­play pi­lot, and is the cur­rent UK Ad­vanced level aer­o­batic cham­pion) and Chris Heames (a for­mer RAF fast jet in­struc­tor and well-known for­ma­tion in­struc­tor at North Weald, who re­tains a fast jet dis­play au­tho­ri­sa­tion and also dis­plays some of the quirky, vin­tage glid­ers at Old War­den). It is an im­pres­sive pi­lot line-up.

Fly­ing dif­fer­ent air­craft types for dis­plays does pro­vide a few prob­lems but, in Mark’s opin­ion, all are fairly sim­i­lar in terms of power and weight, although the roll rate of the Cap 232 is sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than any of the Ex­tra air­craft so Tom in the lead “has to fly ex­tremely care­fully, lim­it­ing the con­trol in­puts and re­strict­ing power to around 21 inches”.

The Global Stars have a spe­cially de­signed smoke sys­tem fit­ted to all of their air­craft. En­vi­sioned by Mark to give him an edge at the World Aer­o­batic Cham­pi­onship in 2009, where the judg­ing cri­te­ria in­cluded ‘use of smoke’, it was de­signed by com­puter wiz­ard Richard Parkin­son. A Global Stars dis­play usu­ally lasts twelve to fif­teen min­utes but none of the air­craft has suf­fi­cient con­tin­u­ous smoke ca­pac­ity for that length of time. The be­spoke sys­tem al­lows con­tin­u­ous or ‘dotty’ (pulsed) smoke to be se­lected on all four air­craft as and when re­quired, help­ing to stretch the smoke du­ra­tion of each air­craft. This, and the air­craft’s spec­tac­u­lar colour scheme, gives the team a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence wher­ever they ap­pear.

Fine-tun­ing a new rou­tine

The Global Stars’ 2017 rou­tine is sig­nif­i­cantly more ad­vanced than in pre­vi­ous years. The team is pre­par­ing for the in­au­gu­ral For­ma­tion Aer­o­batic Cham­pi­onships to be held in China in April, and the se­ries of dis­plays it gave at an avi­a­tion con­fer­ence in Vi­jayawada, In­dia in mid-jan­uary af­forded the pi­lots much-needed time to prac­tice and fine-tune the new rou­tine. The For­ma­tion Aer­o­batic Cham­pi­onships ( www.wfac.eu) from 29 April to 1 May is an ex­cit­ing new in­ter­na­tional event on the world air­show cal­en­dar. The FAI has signed an agree­ment with World Air Car­ni­val Ltd (one of Mark’s com­pa­nies) to man­age, stage and pro­mote the cham­pi­onships and has granted FAI class 2 sanc­tion for it, mak­ing it an in­vi­ta­tion-only event.

To test all of the teams com­pet­ing, Mark has in­vented a new for­ma­tion ma­noeu­vre es­pe­cially for the FAC called the But­ter­fly Loop, which in­volves a mix­ture of loop­ing and rolling and is not easy to fly well. The Global Stars will open their own se­quence with this ma­noeu­vre, fol­lowed by a quar­ter clover on the way up, a steep

wing-over, then a loop with a roll on the way down, be­fore en­ter­ing a for­ma­tion half-cuban – some­thing Mark feels is not of­ten at­tempted by for­ma­tions as it is tech­ni­cally dif­fi­cult to fly. A clas­sic bar­rel roll, fol­lowed by an­other wing-over with for­ma­tion changes be­ing thrown in for good mea­sure, and then a 360º turn (made to meet a spe­cific judg­ing criterion for the Cham­pi­onships) will be fol­lowed by some breaks and op­po­si­tion-pair ma­noeu­vres, in­clud­ing a mir­ror pass. Then some solo Jef­feries un­lim­ited gy­ro­scopic fig­ures will be thrown in while the team pre­pares for an in­verted mir­ror pass and dou­ble roll-around, be­fore re­join­ing as a four-ship to com­plete the com­plex twelve-minute se­quence. This is a dif­fi­cult rou­tine with plenty of ‘wow fac­tor’ but, flown grace­fully, should keep the G-forces down to 5G at the bot­tom of the loops: tough, but nowhere near as tough as an Un­lim­ited solo se­quence!

The dis­play fly­ing may be de­mand­ing but spare a thought for the per­son who deals with the lo­gis­tics. For most over­seas shows, two ship­ping con­tain­ers are used, with a pair of air­craft in each. Although slightly more risky than four in­di­vid­ual con­tain­ers, it re­duces ex­penses by around £2,500. For­tu­nately, sev­eral team mem­bers own more than one air­craft, al­low­ing dis­play mounts to be sent on to des­ti­na­tions ahead of the event. For the re­cent In­dia dis­plays, three of Mark’s Ex­tra air­craft and Steve Carver’s ‘spare’ Ex­tra 260 were shipped out in con­tain­ers, then re-as­sem­bled by Mark and en­gi­neers and test-flown ahead of the dis­plays. This al­lowed the team to fly four sim­i­lar air­craft.

Af­ter In­dia, the Ex­tras were sent on first to Shang­hai, and then had an eight-hour road trip to reach their des­ti­na­tion at Shangjie be­fore re-assem­bly ready for the team’s For­ma­tion Aer­o­batic Cham­pi­onships se­quence. Once that event is over, Mark plans to leave two air­craft in China, so that he or his team mem­bers have two dis­play air­craft ‘lo­cally’ avail­able for Asian air­shows in the com­ing year. The re­main­ing two will be brought back on the new train ser­vice from China to Ham­burg and re­assem­bled at a lo­cal air­field be­fore be­ing flown into Hol­land for The Global Stars’ first Euro­pean event at Oost­wold on 4-5th June. For this, Tom Cas­sells will fly his CAP 232 out from York­shire, while Michael Pickin will fly his CAP 232 out from Kent. Mark and Steve Carver will col­lect the two air­craft from Ger­many and fly them into Hol­land for the show, af­ter which all four air­craft will be flown back to the UK.

Since their cre­ation, The Global Stars has be­come a truly in­ter­na­tional dis­play team, per­form­ing mainly over­seas. How­ever, in

The Global Stars is much greater than the sum of its parts... to­gether the pi­lots be­come a tight and spec­tac­u­lar dis­play team

2017, it will also dis­play at a large num­ber of Bri­tish events in­clud­ing Old War­den, Chatsworth, Broad­stairs and Black­pool.

The Global Stars team is much greater than the sum of its parts. In­di­vid­u­ally, they are all ex­cel­lent aer­o­batic pi­lots, but to­gether they be­come a tight and spec­tac­u­lar dis­play team per­form­ing with masses of ‘wow fac­tor’. They are al­ways will­ing to try and mas­ter some­thing new and dif­fi­cult, while en­sur­ing they stay right in front of the spec­ta­tors.

Go­ing up with, if not in, smoke: con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion like this emp­ties the on­board tanks very quickly In­set: Aresti card for a Global Stars’ dis­play, the But­ter­fly Loop be­ing third in se­quence here

Tom leads in the CAP 232, with Steve to his left, Mark to his right and Chris be­hind and be­low in ‘box’


It might look com­i­cal to the unini­ti­ated, but walk­ing through the se­quence is a se­ri­ous busi­ness, es­sen­tial in pre­par­ing a tightly chore­ographed and safe dis­play

From left to right: Global Stars pi­lots Chris Bur­kett (who flies ‘box’ po­si­tion in the for­ma­tion), Chris Heames, Steve Carver (No. 3), Mark Jef­feries (No.2), Tom Cas­salls (for­ma­tion leader) and Michael Pickin

The Global Stars team is made up of Mudry CAP and Ex­tra air­craft de­signed for com­pe­ti­tion aer­o­bat­ics

State­ment of pre­ci­sion: the three Ex­tras and Mudry CAP 232 of The Global Stars fly­ing as one

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