August 10, 2004
The Lincoln Electric Co., Cleveland, has become a sponsor of the AeroShell® Aerobatic Team, a four-plane precision formation aerobatic team. The team has been performing at air shows since 1985 and recently was honored with the national Bill Barber Award for showmanship at the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) 50th Anniversary AirVenture Oshkosh event.
The team flies in World War II North American Advanced Trainer-6 (AT-6) aircraft, equipped with 2,400-HP Pratt and Whitney engines. The pilots face many challenges when flying the aircraft. The power-to-weight ratio makes flying the planes challenging. According to pilot Gene McNeely, it all boils down to energy management. "On a hot day, we don't have the luxury of excess horsepower to compensate for high-density altitude. The key is knowing when to make power changes and by how much."
The AT-6 first appeared in 1938 as the NA-16 and eventually replaced the BC-1A basic combat trainer that was originally designed by the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC). The American Aviation Federation (AAF) uses the AT-6 to train its flight school pilots. Canadians know it as the Harvard; the U.S. Navy knows it as the SNJ, but it is best known as the "Pilot Maker."
The AeroShell Team began in 1985 with two friends, Alan Henley and Steve Gustafson, who each owned an AT-6 and had been performing solo at air shows for some time. Gustafson't father Merle, who performs an aerobatic duet with Bob Speed [GREAT NAME!], gave Steve his AT-6 as a Christmas present. As they watched his father and Speed perform, Gustafson suggested that he and Henley give it a try. Alan's twin brother, Mark, and Gene McNeely eventually joined the duo.
The team uses Lincoln's Pro-Cut® 25 for plasma cutting and an Invertec® V205-T for GTAW, as well as SuperArc Preminum wire for GMAW. "Trust me, when you're flying eight feet apart, you want to know that your aircraft is solid," said Henly. "We know Lincoln pretty well, so we're excited about the partnership. Our welders stand by their Lincoln machines as the best out there."