One of the highlights of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In hosted at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Florida earlier this year was the appearance of the Black Diamond Jet Team.
Originally based at Lancaster, Pennsylvania and flying six Aero L-39 Albatros jets as the Heavy Metal Jet Team, the team flew more than 25 airshows during the 2011 season, including an appearance at the EAA AirVenture show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin with five L-39s.
Since then, the team has relocated its operations to the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and added a pair of Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17 jets (actually a Polish-built Lim-5 and a Lim-6) to its line-up.
At Sun ‘n Fun 2012, the Black Diamond Jet Team was able to make its debut performances at its new home base with three of its L-39s and the two MiG-17s.
The routines included formation flights with all five jets, the three L-39s flying their own formation routines while the MiG-17s flew paired and individual routines (sometimes punctuated with afterburner flames) and one MiG-17 even flew a rolling manoeuvre around the L-39 formation.
In its immaculate arctic aggressor white/gray/black colour scheme, the Black Diamond Jet Team was a stunning sight in the sky over Lakeland, Florida.
The Black Diamond Jet Team was actually seduced into selecting the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport as its new home base by airport director Gene Conrad. Impressed by the team’s initial performances, Conrad, with support from the City of Lakeland and the Sun ’n Fun management, began discussions with the team as early as 2010 with the specific intention of bringing it to the airport on a full-time basis. Lakeland city manager Doug Thomas reportedly described the move as “a win-win situation” that brought more aviation and more opportunities to the local community At the time of the move, the team was operating five L-39s and one MiG-17, with the second MiG-1 7 being added to the line-up for the 2012 season after the move to Lakeland. The Black Diamond jet Team is currently sponsored by Harbortouch, a payment processing organisation that offers merchant services, POS systems, electronic cash registers and credit card processing terminals.
Currently, the Black Diamonds Jet Team pilots are Lieutenant Colonel (USAF retired) Jerry ‘Jive’ Kerby in the lead position, Jared ‘Rook’ Isaacman on the right wing, and Doug ‘Tut’ Demko on the left wing in the L-39s. Major Sean ‘Stroker’ Gustafson (USAF Reserve) usually flies an L-39 in the slot position while USAF Major John ‘Slick’ Baum can also fly a dynamic routine in another L-39. The team’s lead solo is Captain Dale ‘Snort’ Snodgrass (USN retired) in the Lim-6 while Commander Mike ‘Buick’ Eberhardt (USN retired) flies the Lim-5 as the opposing solo.
With a selection of rather exotic jets in a striking color scheme flying very dynamic routines, the Black Diamond Jet Team is certainly making a big impression on the US airshow circuit. Furthermore, the team plans to begin flying a full seven-ship routine as standard during an appearance at Ocean City, Maryland over the weekend of June 9-10, 2012 and will continue with that routine from then on. This team just gets better and better.