San Juan Squadron to start the Fourth of July parade

This year, there will be six local pilots flying their magnificent planes in formation over downtown Pagosa Springs to start the Pagosa Springs Rotary Parade, with its theme, “America the Beautiful.”

To be precise, there will be six veteran pilots performing in a precision formation flying team with maneuvers over the parade route at 10 a.m. July 4.

Every year, our parade grows and thrills our thousands of visitors and spectators.

Pagosa is proud and honored to have six outstanding pilots who, with their outstanding planes, have come together to form The San Juan Squadron — a group of very experienced men with a tremendous and diverse aviation backgrounds — a precision formation flying team. Pagosa will be able to experience “America the Beautiful” in the skies above us, as well as the many extraordinary floats and entries on the parade route below.

Our six Pagosa Squadron pilots are Jim Lane, Dave Peart, Michael Arbuthnot, Ray Laird, John Weibener and Tom Broadbent.

The pilots are planning two passes. The first pass comes from the west with two three-ship formations (lead plane with two wingmen, one on each side). They will then circle out past the fairgrounds and fly back over town from the east with each formation doing an overhead break over the downtown. area — an exciting show for all as the parade begins.

Jim Lane will fly his Beechcraft Bonanza. Jim has been flying for 30 years since leaving the U.S Army, where he served as a paratrooper from 1959-1962. He started civilian flying in the early1970s and started formation flying 10 years ago in Kansas City, where a group of 100 Bonanza pilots would come together, fly in formation and land in Oshkosh, Wis. Jim and his wife have lived in Pagosa for four years.

Dave Peart has explored the entire U.S. with his wife, Becky, and their four children in various small planes over the years. Dave was in Special Forces in Vietnam and was an executive with Daimler Chrysler Corporation, living in six major cities in the United States. Dave and Becky are living their dream in Pagosa Springs and enjoying their eight grandchildren. Dave will fly his Mooney Ovation in the formation group he has been flying with for over two-and-a-half years.

Michael Arbuthnot is a retired CEO of an electronics manufacturer. He and his wife, Caroleen, moved to Pagosa three years ago, where they have been building their home. Michael received his private pilot’s license in 1968 and started building his own aircraft in 1988. He completed it in 1996 and has flown it over 1,800 hours. He and Caroleen have flown their plane across the United States many times. Jim has been flying formation for a year and a half, including for last year’s Fourth of July parade. He is proud to participate in these celebrations and it gives him great pleasure and reward. Michael will be flying his Glasair III.

Ray Laird received his flying license in 1956 through the Air Force R.O.T.C. while in college. Upon graduation from college in 1958, with a commission as a second lieutenant, he started Air Force pilot training. He graduated in June of 1960, and was fortunate to get an assignment to fly F - 100 Super Sabers and served another nine months at gunnery school before being sent to Misawa AFB in Japan for a three-year tour. In early 1964, Ray was sent to Southeast Asia for one tour of duty, flying out of Danang AFB in South Viet Nam and Clark AFB in the Philippines. Discharged in 1965, Ray went to work with American Airlines and retired in 1996 with over 17,000 hours of flying time. Ray, after owning three previous aircraft since retiring, will fly his Beech Bonanza during the Fourth of July Parade fly-over.

John Wiebener is a retired lieutenant colonel and a former Air force A-10/F-16 pilot and squadron commander who retired in 2003. John is a combat veteran of Desert Storm with 27 missions over Iraq and numerous medals and awards. He has been involved in general aviation since 1996 and is a proud owner of a 1968 V-35 Bonanza, which he will fly above this year’s parade. He is the “formation” mentor, and his extensive experience in the air force and in Desert Shield and Storm enable him to provide guidance and advice for GA pilots who make their trek in formation to Oshkosh, Wis. He is currently an international pilot for FedEx, flying an MD-11.

Tom Broadbent and his wife, Gayle, have made Pagosa Springs their home since 1974, and that makes them almost natives! Tom has been flying for over 40 years starting with helicopters in Vietnam in 1968-69. Tom loves flying his 1942 Boeing PT-17; more commonly know to those in our community as the 1942 Steerman. Tom’s colorful biplane is frequently seen in the friendly skies over Pagosa and will be seen in the first set of formation maneuvers that fly over the parade at exactly 10 a.m.

This will be another unforgettable parade, so make sure you have your applications in to the Chamber of Commerce, or go on line to www.pagosasun.com to download your application. There is no application fee, so get your float into the parade lineup early. Let your float represent our theme of “America the Beautiful.” Get your applications in before June 29.

For further information, contact JoAnn Laird or Bob Moomaw. See you on the Fourth of July.