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On April 18, the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team (CHAT) wrapped up several weeks of spring training and is heading south for the coming “Thunder Over Louisville” airshow.
The Ontario-based CHAT has been performing at airshows across North America since 2000. The team consists of four Second World War-era North American Harvard trainers.
Painted yellow in their Royal Canadian Air Force markings, the Harvards never fail to attract attention. Billowing trails of white smoke, the growl of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 radial engine and a well-choreographed routine have made CHAT a popular airshow act.
Despite being a three-ton aircraft designed more than 70 years ago, the team maintains a tight, high energy routine that rivals more modern aerobatic aircraft designs.
The Louisville airshow kicks off two weeks of festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The show, held over the Ohio River in Louisville, Ky., begins at 3 p.m. The CHAT will fly two performances, one in the early afternoon and one at twilight. The Canadian Armed Forces will be well represented at the airshow, with fly-pasts from CF-18 Hornets, CT-155 Hawks and a CT-142 Navigational Trainer.
Billed as one of the top five airshows in North America, the spectacle wraps up at 9:30 p.m. with the largest fireworks display in the United States. Over 30 airshow acts and fly-pasts are scheduled including several night acts.
CHAT is led by Pete Spence who has been flying Harvards for more than 25 years and has been team leader since 2000. Dave Hewitt flies Harvard 2 and is the team coordinator. Hewitt soloed on the Harvard in 1990 and has accumulated more than 1,300 hours on type.
Kent Beckham, who flies Harvard 3, is a current airline pilot and began flying Harvard aerobatics in 1981 with his father as part of a two-ship formation team. Marco Rusconi, who flies Harvard 4, is an ex-Canadian Armed Forces Snowbird pilot who joined CHAT in 2014.
Along with several appearances in the U.S., the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team will be performing at the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto as well as the Red Lake Norseman Festival in Northern Ontario.