Leader Blues

Saturday, November 04, 2006

TOP STORY >>Red Baron returns home

IN SHORT: Former Jacksonville resident performs with aerial group this weekend at base.

Leader staff writer

Travis Aukes moved to Illinois from Jacksonville when he was 11 years old. His father was a crop duster, so it was no surprise that Aukes got his pilot’s license at age 16. His dream as a teenager was to fly with the Red Baron Squadron.

This weekend, Aukes, who now lives in Aledo, Ill., returns home to perform at Airpower Arkansas, the Little Rock Air Force Base air show, as slot pilot for the Red Baron Squadron.

This will be the first time he has performed at the Little Rock Air Force Base air show.

“Jacksonville hasn’t changed at all,” Aukes said. “It brings back a lot of memories.”

He requested to perform at this year’s show well ahead of time. “I was looking forward to it,” he said. His parents, Bob and Beth Aukes, live at Mt. Ida, and most of his family still lives here in Arkansas. Several family members are planning on coming to the show. He has flown with each of his four brothers, who are also pilots.

During the 1980s, one brother was a crew chief for the Red Barons. When the opportunity arose, Aukes tried out and landed a spot on the team. He has been flying with the Red Barons since 1992.

“It’s been a dream ever since,” he said.

As slot pilot, Aukes flies in the last position in formation.

The Red Barons fly open-cockpit biplanes, known as Stearman-made planes.

They were used by the Navy to train pilots to fly during WWII. The one Aukes flies came off the assembly line April 20,1943, and was built by Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kan.

Aukes has more than 20 years of flight experience and has flown more than 5,500 flight hours. The team will perform Saturday and Sunday.