Father and son tear up the sky


By Kris Nuss

For Miami Valley Sunday News

VANDALIA — A father and son tight formation aerobatic team from Cincinnati, Ohio performed at the CenterPoint Energy Air Show in Dayton, Ohio for the 2023 season. Redline Airshows was created by Ken Reider and is fight lead, while his son Austin Reider is his wing pilot.

The fascination for flight began for Ken when, as a child, his parent would take him to Lunken Field in Cincinnati. He was five or six at the time when the Blue Angles flew the F-4 Phantom, and he was hooked. That inspiration led him to always take steps in the direction of aviation. Inspiration to action ultimately led to him flying in formation with the venerable Blue Angels.

Redline Airshows use homebuilt Van RV-8’s for their performances, and he and his son Austin at times fly almost as close as the Blue Angels will. What better wingman to have than your son? They call their routine more of a ballet, as a choreographed flight which sets them apart from the more aggressive aerobatic acts; they create a more stylized path of flight.

Ken never really had it in mind to pull any of his four children into the addiction of aviation. As a toddler, Ken’s wife noticed that when they watched the show Wings, Austin would sit in Ken’s lap and watch with them. She pointed out that he definitely had the flight interest out of their four children. Austin soloed in a glider at age 14, and soloed in a plane at 16.

“He taught me how to fly which is really cool, then he taught me aerobatics side of things, but I also work with him, and he’s my dad, so sometimes I ask him which one is he, my flight lead, my instructor, or my boss. But it is so much fun, especially having such a great teacher as him, and spending as much time together as we do at different shows, so, it’s great.”

Couldn’t tell if Ken was blushing at the praise, or if it was just the sun beating down on us.

For the air show performances, Ken choreographs their act, balancing numerous critical factors. Each airplane is designed to fly a certain way, and it has to fly within those limits. He has to think about what kind of energy the airplane has at any one point in the show, what Austin is capable of in terms of as far as coming onto his wing because they do so much side by side. They have to match all that, then throw in weather variables as well. From a performance standpoint, they do formation barrel rolls, formation loops, cloverleaf loops (they turn away from the crowd and do a switchblade, crossing in front of each other). They also do opposing solo work, such as opposing loops. Within their routine, they typically fly 5.6, 5.7g’s and negative 2, 2.6 g’s.

Who has the most difficult job? They turn to face each other with tiny grins.

Ken tells us, “So I just fly, I just look straight ahead, I don’t concern myself with anything happening around me…” he reaches over and slaps Austin’s shoulder with a laugh. “Yeah, I’m the one doing all the work back there” Austin counters.

Ken clarifies, “I’m the guy that sets up for timing, placement of the show and all that,” he reaches out and taps his son’s chest, “…and he makes me look good.”

Speaking of family, there is truth to the “airshow family.” Each airshow offers a mini reunion of sorts and allows the aviation based friendships to flourish. With Austin being relatively new to the show circuit, he was excited to meet airshow staples. He says it’s really cool to get to know everyone, and shared that just the prior day he was able to sit down and have a conversation with Kirby Chamblis who flies for Red Bull, and with Bill Stein.

“Those guys are just incredible to watch, and good teachers,” Austin enthused.

“Yeah, the Air Show Boss here, his name’s Tooch,” Ken tells us. “He kinda helped get me into this with the Cleveland Air Show a bunch of years ago, and these folks you see, we’re like a traveling circus. We go from place to place to place and some of the airshow performers, I spend more time with them than I do my own brothers and sisters. I see them at Christmas, the holidays, birthdays. I see these guys [airshow people] for a full weekend and we’re all in that same mode of entertainment and having fun…it’s kind of an airshow family. Sean Tucker was instrumental in getting me into Oshkosh a dozen years ago.”

One bittersweet note; this is the first time Ken has been at the Dayton Air Show without his former wingman and Redline partner, Jon Thocker, who tragically lost his life in a night performance. “Yeah, I think of him all the time. We flew this show the summer before he crashed. I miss that guy. My wife and his wife-we still get together often. Great friends. I know he would want me to keep flying like this, and performing. But ah, what a character he was, and what a memory I have of him. He was a funny character. I could always count on him to throw me a loop when I wasn’t expecting it.”

Which brought the inevitable question, what do you say to the “naysayers,” those who think airshows should be stopped because they’re “too dangerous”.

“Our personalities as airshow pilots are different as a whole. We’re all more, not risk averse people, we enjoy pushing the boundaries of what we personally physically and mentally can do which is a challenge for some people. Their comfort zone is to keep it in the lanes on the road, and ours is to go outside to figure out what else can I do. You know, there’s a quantity and quality of life and ah, that could be argued either side and I’m a quality over quantity. Not that I expect to die,” he stresses.

“You’ll find this funny. So, Jon and I were flying the Oshkosh Air Show and there were some people there that said, we want to put heart monitors on you to watch you fly the show. So we go fly and do our thing, we come back and land. Now I’m lead, right. So ‘wing’ has to watch me,” at this point Austin returns after being pulled away to help fuel the planes.

“You could argue ‘wing’ has the toughest job-my job’s the toughest if you ask me,” he slaps his sons stomach while Austin lets out a “shyyeah riiiiiight” kind of noise and grins. Ken continues, “You always want the guy with the most experience in front. We get on the ground, taxi up, and the lady comes up and starts lookin’ at it and she goes, ‘wow.’ John had real high heart rate and I had a real low heartbeat. So he’s doing ALL the work. But yeah, it was pretty funny. They were looking at blood pressure and intensity level of bullfighters, fighter pilots, landing on an aircraft carrier -a few other professions.”

While airshow flying was near the top of the list for stress, turns out bullfighting was number one.

With Austin back in the conversation, we couldn’t help but ask what he’s looking forward to, being a bit of a newbie.

“Just actually flying right now. I’m so excited to fly, with him especially,”gesturing to his dad. “Just to gain more experience, more shows, more different venues, excited to hopefully fly over water here soon-that’s a different perspective in the air show world.”

And it turns out Austin will be spending his upcoming birthday at another airshow. “What better way to spend it,” he smiles.

An interesting fact about the Dayton Air Show is that it happens on an active runway. Because of this, Ken and John had to create what they call the “Dayton opening” only used here, due to the necessity to stay on our half of the field. Another fun fact about interviewing airshow pilots, is that you usually do them with refueling in the background, an A- 10 Warthogs taxiing in, engines revving, other planes flying in — all amazing distractions but yet the pilots are never flustered and are polite enough to continue seamlessly with answering incessant questions.

At the end of the interview we asked to take pictures with them at their planes. After quite a few clicks Ken runs his fingers through his hair and tells Austin “Okay fix your hair” as he then reaches over and lightly slaps his son around his head, and reverting quickly back to the professional pose. “You can’t do that to all the other wingmen, but you can to that to him. I’d get beat up by the other guys!”

Redline Airshows is a story of a family within a family who embody passion, fun, strong work ethics, friendly natures and legacy that will be tough to beat. Their enthusiasm shines through as they greet and talk to the air show crowd and share the joy of flight.

For more information check out www.redlineairshows.com

No posts to display