Bob Baranaskas Tribute
I think about Bob Baranaskas every day. He was my brother, my mentor, my hero.
This webpage contains excerpts from our Airshow Traveler print magazine and our newsletter, as well as some new commentary by this writer, that will hopefully give you a sense of the kind of person that Bob was.
Though I have many photos of Bob Baranaskas in his P-40 Warhawk, my best image of Bob is still of him sitting in his red chair. It was the one thing he had to have at air shows - a place to sit and think.
Enjoy our tribute.
Wayne Matusiak,Military Aircraft Historian
See more about Bob Baranaskas on the
Warbirds Over Long Island website.
Chris and Bob Baranaskas Article
We published an article on Bob Baranaskas and his son, Chris, entitled, "Father and Son Extraordinaire" in the August 2007 issue of our Airshow Traveler magazine. The following is excerpted from that article.
There are not enough superlatives in Webster's to express how we feel about Bob and Chris Baranaskas. We have spoken to many pilots on the air show circuit and not one of them has a bad word to say about these two great guys, so our opinion is shared by many others. Bob Baranaskas and Chris understand, first and foremost, that air shows are put on for the benefit of the fans. As we've said many times...they get it.
Though we had seen them at many shows, we never got a real chance to talk to Bob and Chris until last October's Dover AFB show. It's not that we didn't want to; they were always swamped with spectators, like ants on a lollipop. At Dover, Horace Sagnor and I started talking to Chris and we just kept talking and talking. Horace and I were impressed by how gracious Chris was. He wasn't cocky at all. Cool, but confident.
Bob Baranaskas' love of aviation came from his father, a World War II fighter pilot and B-17 instructor. His father would later attain a commercial pilot's license and fly DC-3, DC-6, and DC-7 airliners for American Airlines, so Bob has been around aircraft all his life and the passion was always there.
When Bob was seventeen he took flying lessons and fell in love with the sky. At age twenty, with a two-year college degree under his belt, he wanted badly to fly in the Navy. But Naval aviation entrance requirements had changed. A four-year degree was now needed to enter the program.
After six months of waiting and pondering his options, he got a job and entered the business world. Bob now owns a successful construction business on Long Island that affords him the opportunity to fly his own fighter aircraft. All of Bob's four children have worked the chain gang for the business, so humility was instilled in their children during their impressionable years.
Bob Baranaskas' first warbird purchase was an AT-6 which he later sold to their good friend, Buzz Cortez. This sale helped him buy a P-51 Mustang, and later the P-40 Warhawk that Chris and Bob now fly respectively. He also recently purchased a Stearman and the three aircraft form the foundation for Warbirds Over Long Island.
Chris started flying when he was nineteen, sharing the passion of the skies with his father and grandfather. He earned a degree in Business Management and wants to stay with the construction business his father owns, but on weekends it's all about flying with Dad.
It's not about money or prestige, but about bonding between father and son. However, Chris has individual aspirations in the air, mainly to be a USAF Heritage Flight pilot. How qualified is he?
Well, there is a school in Kissimmee, FL, called Stallion 51 that teaches prospective P-51 Mustang pilots how to really fly this amazing machine. It is not the kind of school where you plunk down money and they hand you a sheepskin. You work hard to stay in this school and even harder to graduate. Chris is only the 88th graduate of the P-51 Checkout Program. Yep, he's qualified.
On a personal level, this publisher trusts Chris with his life. I have ridden in the back seat of 'Glamorous Gal', and I mention this, not to brag, but to show the confidence I have in this young man. As we did barrel rolls over the Finger Lakes in New York, I had complete faith in Chris.
When the Baranaskas duo performs at air shows, they do not do it for money. They do it for the fans. They do it for each other. They do it for the fun of it. And at the end of the day, after the show is over and the aircraft are tucked away, Bob and Chris have even more fun.
In a private room, with other pilots, ground crew, and air bosses, they assemble for dinner where a food fight will probably break out. Someone is bound to catch a loaf of bread smack between the eyes, or sit down in a heaping pile of mashed potatoes...with gravy!
There's a story about ice and coconuts that we cannot repeat as there are youngsters who read our magazine, so make up your own story, and we are sure the circumstances will fit.
We close our article on Bob and Chris with a true story as told in an email that Bob sent to his friends. It says a lot about the character of these two men and their support of the military.
If you don't believe in a higher being, just imagine how the events at Dover AFB would have played out differently if they were on time for their air show appearance in June 2007.
"Just a little story. Many of us are asked to do things that we just do not have time for, but we do it any way with out knowing the significance of what we do.
Last Saturday, Chris and I were on our way to an Airshow in Maryland. Traffic control knew we were a flight of two World War II fighters in formation. Just as we're getting into Delaware they asked us to switch to Dover Tower. Dover tower asked us to divert for a flyby over Dover AFB. While we were a little late for our show, we never say no to our Armed Forces. The tower directed our flight to a spot on the field. We did our flyby and went on our way.
I received the following this morning:
Dear Fellow Warriors, I would like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" to whoever flew across Dover around noon on June 23rd. All I could get was the callsign of N1RB and that it was a P-51 and P-40. We had dispatched a KC-135 from Ohio to come pick up the remains of our lost friend Lt Col Kevin "Sonny" Sonnenberg. He lost his life while piloting an F-16 over Iraq. The timing of your impromptu flyby just as they got his casket in the jet was perfect and Sonny would have been proud. On behalf of the men & women of the 180th Fighter Wing as well as Sonny's family and wife Lorin, I'd like to say thanks and wish you continued success with your fantastic organization.
Keith A. Newell, Col, OHANGOperations Group CommanderToledo F-16's180th Fighter Wing
It brought tears to my eyes. I guess that's why you should never say no."
Robert C Baranaskas
Bob Baranaskas Anecdotes
When you hang out with someone like Bob Baranaskas, you realize just how much of a character he was. Here are a few snippets of my time spent with my bud.
At the 2007 Geneseo air show, I was waiting on customers at our booth. I turned around and Bob is sitting in my chair. "Bob, are you okay?" "Yeah, I just got out of the pilot's meeting and I needed a peaceful place to sit."
At the 2007 Labor Day Flight of Aces program at American Airpower, Bob saw me standing with all my photo gear and said, "You look tired." "I am, I'm beat." Bob comes back in five minutes with a chair for me. Turns out he swiped it from the Collings Foundation B-17 crew.
American Airpower's Jim Vocell and Bob were always playing practical jokes on one another. Every time I was around, Bob got the worst of it. While dining at Appleby's, Jim went into the men's room and came back with a roll of toilet paper. As we were leaving the restaurant, Jim tucked one end of the roll in Bob's pants and out Bob went into the parking lot with a trail of toilet paper behind him.
At the 2007 ICAS convention in Vegas, a group of us had dinner at the Rio hotel's steakhouse. To accomodate the size of our party, the restaurant staff put a bunch of single tables together. At the end of the meal, Bob was engaged in a conversation with his son. Jim Vocell manipulated all the single tables so that Bob was pinned in. Did Bob move the tables to get out. No, he climbed over them and left behind a wake of clanking dishes.
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