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The Black Sheep Squadron
Once Donald Clemens, of Gilbertsville, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, flew bombing missions over Korea. He has continued to fly missions, but instead of bombs he is dropping flowers.
Don decided to organize and train the Pottstown Aircraft Owners and Pilots Black Sheep Squadron, a formation flying team which drops flowers on special holidays, when he became concerned over the safety of PAOP members doing flower flyovers on their own, with no special training.
"We had a bunch of planes in a small area, nobody knowing what anybody else was going to do," Don explained to a newspaper reporter. "A few planes in formation would be better than many in chaos."
He told the club, "If you want to fly formation, I will teach you and we will do it safely."
The Squadron was formed in 1977. It took the name "Black Sheep Squadron" for one of two reasons-or perhaps both: at that time there was a popular television show of that name and Don Clemens had been a member of the military Black Sheep Squadron during his service with the Air Force.
The first squadron members were Clemens, John Kook, and Wayne Grim. They began practicing on Sunday afternoons, learning how to form, maintain, and change formations, such as the standard "V". Later Dr. Harold C. Bauman, Francis Fenstermacher, Bill W. Smith, and Donald Bailey became members of the Squadron.
It will never be a large group because formation flying is hard work and requires continuous training.
"It's total concentration. Total trust. You must keep your mind on what you're doing and keep watching what you're doing," said Clemens. "When we come down we're soaked in sweat."
The leader takes responsibility for the formation, checking for other air traffic in the vicinity and the safety of the other planes. The wingmen watch the lead plane, concentrating on the position of the other planes. The wingmen watch the lead plane, concentrating on the position of the other planes in formation, not where they're going. No one in the formation can relax for even a second. To date there have been no mishaps.
The Squadron drops flowers over Pottstown and Boyertown and on such occasions as Memorial Day when carnations and roses are showered over cemeteries, parades, weddings, and funerals.
The flowers must be just the right length; if they are too short they drop like bombs, too long, they drop like arrows. Belle Clemens, Don's wife, designed nylon net bags which are open on three sides. The person dropping the flowers holds the bag with the corner wrapped around one finger. When the signal is