The flyby did not disappoint the small crowd that had gathered to watch. The sleek jet roared by — red and white, smooth and crisp — then disappeared from sight, momentarily looping around before landing and coming to a stop at the Hernando County Airport at noon Thursday.
The TS-11 Iskra, a former Polish training jet, was on its way to compete in the 47th-annual Championship Air Races, which take place Wednesday through Sept. 19 in Reno, Nev.
Pilot Thom Richard was stopping in Brooksville to top off his fuel and collect jet owner Tim Neubert, president of Neubert Aero Corp., which has a production facility and friction test site in the Hernando County Airport Industrial Park.
Last year, with Richard at the helm, the NAC racing team won gold in the propeller-driven Formula One race, one of six classes that compete in Reno. Planes in that class have a stock engine similar to a Cessna 150.
The more-challenging jet race is considered the fastest motor sport on earth. Jets race around pylons — telephone poles with 55-gallon drums on top — at speeds exceeding 500 mph. The oval course is about 81/2 miles long and takes six to seven minutes to finish, said Neubert, who will serve as the announcer for the races.
The TS-11 Iskra (Polish for "spark") was designed as a Polish military training jet in 1957 and came into production in 1960. Neubert's jet was made in 1971 in Mielec, two hours east of Krakow, Poland. About 600 of the planes were made, but the number still flying today is unknown.
Traveling to Reno was expected to take five stops and two days, due to the small fuel tank found in most former Soviet-bloc jets.
"The theory behind that was that (the Soviets) didn't want anyone to get too far away," said Doug Jeanes, director of the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, Texas.
When not racing around pylons, the Iskra will serve as a test vehicle for aircraft braking action at the Hernando County Airport. The plane is owned by the International Friction Pavement Association, which Neubert founded and heads.
Waiting for Richard on Thursday morning, Neubert opened a small box and took out one of his latest products in development, which was carefully encased in gray foam.
Many companies are trying to develop an onboard device that would provide a pilot with real-time braking-action information, eliminating the need for ground-based friction devices, he said. Such measurements provide critical information on the forces being applied to the aircraft during takeoff and landing.
Neupoert's company's device, about the size of a Snickers bar, would provide that braking information. It has a bright red aluminum casing and is water resistant.
"I have four hours of monitoring ability, 400 times a second," Neubert said, packing the device for the trip.
Neubert got into the Reno races by accident. A few years ago, he purchased a Formula One racing plane with no engine to use as a prop at trade shows. It was a way to differentiate his company.
"At trade shows, after the first several booths, they all look the same," he said.
The president of Formula One called him, inquiring why he hadn't entered his plane in the Reno races.
"We've got a pilot," Neubert recalled him saying.
His time at the races has paid off in contacts and a broader audience for the company's products.
"We run into people I would never be able to reach in my industry," Neubert said. Plus he hopes to inspire others along the way.
"When I was younger, what inspired me was an air show," he said.
Nowadays, Neubert has found a way to do it all: Test his latest product, spread the word about his business and maybe plant a few seeds in the minds of youngsters.
"We're testing, we're marketing the business," Neubert said. "But I also think we are inspiring future engineers or future aviators."
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.