John & Anne Wiley


Missing Persons

We were at the harbor heading back to SBA after a flight along part of the dry Santa Ynez River this evening when we heard a solemn call. A formation flight told ATC they were heading offshore to form up for a “Missing Man” flight over Montecito. They looked so beautiful in a sunset glow with Anacapa in the background.

0727 Honor Flight

0727 Honor Flight

Flights like this to honor a fallen comrade have been an aviation tradition for a century or more, and it was sweet to hear how ATC helped and protected them. It brought to mind the growing number of beloved Missing Persons in our life. Friends and family who have touched us, and at times seem to fly beside us on our adventures. I wish everyone could have an honor like this, in quiet remembrance of the people who shared their most treasured passion.

As we landed, we heard four of them call ATC again to say they were inbound to land at SBA behind us so I paused to snap this. They got special clearance to fly low over the field and then peel off in a “break” to turn back and land in sequence. Beautiful to watch.

0748 Formation Landing

0748 Formation Landing

We learned later that they’re the Bonanzas To Oshkosh formation flying group. Having flown to the massive Airventure (aka Oshkosh) gathering of aviators (see our “North By Northwest” Adventure), we understand that bond. We share the love of clear blue skies over green earth.



  1. As always, lovely visual and ‘verbal’ images:-) Sunday’s NYTimes had an article about an Atlantic fisherman who went overboard in the dark of night while working on the deck of his boat, getting ready for a lobster catch, while his boat mates were sleeping down below. Your photos were a gentle segue to this harrowing tale of a ‘missing person’ and the rally of rescue vessels, planes, etc, that ultimately recovered him against all odds. Of course all missing persons stories are unique but the heartening aspect of this one was how this fisherman never simply gave up but kept using his intelligence to ‘reel’ himself to simple goals, using every resource available to reach his self imposed mark. Of course the true ‘mark’ was to stay alive as long as he possibly could as he spent hours in the ocean, but his ingenuity & tenacity were the true buoys that carried him to his rescue.
    Thanks for sharing your ‘art of seeing and documenting’ with us land-locked birds:-)xoMerrilee

    Comment by Anonymous — 2014/01/07 @ 20:44

  2. John and Anne,

    Thank you for the very nice write-up. You nailed everything – the beauty of the scene, the emotions of the day, and you noticed the great service provided by Air Traffic Control. I led the flight. The wingmen flew flawlessly. Mourners on the ground were quite moved. SBA ATC was wonderfully accommodating – all of them, Ground Control, Tower, and Approach Control. The man we honored was the brother of one of our own – a man who has flown with us as we honored several aviators who have “Gone West” over the past few years. And, yes, the backdrop of the setting sun over the Pacific Ocean was awesome. As the flight leader that day, I was allowed to fully enjoy the surrounding beauty. The wingmen have to watch the leader, but everyone noticed the soft colors and golden glows. We can’t take credit for that, though. Good timing, and perfect conditions. It was nice meeting you and chatting with you at Atlantic Aviation after the flight. If you’re in Oshkosh, stop by the Bonanzas to Oshkosh camp site. There’s a lot of excellent camaraderie you’re welcome to join.

    Thanks again,

    Comment by Anonymous — 2014/01/08 @ 05:33

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