GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team
Pilots + Technicians
Larry "Boss" Arken
Larry Arken is the commanding officer/flight lead for the GEICO Skytypers. As a child and aspiring aviator, he had the opportunity to fly over the skies of Long Island and the northeast coast with his father, Mort Arken. Mort was a former Naval Aviator whose passion for flying led him to establish the Skytypers as an innovative advertising company that skytypes messages near large events/major metropolitan areas and performs at airshows. Larry saw the potential to build upon his father’s foundation to create the Airshow team and the world-class organization that it is today.
Larry’s aviation career developed while flying a variety of warbirds and corporate jets. He later secured a position with a major commercial airline and has been a Captain for 21 years.
Larry holds a North American Trainer Association (NATA) designation as a formation flying check pilot, has logged more than 25,000 flight hours and holds certification ratings for seven large jets. Larry has a BS in marketing from St. John’s University and in business from Thomas Edison State University.
Chris "CT" Thomas
Chris Thomas grew up surrounded by aviation and developed a passion for flying at a young age and became a third-generation pilot. Trained by his father, a Naval Aviator, Chris earned his pilot’s license at the age of 17. He earned an AAS in Fire Science and graduated from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, VA with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies-Aviation. Chris’ professional career started at the Virginia Beach Fire Department where he was quickly promoted to a Master Firefighter. After eight years, Chris made a transition in his career and entered the world of professional aviation. He is now a Captain and Check Airman for a major commercial airline.
While logging more than 19,000 hours of flight time, Chris has towed aerial banners, served as a flight instructor, ferried aircraft, and worked as a charter and night freight pilot while flying more than 100 different types of planes.
Chris continues to call Virginia Beach, VA home where he resides with his wife and two daughters. When not flying, he can be found riding a motorcycle, doing aerobatics in his plane, playing mandolin and traveling with his family.
At the young age of five, Mark Gannucci knew he wanted to become a Navy Fighter Pilot. His father, a pilot, taught him about flying and Mark dreamed of piloting vintage warbird aircraft and performing at airshows.
Mark earned his pilot’s license on his 17th birthday and graduated from Embry-Riddle-Aeronautical-University with honors. Mark was selected for Navy Flight training and began training in Pensacola, FL in September 1988. After earning his Wings of Gold, Mark was selected to fly the F-14 Tomcat and served in Bosnia on the USS Saratoga.
As a Skytyper, Mark continues his childhood dream of piloting vintage WWII aircraft with the same precise, dynamic formations that the military demands of its aviators.
Today, Mark serves as a volunteer pilot at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach and flies several vintage aircraft including the very first U.S. naval aircraft – the Curtiss Pusher. Mark is a captain at a major airline and enjoys life in Virginia Beach with his wife Karen and daughter Connor.
Chris "Soto" Orr
Chris Orr developed a love for aviation attending air shows as a boy. He dreamed of flying for the military and followed a unique pathway to attain that dream. His desire to serve in the military led him to enlist in the Army Reserves as an infantryman at age 17. He left the Army three years later when he was awarded a Naval ROTC scholarship at the University of Colorado. Upon graduation, Chris was accepted to Navy Flight School in Pensacola, FL.
After earning his wings, Chris was selected to fly the F-14 Tomcat, completing two tours aboard the USS Constellation, 35 combat missions over Iraq, 300 carrier arrested landings and two Top Ten Hook awards for achieving some of the highest landing grades in his carrier air wing. He later flew the A-4 Skyhawk as an aggressor pilot/instructor.
After the Navy, Chris flew the C-130 Hercules for the New York Air National Guard. He completed two more combat tours and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the military with 25 years of service. Today, Chris is a Captain at a major airline and lives on Long Island with his wife and two children.
Steve "SkyKing" Salmirs
Steve Salmirs was born in Newport News, VA where his father worked as an aeronautical engineer for NACA/NASA at Langley AFB and his mother was an elementary school and community college teacher. Steve started flight training with an Aviation Explorer Scout Troop based at Patrick Henry Field as a sophomore in high school.
After graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL, Salmirs began his career at Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, FL as a Calibration Engineer calibrating ground and flight equipment used on the Space Shuttles from 1980-1982. Accepted into the U.S. Air Force in 1982 and selected to fly F-16 “Vipers,” Steve was based in Florida, Las Vegas, South Korea, and Texas, having earned the call signs “Animal” and “Chimp” throughout his military career.
Today, as a member of the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team since 1996, Steve currently flies as one of the Lead Solo pilots. He is a CFII, NATA Formation Flight Lead, and is instrumental in designing, writing, and instructing the air show demonstrations each year. Steve currently resides in Babylon, NY and Scottsdale, AZ with his wife Ann and daughter Rachael.
Tom Daly graduated from Dowling College in Oakdale, NY and later received a Master of Professional Studies in criminal justice from C.W. Post University in Brookville, NY. Following retirement from the police department, Tom returned to Dowling as the Dean of the College of Aviation and later as the Dean of Students. He currently serves on the advisory councils for the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Western Suffolk BOCES Aviation Program, and the Islip-MacArthur Airport.
In 2013, Tom was promoted to 9th degree Black Belt in the Chinese Goju Association at Malverne School of Self Defense, a martial arts school that he has owned for 45 years. Daly is a racing enthusiast and holds five land speed records on three different motorcycles. He set a record at Bonneville Salt Flats, UT on his turbo-charged 750 Harley with an average speed of 126.217 MPH. He also set a record in Loring, ME on his Buell with a speed of 137.547 MPH. Tom currently resides on Long Island with his wife and four children.
Jim Record hails from Long Island, NY. His father served in WWII on a bomber crew, which nurtured Jim’s early interest in aviation. Jim first flew with the Civil Air Patrol, later earning both his pilot’s license and a BS in Aeronautics from Dowling College. Recruited into the Navy at Floyd Bennett Field, LCDR, Jim served as an IP in Formation, Gunnery, Carrier Landings and long cross-country flights. He flew the T-2, F-9, T-28, T-34, S-2, and A-4 during his tour of duty
After leaving the Navy, Jim flew corporate jets before becoming a commercial airline pilot. He flew the Douglas DC-9, Boeing 757, 747-400 and Airbus A-330 worldwide for 30 years before retiring from a major airline. Jim later returned to his Alma Mater to earn his MBA. After completion of his degree, Jim served as a professor for Dowling in the College of Aviation.
Jim joined the Skytypers in 1992 and is one of the original members of the team. Jim has flown most of the positions on the team including Lead Solo, Wing Solo, and Backup Lead. He currently serves as the team’s Advance Pilot and Ground Operations Officer.
Steve "Sting" Kapur
Pilot / Marketing Officer
Steve Kapur has performed with the GEICO Skytypers for more than a decade. He also has a commercial pilot’s license and serves as a flight instructor.
Steve is one of the few members of the team to develop his aviation credentials as a civilian. After earning his private pilot’s license, Steve continued to hone his skills as a pilot receiving his instrument rating, commercial license and instructor license in addition to studying in aerobatics. He recently earned his FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate and currently works as a dispatcher for a major airline.
Steve earned a BS in Marketing from St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI and a MS in Public Relations from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. Steve is an accomplished marketing professional with more than 25 years of managing successful brands and programs.
In addition to his marketing and sales work for the GEICO Skytypers Team, Steve is recognized for his exemplary work in packaged goods air show marketing for Kraft Foods and GlaxoSmithKline. In Steve’s role as the team’s Marketing Officer, he combines his talent for developing high impact marketing programs with his passion for flying.
Mike "Shooter" Brockey
Alternate Left Wing
Mike Brockey joined the GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team in 2018 after participating in skytyping missions since 2015. Mike became interested in flying while growing up in Long Island, NY. The formation flying of the Skytypers piqued his interest, which later led to a career in aviation.
Mike is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO and earned his wings while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He started as a C-130 Aircraft Commander and later became an F-15C Instructor Pilot and Mission Commander. Mike completed his military career as a Squadron Commander and Deputy Operations Group Commander stationed at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, TX. In his role as a Deputy Commander, he led a 1,300-member operations group conducting T-6, T-38, and T-1 flying operations. This experience provided the perfect transition to flying the GEICO Skytypers fleet of SNJs.
Following his retirement from the Air Force, Mike returned to Long Island where he resides with his wife and four children. Mike currently flies for a major commercial airline and is also the COO and CFO for Kelly & Hayes Electrical, Industrial & Plumbing Supply in Smithtown, NY.
Mike "Buick" Eberhardt
Alternate Slot Pilot
Mike Eberhardt has been fascinated by aviation his entire life. He began flight training at age 15 flying gliders in Post Mills, VT. He quickly earned his private glider and airplane licenses and moved on to his commercial rating and CFI for both gliders and airplanes.
Mike attended Daniel Webster College where he continued his aviation work and training. During his senior year, he joined the U.S. Navy. During his 22-year Naval aviation career, he flew the F-14 Tomcat and TA-4 Skyhawk.
After the Navy, Mike transitioned to commercial airlines at Atlas Air flying Boeing 747 cargo and passenger flights.
Mike’s aerobatic and airshow career started in college flying the CAP-10B in Sportsman and Intermediate competition. Mike was also a founding member of the Black Diamond Jet Team flying the L-39 and MiG-17 aircraft. He also performed at numerous shows flying the TA-4 Skyhawk now known as Skyhawk 518.
Mike joined the Geico Skytypers in 2005. He has flown nearly 100 different types of aircraft, gliders and helicopters and amassed over 16,000 hours during his 42 years of flight.
Andy “Trav” Travnicek
Alternate Left Wing
At a young age Andy Travnicek knew he wanted to become a pilot after he flew in a Cessna with a local pilot in his hometown, Southbridge, MA. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy where he learned how to fly gliders and became a pilot instructor. After graduation Andy flew the C-21 Learjet, Lockheed C-5 Galaxy (including for special operation missions), T-34C Turbomentor, T-6 Texan II and MC-12 Liberty ISR aircraft.
Andy served as a U.S. Air Force Academy staff member and completed deployments to Spain, Qatar and Afghanistan.
Andy flies warbirds to honor the men and women of all eras and military services to inspire young people to pursue an aviation hobby or career.
Andy has an undergraduate degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy and an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. He resides in New Hampshire with his wife and is a First Officer at a major airline. When Andy is not flying, he can be found riding motorcycles, running, biking, swimming, hiking, reading, snowboarding and paddling.
Mark “Crunchy” Burgess
Alternate Right Wing
Mark Burgess is a Naval Academy graduate that flew three combat tours in F-14 Tomcats, serving with VF-24 aboard USS Nimitz, VF-2 aboard USS Constellation and VF-31 aboard USS Abraham Lincoln. He also spent three years as an F-14 A/B/D Instructor Pilot with the VF-101 “Grim Reapers” at NAS Oceana. During his instructor tour, he served as the Navy’s lead F-14 Demonstration Pilot for two airshow seasons, performing throughout the United States and Canada. During his final deployment, Mark served as a Forward Air Control (Airborne) in Operations Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom over Iraq.
Mark retired from the U.S. Navy in 2010 and joined the Warrior Flight Team, flying airshows for 10 years in the L-39 Albatross and raising funds to provide scholarships to veterans for flight training.
Today, Mark serves as a Chief Instructor Pilot, teaching Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) and as a military contractor, providing support to Naval Aviation developing better training software.
Chief of Maintenance
If the GEICO Skytypers didn’t winter their vintage planes in a hangar at the Republic Airport on Long Island, Frank Atria might never have become the SNJ expert he is today. That’s because Atria is a graduate of the Wilson Tech Aviation Maintenance program at the same airport.
Along with some friends, Frank walked over to check out some cool old planes after class one day. He was so fascinated he asked the head of operations at the time if any help was needed. Frank started working part-time for the Skytypers as a mechanic’s helper before completing his education.
An interest in airplanes was fostered early on as Frank’s uncle was a mechanic in World War II working on bombers in England.
Several seasons with the GEICO Skytypers later, Frank is the Chief of Line Operations and an expert warbird maintainer. Frank travels with the team to air shows around the country conducting maintenance before and after each demonstration. He is part of the year-round team that meticulously maintains the vintage aircraft, checking for corrosion and parts needing replacement.
Frank is married and passing his love of aviation on to his daughter, Emily Ann.
Maintenance Ground Support
Truck Driver Greg Coons knows all about the friendly rivalry between the GEICO Skytypers and their sister powerboat team, Miss GEICO. He transported the world-champion, 50-foot catamaran for six race seasons and also served as captain for the Miss GEICO safety boat. In 2010, the GEICO Skytypers hired Greg to drive their 53’ maintenance and support trailer to air shows.
Several airshow seasons later, Greg is the man arriving in advance of the team for each air show in the gecko-emblazoned 18-wheeler that becomes the team’s home on the road. Greg performs routine maintenance on the hauler and ensures all inventory, supplies and parts the mechanics might need to keep the 75-year-old planes in peak performance condition are readily available.
For each air show season, Greg logs an average of 60,000 miles behind the wheel. In the off-season, he manages his own home improvement and painting business in Royal Palm, FL.
Greg also assists the maintenance team with ground operations during air shows. His experience as a cross-country driver hauling large and logistically challenging loads prepared him to expertly transport and maneuver the aircraft once on the ground.