Red Baron Squadron

Red Baron Squadron Logo Patch

The Red Baron Squadron was the USA civil aerobatic display team founded in 1979 at the Southwest Minnesota Regional Airport in Marshall.

The Red Barons were owned by Schwans Foods of Marshall, MN, and flew to promote the Red Baron brand of pizza and they also raised money for children's charities. The team flew four Boeing Stearman bi-planes painted in white-red livery, built between 1938 and 1943, when they were used as a primary trainer for both the Navy and Army Air Force. The Red Baron Squadron had upgraded their Stearmans with Wasp-Junior engines that put out 450 horsepower, almost double the power of early Stearmans, and an inverted oil system that allows them to fly upside-down.

The Red Baron Squadron suffered a catastrophic accident on April 19, 1998 in Kissimmee, FL, resulting in the deaths of two pilots that had a combined total of 14,000 hours in the air. While performing a maneuver described as a half figure eight, ending with an upright roll from the inverted position at 2,100 feet and a 500-foot dive ending with a looping climb in a diamond formation, the lead airplane and left wingman started pulling up out of the dive to initiate the diamond loop formation, when the slot airplane continued to descend, and collided with the left wingman. The slot airplane flying by James Edward "Sonny" Lovelace going onto Left Wing plane flying by Randall L. Drake, locking both airplanes wings and plummeted 1,600 feet in a death spiral and crashed at 11:24 a.m. The other two pilots of the Squadron, John Bowman and Bryan Regan, landed safely. The case of the crash probably was the heavy wind of 35mph during that airshow, or a mechanical failure.

On June 29, 1999 the Red Baron Squadron lost their pilot Marv Randall in a fatal accident. The team Stearmans were being ferried from Portland Oregon to St. Louis Missouri airshow sites. After stopping in Cheyenne Wyoming to refuel, the planes departed on the next leg of their flight. Randall was flying tail position in the four plane formation, and didn't indicate any problems in radio contact with the other pilots. About two minutes after the last radio contact, the number three pilot noticed Randall was gone, and the remaining three planes reversed course. The plane was found crashed in a wheat field a few minutes later.

According to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident report, the plane hit the ground at full power, indicating that the pilot may have been incapacitated prior to the accident.

On Dec. 3, the Schwan Food Company announced it was refocusing its marketing program because of changes in the retail grocery market and discontinuing its Red Baron® Pizza Squadron. So the team was disbanded and after an year the planes and support equipment of the Red Baron Squadron were sold at auction.