Airshow Ops and a Preview of the 2008 Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival with Barb Haluszka

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We continue the annual tradition of calling up Barb Haluszka, the executive director of the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival.

The show takes place at Battle Creek, Michigan (KBTL). The festivities begin on Wednesday, July 2 this year when the amusement park opens at noon and there’s a scheduled balloon ascent at 6:30 p.m. They start burning avgas and JP-8 in earnest on Friday, July 4 and keep it going for three days with such attractions as the Shockwave Jet Truck, Dacy’s Super Stearman and Wingwalking, Oliver’s DeHavilland Super Chipmunk and Skywriting, Skip Stewart’s Biplane, Herb and Ditto’s Smokin’ T-28, The Aerostars three-ship Yak flight, Bill Stein’s Edge 540, military demonstrations, an F-104, an F-15 demo, a P-51 heritage flight, and The Starfighters F-104 demo team.

And the USAF Thunderbirds are headlining the show!

If you are or were at Sun ‘N Fun this year, you probably heard me doing some of the audio production for Sun ‘N Fun Radio. That took a couple of months of preparation and, although very satisfying, was a lot of work. Today, as we do every year, we talk to someone who really knows the meaning of preparation. Barb Haluszka spearheads all aspects of putting together a major air show and has been running at or near full speed essentially since the 2007 show in preparation for this July.

We caught up with her at her office at the airport to talk about preparations for this year, including her trip to the International Council of Air Shows (or “ICAS”) convention, what goes into selecting performers, interactions with the FAA, and more. Let’s go to the interview.

[Interview audio]

I’ll be at Battle Creek again this year along with photographers and Airspeed team members Tim Reed and Dan McNew and I hope to see you there.

And, if you go to an air show this year, take a moment to think about the preparations that go into them. It may be April out there now but, for many professionals and volunteers, June, July, and August and the rest of the airshow season is just around the corner. Be sure to take a moment to thank every airshow organizer and volunteer you meet!

Check out the show’s website at!

Stay tuned to Airspeed in the coming weeks. Airspeed goes retractable this week as I start my check-out at Flight 101 this week in a Cessna 172RG. Then I’m scheduled to train for my multi-engine rating in a 1957 Apache with Traverse Air at its winter home in Cadillac, Michigan April 19-21. The extended weather forecast for this week looks good for the RG training at Pontiac, but dodgy for Cadillac next weekend. In any case, if I get up, so do you as I plug in the MP3 recorder in the back seat and take you along for the ride.

"Ask Capt Force" No. 1 – How Do You Record Cockpit Audio?

This is a regular blog post. Please browse the other entries if you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio.

Here’s the first in a series of answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs). This time: How do you capture cockpit audio?

I use the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 (the most recent model of which is available from Sweetwater Sound and other places). I select the 1/4″ input with low sensitivity and the levels cranked almost all the day down (to avoid overdriving). An attenuating cable would also work, but I just haven’t gotten around to finding the right one (which would involve a lot of experimentation and, as long as this setup works and it’s not hurting the MicroTrack, I’m good to go). I plug a 1/4″ guitar cable into the intercom in the back seat of the C-172s that I fly and plug the other end into the left side input of the MicroTrack. At the lowest setting (MP3 format, 44.1 KHz and 96 Mbps), I can get 4-5 hours of audio onto a 512MB CF card (well beyond the roughly 2.5-hour battery capacity of the unit if you don’t use external power). The MicroTrack has a mini-USB port, so you can get auxiliary power using lots of devices available on the net or at your local electronics store or drug store.

Frankly, any recording device will work if you can get the 1/4″ intercom to feed into the input of the device. But remember that there’s enough juice there to drive a headset, so you’ll need to turn the sensitivity way down or get an attenuating cable.

Charlie Thompson also has some good commentary in his February 14, 2008 blog post.

There’s a picture above of the MicroTrack (it’s at the lower right in the picture of the back seat of the airplane). There’s video equipment in the shot, too. I put a bullet camera on the dash and had the actual camcorder in the back seat, too. Haven’t done any video on the podcast and am unlikely to, but it was a cool experiment.

If you want to do video, check out The Student Pilot Journal and contact Greg Summers. He’s the best podcaster out there at recording his own cockpit experiences on video. And the audio quality is excellent. Probably better than my audio-only recordings. Will Hawkins of The Pilot’s Flight Podlog is an excellent videographer and editor and would be a great resource, but he doesn’t currently post video of himself in the cockpit.

The MicroTrack is also very useful outside the cockpit. Here, I’m interviewing USN LtCdr Craig Olson, the Opposing Solo of the USN Blue Angels on the ramp at Battle Creek.

And here I’m interviewing Viper East commander and F-16 demo pilot USAF Maj Jason Koltes at the same event.

Here’s a shot of my remote production setup. The MicroTrack plugs directly into the USB port of my laptop and acts just like any other outboard storage device, so I can bring the audio into Audacity and edit it right there at Starbucks. I had the interview with Maj Koltes posted within an hour of sitting down at Starbucks.

Hope all of this is helpful. Enjoy!