Airspeed Video Episode – Spins with Barry

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It’s time for another video episode!

I wanted to go up with Barry to do some acro to condition for the T-38 ride that happened on the 13th. Unfortunately, the Super D is no longer on the line at Oakland Flight Academy for financial reasons, which leaves only the Citabria. And the Citabria, not having a constant-speed prop, is limited to spins as far as acro goes. (And, even if we flew it fully acro, we’d be limited to positive-G maneuvers anyway.)

No problem. Spins are plenty fine to stimulate my vestibular system.

And, as long as I’m flying, it make sense to take along some cameras, if only to shoot B-roll for Acro Camp. This time, I took up a three-camera system so that I could show not only the view of the cockpit but the control inputs and an unobstructed view of what’s ahead of the airplane.

And it was a chance to try out the Multiclip functionality in Final Cut Pro, which is perfect for this kind of parallel-track editing (three cameras and an audio channel).

Like it says in the intro. DO try this at home. It could safe your life. Or at least improve your confidence in dealing with unusual attitudes. But be sure to do it in a duly certified airplane with a qualified instructor and in compliance with all of the regs.

More Frame Grabs from the T-38 Ride Video

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I just received a couple of DVDs from Jo Hunter containing offloads of the video that she shot at Beale AFB during the T-38 ride. Lots of her video is going to be useful in places in the episode. The shot above is an additional angle. The primary angle is handled by the camera that you see on the left edge of the frame.
Here’s a shot of the altimeter/mach meter at our peak speed (on the way from the coast back to the MOA to go do some acro). Approx. 520 KIAS and Mach 0.94. Yeah, baby! New personal best for me. But don’t think that I wasn’t eyeing that “1.0″ longingly.
How much more Top Gun can you get? Runway shimmer! I’m in the aircraft on the right facing away from the camera. The aircraft on the left departed a few moments before we did.
Can’t resist giving the thumbs-up after the ride. Jo caught this one on video, but I’ll bet that she has a good still of it as well.
Here’s a shot with the hand-held camera in the back of the aircraft. It shows the ContourHDs mounted up front in my cockpit – one looking forward and the other looking at the aircraft’s 9 o’clock. The view from the front-facing camera is great for capturing the forward view, but only captures the top of LtCol MacLeod’s head. Good for forward visibility but, if I had it to do over again, I’d probably aim the camera down about 15 degrees to capture the front cockpit. No worries, though! It’s going to be a really good episode!

Post-Production Begins on T-38 Episode

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The adrenaline rush from the T-38 ride at Beale has subsided just enough that I can sit down and begin to rationally inventory the content that we captured on the trip. I spent part of this afternoon going through some of Mark LaCoste’s still pictures. While Mark was primarily handling video, he also shot some really good stills.

I flew four cameras on the sortie – three mounted and one hand-held. Here, I’m mounting a couple of ContourHDs. You can see the GoPro HD Hero through the glass just opposite where my belt buckle would be if I was wearing a belt. I had given a lot of thought beforehand about where to mount the cameras, so the mounting and setting took only about five minutes. The crew chief was really helpful, too, in selecting where to put the hardware.

Here, LtCol Gary MacLeod finished checking out my harness and making sore that nothing in the back cockpit becomes FOD. (Yeah, you pay close attention that. You do engine start and taxi with the canopies open for ventilation. The intakes are just abeam the rear cockpit and anything loose in that cockpit will instantly be ingested into the engines. Which would matter greatly even if the engine weren’t 50-odd years old. And, even though they’ve been overhuled many times, they’re – well – 50 years old.

Getting ready to go. I’m setting up the audio recorder.

I’m really excited about this episode. Can you tell? Contrary to prior practice, I think I have enough video – and it’s strong enough stuff – that I think this is going to be an all-video treatment. I’ll likely do an audio treatment as well on some of the more meta aspects of the flight, but this feels like a video thing. More soon as I get the rest of the inventory done and start writing the script and figuring out what other on-camera narrative input I need to film here in Michigan.

Vectren Dayton Airshow 2010 – Saturday

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I spent yesterday at the first show day of the Vectren Dayton Airshow. Probably the largest show I’ll hit this year other than Oshkosh. Really well laid out and very nice facilities for media. I’m grateful to the organizers for the access that made this a great first experience at Dayton.

As usual, I get pulled in many different directions at these things. In the best way. To a large extent, what I see from the crowd line has more to do with what other opportunities I’m covering on the field. It might take five or six shows before I get to see all of the performers that performed at any given show site. But that’s okay.

This was my first time seeing Kyle and Amanda Franklin’s wing walking act. I’ve said before that I’m not so into wing-walking. I appreciate the difficulty and skill, but – as always – my thing is chasing things that I’d like to do. I’d love to go fly that beautiful Waco JMF-7 Mystery Ship. But firmly strapped into the cockpit and cranking it around a bit.

They say that people watch NASCAR or airshows or whatever for one of two reasons: To witness the skill and performance or to see a crash or other tragedy. I’m very much about the former interest. I harbor the view that wing walking caters to the latter interest. Am I a bad airshow fan for thinking that? Am I a wuss for being conflicted about it? Would Kyle or Amanda take umbrage? (They are, by all accounts, wonderful folks and I’d sure hate to give the least offense.)

And there’s beauty in that solitary figure on top of the wing challenging the wind blast. I know it’s a team (somebody has to fly the airplane), but the image that gets me is the strange combination of vulnerability and strength in that image. I rarely blow up images that I take at airshows and hang them up in my office. But one of the images for which I’ve done that is a shot of Theresa Stokes atop Gene Soucy’s Show Cat from Selfridge three years ago. It’s really dramatic in a way that doesn’t happen with other acts. Maybe it’s that you can see the performer from head to toe. The performer is not the airplane, as is the case with the other aerobatic acts. Maybe that’s why I like Greg Koontz’s act so much. In the Clem Cleaver act, you get to see Greg out there with the airplane and he flies low with the door off, so you actually get a sense of the man as well as the machine.

Anyway, above is the best of the images of Kyle and Amanda that I was able to capture. I’m not the guy with the long lens (I shoot with a Costco special from Nikon that came with a reasonably capable 200mm zoom), so there’s a fair amount of cropping involved, but I’m pleased with this one. And it evokes that vulnerable, yet defiant thing.

Capt Ryan Corrigan of the Viper East Demo Team put the F-16 through its paces. Really nice display. And the humidity was just about right so that it wasn’t too hazy to shoot, yet the aircraft created excellent vapor on the wings when pulling Gs (which was most of the time).

The show hosted two B-17s. This is the Commemorative Air Force’s B-17F, Sentimental Journey. She has been everything from a bomber in the Pacific theatre to a photo reconnaissance platform to a fire fighting platform. The CAF Arizona Wing acquired the aircraft in 1979 and has been operating it since then.

What’s better than a C-130? An aerobatic C-130 flown by steely-eyed and slightly crazy Marines. The days of JATO launches are over, but I can’t seem to get bothered by that. It’s just stinking majestic to see this bird fly and be as nimble as it is, notwithstanding its 76,000-lb (empty) weight. Plus, a Fat Albert pass is an opportunity for us guys with the shorter lenses to actually get a better shot than the long-lensed shooters. Although I was kind of jealous of one guy who actually got the face of the rider up in the dome on top of the aircraft.

This is also the first time in years that I was close enough to the Blues to be able to see them step. In a very real sense, the demo begins a good 15 minutes prior to takeoff. They do the precision step even though 99% of the crowd can’t see it, and even when they stage across the field and almost no one can see it.

I often talk about stomping the ramp or doing the Haka prior to a flight. The Haka part is mainly in jest. (But only mainly.) But a preflight routine of almost any kind focuses you and serves as the thing that separates two-dimensional activities from the impending three-dimensional activities. And that’s a good thing. You’re about to go do something completely divergent from what our species is used to. You’re about to go and fly on behalf of those homo sapiens who lived during the 200,000 years prior to aviation. It’s serious business and it sends a chill up my spine every time. Maybe the Haka isn’t such a bad idea. Say on the ramp at KBAK for NESA MAS next year?

I also interviewed Maj Luke “Supa” Fricke, a T-38 IP from the 560th Flying Training Sqn, 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph AFB near San Antonio, Texas. He’s an IP in the T-38C who makes other IPs for a living. He started out in the T-37 Tweet and then moved to the T-38 for advanced training. He then did a stint as a T-38 first-assignment instructor pilot (“FAIP”) before going on to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II (the iconic “Warthog”) for 13 years before heading to Randolph to train instructors in the T-38C.

I’m going to use the footage to supplement the T-38 ride footage from the Beale AFB flight last week. We weren’t able to do a planeside interview at Beale because of the amount of noise on the ramp (not a bad thing, mind you – I adore that kind of noise). So the planeside footage of Maj Fricke will go nicely with the episode. I also got some beauty shots of the airframe to drop into the episode at strategic moments.

Maj Fricke did a great job in the interview. He was nearly perfect at working each question into his answer so none of my voice had to be in the interview. He also did a great job of stopping and restarting at logical points when the AeroShell T-6s drowned him out momentarily. (Note the T-6 smoke arc behind him in this frame grab, which was unplanned but kind of cool.) I’m guessing that he’s done this before. I hope his PAO knows what a great ambassador he or she has in Supa.

So now it’s back to the grindstone for a week and a half until Oshkosh. I’m planning to leave southeast Michigan at oh-dark-thirty the morning of Wednesday 28 July and hit the American Champion factory on the way to OSH. FOD and I should make it there late afternoon and then be on the grounds through Saturday mid-day. I’ll tweet the lat-long for Firebase Airspeed as soon as we get settled in. See you there!

Vectren Dayton Airshow 2010 – Media Day

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio, they’re here on the site, just in the other posts.

I spent the day at the Vectren Dayton Airshow here in Dayton, Ohio, where, in addition to hitting the show, I’m visiting my college roommate, Jim Davis.

This is my first year hitting Dayton. I can tell you already that I like the layout and the media situation and I’m looking forward to getting out on the grounds tomorrow to see the show in full swing. The Blue Angels are headlining and I got to see the team’s practice demo. It seems to be a little longer than I remember and it has several elements that are different from last year.

I spend the early afternoon getting a ride in Flagship Detroit, the oldest fully-restored DC-3 flying today (SN 45, delivered to American Airlines in 1937.). This ‘three is owned and operated by the Flagship Detroit Foundation.

Lewis Drake and John Thatcher took Jim, me, and about a dozen other media reps out for about 0.6 to demonstrate the airplane. I flew a couple of video cameras, but the footage didn’t work very well. I mounted the Hero up on the top rear of the cockpit and a ContourHD on the flight engineer’s table. As I sat in the back looking up into the cockpit, I realized that that placement wasn’t working well, largely because the guy at the flight engineer’s seat kept lifting his still camera up directly in front of the Hero and shooting. And there was the parade of other media folks in front of the camera.

No biggie, though. I got several sequences that I’ll likely be able to use in a later episode. And I plugged in the audio recorder and captured the intercom and ATC chatter. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to listen to the audio. But I explained to Lewis what the audio recorder was as I was de-installing it from the rear headset jack. And he said something to the effect of “Oh! Did you get the landing?” Which leads me to believe that there might be some fun stuff on the tape, both there and elsewhere. Lewis was enthusiastic and fun to be around. I can’t wait to audition that audio. I might do it on the drive home.

I’m always conflicted about riding in a DC-3 or a C-47. Clearly, I love the airframe or I wouldn’t have gone all the way to Griffin and done a type rating training course in it. But I got the type rating to fly it, after all. I think I was a good passenger despite myself. As often as I make the joke about the pilots having the fish and being called upon to dash to the cockpit to land the airplane, this is one airliner that I know I can actually land. And that makes it weird somehow.

Dan Gryder’s Herpa DC-3 was perfectly serviceable and hat its own gritty freight-dog appeal. I heard Dan say in an interview once on the 25 Zulu Show that N143D greasy and oily and he kept trying to talk people out of coming to train in it, but that they kept showing up to fly it. Yeah, I’m one of those guys. And I’m (and many others are) good with that.

Flagship Detroit, on the other hand is pristine. The cockpit is clean and shiny. New(er) gages and dials and a clean panel. The Spirit harkens to a different line of history that the same airframe serves. This is the airplane that made air travel more common, even if not commonplace. It’s a different vibe. Neither better nor worse. Just different. And, for the record, I’d happily fly either of them tomorrow. Or right now, for that matter. Heck, I’m tailwheel current . . .

Randolph AFB sent a couple of T-38Cs to the show and they were flying earlier in the day. There are a couple of Vipers on the ramp, too. I met the pilots. And, of course, there’s a T-6A.

Airshows are becoming reunions of my dreams. Nodes of convergence by the gossamer functions that are these aircraft – these things that I first grew to love here on the tarmac and then pursued. Perhaps you’ve heard the line about the dog that chases cars and about what a dog like that would do if he actually caught one. In some sense, I’m that dog. And I’ve caught a few cars.

Walking around the ramp on a day like today is an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate I’ve been to experience these aircraft, how hard I need to work to come up with a great episode for the T-38 ride to justify the trust that the Air Force placed in me, and the vast chasm between my abilities and the abilities of those pilots who regularly fly these aircraft.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I’m visiting Jim (“Gumby”) Davis, who’s a senior desk editor at the Troy Daily News. Gumby and I roomed together for the last two and a half years that I went to Albion College. We were on 2nd East Seaton 1986-87 and then roommates in the Delt Sig house 1987-88. We spent many a sleepless night studying (or not) and once came within two hours of breaking the Delt Sig stay-awake record of 70 straight hours. Many an excellent memory is being re-lived and the deepest, darkest corners of my iPod are being plumbed for obscure stuff that I couldn’t fathom why was there until a few hours ago.

We’re hitting the show again tomorrow to see what we can see. In the meantime, though, we’re heading out for some food and a beer or three.