Airspeed Announces Casting Call for Acro Camp 2 – Audio Episode Show Notes

These are the show notes for an audio episode. You can listen by subscribing to Airspeed though iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen right here by clicking: Either way, it’s all free!

In May of 2010, four pilots from around the country gathered in southeast Michigan at my home airport. Two men and two women. Experience ranging from 300 hours to 12,000 hours. A lawyer and Air Force officer with a brand new commercial certificate. A psychologist with a CFI ticket. A furloughed NetJets pilot who runs a nonprofit. And an airline driver with type ratings in lots of heavy iron.

As different as different can be. But they all had a few things in common.

None had a tailwheel endorsement. And none had ever flown aerobatics.

Lined up on the ramp when they arrived were a Citabria, a Super Decathlon, and a Pitts S-2B. And two talented instructors who had cleared their schedules for the next four days. And a camera crew made up pilots and aviation enthusiasts with deserved reputations for translating the thrill of flight into digital adrenaline for thousands of the flying faithful.

You know what happened next.

At some point, you quit wondering, climb over the fence, and go find out. [Read more...]

Blues, Blue Ridge, and the Commercial Checkride Looms

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes for audio and video episodes, you’ve come to the right place! Just scroll around and you’ll find ‘em!
I’m almost decompressed from the weekend. Saturday at Indy, I was invited to head over to Indianapolis International for an interview with CDR Dave Koss, Boss of the Blue Angels. They had lined up an F-4U Corsair, an FM-2 Wildcat, and an F/A-18D Hornet (Blue Angel jet No. 7) on the ramp as a backdrop highlighting the Centennial of Naval Aviation (“CONA” for short).
I did my best to ask some nonstandard questions, but Boss is both well-prepared and enthusiastic. I asked him how all of the aircraft behind him were . . . wait for it . . . the same. He didn’t skip a beat. “The Naval Aviators who fly them.” And he’s dead right.
It was a short interview because it was raining and the Wildcat and Corsair had to beat feet back to indianapolis Regional (KMQJ), where they were on static display. But it turned into a really good three or four minutes that I’ll likely edit into an episode for the show. I might also try to grab a piece of it to use in Acro Camp.

The remainder of the weekend was also pretty epic. I got home around 0400 local on Sunday morning. After a reasonably full day of domestic bliss, I met up with Don Weaver at Pontiac (KPTK) and proceeded to knock out my long commercial cross-country by repositioning a Cirrus SR22 (N711CG) from Pontiac Raleigh-Durham (KRDU) via Mansfield, Ohio (KMFD) and Upshur County, West Virginia (W22).
We were inside the eggshell from about 1,200 AGL off of KPTK all the way to KMFD. We shot the ILS to 300 feet in actual with a stiff crosswind from the right. Later, we broke out of the clag and had some fun poking through fat, ragged cumulus piles most of the way to W22. We cancelled IFR and landed at W22 for gas.
It looked as though we’d be able to stay above the mountain ridges and below the clouds the rest of the way to KRDU, so we departed W22 VFR and had an amazing time navigating through the valleys and over the ridges using a sectional. The peaks were around 4,000 MSL and the clouds varied from 4,500 to 6,000. Plenty of room to stay legal both above and below. But it’s the kind of flying that makes you really work on your SA and keep all of the back doors available in case you round a corner and find out that the next cloud and the next peak are in contact.
We landed at KRDU and buttoned up the airplane. Then we did an almost equally epic 13-hour dash back to KPTK in a rental car. We traded driving duties and whoever was the PND took on DJ duties, digging into the deepest depths of his iPod to introduce the PD to the best of the best in music and motor skills. Don went out and immediately bought Chris Thile’s Not All Who Wander Are Lost after we returned, so I was reasonably successful in my PND shifts.
Now it’s back to the grind. Lots of interesting clients with interesting work. But I also have only a 100nm night cross-country to go in the aeronautical experience department to go, then it’s polish the maneuvers, get the written out of the way, and I’ll be ready to take the commercial checkride.
Back to the trenches! Ttere’s a movie to edit and Battle Creek is only a few weeks away!

Indy 2011: Day 2

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The Airspeed crew vehicle likes to think of itself as Blue Angel Zero. There she is, parked next to CDR David Koss’s No. 1 ship. Waiting for the crew to top up her smoke oil for tomorrow’s demo.

Day 2 (Saturday) at Indy is complete. Worries about the weather were worth having, but – at the end of the day – not worth getting bunched up over. Ceilings started out high and gradually came down. The Blues flew a low or flat show, which was fine with me because I was on my way out to Indianapolis International to catch a photo op with CDR Koss and the pilots of two WWII-era predecessors of the F/A-18C. I opened up the sun roof so I could hear the jet noise better.

The shoot went well and I got a three-minute piece that I might release as an ultra-short video episode.

I love Dave Dacy’s big, honking 500-hp Super Stearman. It’s clean, it’s white, and it’s round. It makes the right noices. You can attach a human speed brake to the top wing. What more do you really need?

I hooked up with the Heavy Metal Jet Team in the late morning and got interviews with Snort and Slick for Acro Camp. The interviews look very crisp in HD. And they should. As long as the light doesn’t completely stink. you have an airplae that the team has gone to the trouble to paint with large areas of the three most useful background colors. Don’t like how the frame looks? Not popping? Take two steps to the left and you have a completely different contrast proposition. Three to choose from. No waiting.

Both Slick and Snort are very, very well-spoken. Great answers to the questions and a sincerity that you can’t fake. Having interviewed about a dozen airshow performers for the movie, I have begun hearing substantially the same answer from multiple performers to the same question. It’s to be expected. There’s probably a limited universe of answers to the same core four or five questions. But both Snort and Slick had new, different, and dead-nuts-on things to say. I had to remember that I was asking questions and not just sitting in my living room watching the movie.

I’m writing this at a Steak n Shake a couple of miles from Indianapolis International. I just offloaded the day’s still pictures from the camera and sent a couple off to the media folks at the airshow. Now it’s back on the road for Michigan. There’s an SR22 at Pontiac that needs to get to the Carolinas and Don Weaver and I are just the guys to take it there!

Indy 2011: Friday – Part 2 – A Ride on Fat Albert Airlines

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The Blue Angels are back again at the Indy Airshow. And that means that the ubiquitous blue and gold C-130, Fat Albert, is on the field supporting the Blues and thrilling spectators. And fanboys like me.
Fat Albert is operated by an all-Marine aircrew. I had the opportunity once again to ride on Fat Albert. The first time (2009) was great. But I learned a few things that allowed me to prepare much better for this ride.
For one thing, I showed up with five cameras. Four were small clampable models (two GoPro HD HEROes and two ContourHDs) and the fifth was the trusty Panasonic for handheld use. I checked in with GySgt Ben Chapman when we arrived at the aircraft staging area and he was kind enough to point out some good mount points. Two in the cockpit and two in the back.
The best footage is from the cockpit camera, a frame grab from which appears at the beginning of this post. There’s a fair amount of vibration, but what mount in a C-130 doesn’t vibrate when you’re yanking and banking as much as this one did during the demo? Have you ever wondered what it looks like in the cockpit during the demo? Yep, that’s GySgt Chapman floating at the top of the climb-out as Capt Edward Jorge pushes the yoke full forward after a 45-degree initial ascent.

I sat further aft than last time and I’m glad I did. The guys in the back do this all the time and are pretty good at knowing the flight profile and when they’re going to be at zero-G. And taking advantage of it. The shot above is not photoshopped. It’s the real deal. I got it from my seat with the hand-held. He has a good grip on the ladder and the ladder is firmly secured to the cargo deck. But it’s still pretty dramatic-looking.

The main camera for the rear compartment was up on the front bulkhead looking back. It’s rock-solid and doesn’t vibrate. I’ll pull some frame grabs from that one and post them soon.

And, because all of the cameras ran the entire time, I’m going to synch them up so that the video episode is able to cut among the camera angles to giver you a pretty good idea of what it’s like to be among the pax on Fat Albert Airlines.
Thanks much to the crew of Fat Albert and to the Blue Angels! Watch for the video episode coming soon!

Indy 2011: Friday – Part 1

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Yeah, it’s my favorite time of year again. I’m a little blue as I find myself in mid-May and not out at the Aviation Station shooting a movie. I miss my Acro Camp crew more than I thought I might. But there’s nothing like an airshow to take the edge off of that particular blueness.
Indy is one of my favorite shows. This is my third year covering it. It’s at Indiana Regional Airport (formerly Mount Comfort) (KMQJ), which has excellent surroundings that offer performance lines that can accommodate almost anything you’d want to fly in the airspace. It’s reasonably accessible. Firebase Airspeed this year is at the Super 8 in Greefield, which is only a few miles to the east. But for the construction on the main highway that has things down to one lane for much of the going, it’s easy access. And I’m getting to the show around 0700 each morning, so it’s no big deal for me.
I spent most of the day shooting cameo interviews for Acro Camp. I re-shot the Billy Werth interview that I did last year (the audio was unusable) and added fellow Red Eagle Dan McClung, hang glider pilot Dan Buchanan, Super Stearman pilot Dave Dacy, and wingwalker Tony Kazian.
And I shot as much of the practice flying as I could. Most notable was Billy and Dave Werth’s Sibling Rivalry demo. Billy flies a Pitts S-2C (in which I’ve flown with him) and Dave rides a ridiculously powerful motorcycle. The act initially involved racing down the runway. But it has evolved since then.
Billy and Dave are now doing a lot of formation performing. In the lead shot to this entry, Billy heads down the runway and Dave reaches up and grabs the wing. And today, for the first time that anyone can think of, Billy flew inverted ahead of Dave and Dave was able to grab the tail of the Pitts. Pretty precise stuff on the part of both pilot and rider!

The Viper West F-16 Demo Team tore it up very nicely. Although ti wasn’t terribly hot, it was pretty humid. And that meant huge blankets of moisture cascading over the wings of the Viper at almost any positive angle of attack. The sky was pretty gray and the circumstances weren’t great for shooting either video or stills. And, let’s face it, I mostly do audio or close-up video. But the 200mm Nikon rig yields up competent images from time to time. The above wasn’t the best representation of the Viper that I’ve ever captured, but you can see the burner and there are huge clouds on the wings. Good enough for me!
Capt Garrett Dover cranked the aircraft around very convincingly. The tight-turning capability of the aircraft continues to amaze me. It just rolls over and cranks around at +9G for a full circle. You’re always sure that the Viper is going to bust the 1,500-foot line coming back around, but it never does. That’s just unbelievable pull!

I’m still chasing the Heavy Metal Jet Team for a couple of planeside interviews for Acro Camp and the podcast. I was close to Jive and Rook during the briefing in the morning, but had to leave early to interview Billy, then lost them. Heavy Metal does a lot for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and I understand that the team was engaged in taking care of some commitments along those lines. That’s fine. I still have tomorrow before heading back to Michigan.
I’m planning to ferry a Cirrus SR-22 from Pontiac down to the Carolinas for maintenance on Sunday and then drive back to Michigan on Monday. Then back to the office and my mild-mannered lawyer alter-ego until the next show. But, until then, it’s freshly-mown grass and the smell of 100LL and JP-8!