FAST Formation Ground School

You’d have to have worked pretty hard this Sunday to beat my Sunday.  I kicked it off with the FAST formation ground school at Detroit City Airport (KDET).

The Formation and Safety Team (FAST) is a worldwide educational organization dedicated to teaching safe formation flying.  FAST is made up of 16 signatory organizations whose mission is to support education in the restoration, maintenance and flight of their members’ aircraft.  FAST does not itself promulgate standards that reach into the cockpits of the individual formation ships.  Signatory organizations take the core FAST materials and customize them to their aircraft-specific missions.

This specific session was hosted by the Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club, a club that operates three of the remaining nine Schweizer SGM 2-37 motorgliders, all surplus from the USAF Academy since 2003.  The club wants to be able to fly the gliders in formation in waivered airspace at airshows, which requires that the pilots have the appropriate FAST cards.  The ground school is the beginning of the process, so they hosted one. [Read more...]

Running Away to Join the Circus – TICO Day 2

It should come as no surprise to you that it’s late and I really don’t have enough time to do a blog post.  I’m encrusted with SPF 30 sunblock, smoke oil, sand, dirt, and various hydrocarbons.  I have step times and radio frequencies written with a Sharpie on my hand and arm.  I smell funky.  But all of the foregoing are entirely consistent with having run away to join the circus.  And that I have truly done this weekend.

I’m working as crew with pilot Mark Sorenson pyro guy James Hammond of Tiger Airshows and The Ringmasters.  As many of you know, these guys put three devices out at show center that create huge back smoke rings that Mark then flies his Yak 55M though.  I spent parts of the show out at show center with James, helping to set up the smoke ring generators and shooting such video and stills as I could while the pyro was going off. [Read more...]

Running Away to Join the Circus – TICO 2012, Day 1

It’s late.  I have to be up early.  But it’s been a great day and I can’t help but write a quick post.

I’m in Titusville, Florida for the next couple of days for the Valiant Air Command TICO Warbird Airshow.  This is my second year attending and I thought I’d use the opportunity to learn a few things by digging even deeper into the airshow culture.

I’m here as crew for Mark Sorenson and Tiger Airshows.  Mark flies a Yak 55M, a single-seat, fully aerobatic Eastern Bloc low-wing monoplane.  His aircraft, “Titus, the Tumbling Tiger,” is painted like a Bengal tiger.  Mark’s Pyro team lights off a concoction of hydrocarbons that creates huge ascending smoke rings that Mark flies around and through.

It’s part of a larger master plan of Mark’s, called The Ringmasters.  A kid-friendly one and two-ship demo that uses circus themes and some of the best ideas from Mark’s observations of countless airshow performers.

I’m putting cameras all over the aircraft.  A frame grab from the rear-facing camera leads this post.  I’ll eventually be putting these together to make a promotional video for Mark.

But the drill is a little more in-depth this time.  I’m embedding with Mark’s crew.  When it comes time for Mark to fly, I’ll be setting the cameras, then I’ll be heading out to show center with the pyro unit to help blow some smoke.  Mostly, I’ll have one of the big fire extinguishers or the little fire extinguisher.  The big fire extinguishers are used to put out grass fires that occasionally result from the use of the smoke ring generator.  The little fire extinguisher is used to put out members of the pyro crew.  The big ones have been used with some frequency.  The little one not so much.  And I aim to keep it that way.

In addition to that, I’ll be shooting such stills and video as I can.  But the idea is to embed for a few days with the crew to see what it’s really like to show up at an airshow and perform.  Genuine scurrying, prop blast, and sunburn with an aircrew tag dangling from my belt.  Show time is early tomorrow, so I’m not going to write much more at this point.  But there’s definitely an episode in all of this!


Airshow Announcer Rob Reider – Audio Episode Show Notes

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here:  Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

Rob Reider is one of the busiest airshow announcers in the country.  Since going full time in 2006, he has announced 135 shows and 2012 is shaping up to be as busy as ever.  We talk about what it takes to be an announcer, what it’s like to be an announcer during peak season, and even what happens when the worst happens.

You can find out more about Rob at his website (or the new website, with link to come) or on Facebook,  or follow him on Twitter.

Links to others about whom we talked . . .

Greg Koontz Airshows
Mike Goulian Airshows
Goodyear Aviation
Whelen Aviation
Sony Creative Software
Sennheiser Pro Audio Equipment
Scheyden Precision Eyewear
USAF Air Combat Command
Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation