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.

Mark and the rest of the Tiger crew are good people to work with.  That’s Mark sitting on the wing and having a little quiet time to concentrate prior to his first flight of the day.  We got into a rhythm today with me setting up the cameras just before Mark gets into the aircraft, and then James and I head over to the other side of the field to run the pyro while Mark flies.  As long as we get some sunny skies tomorrow, we’re going to get some more great footage.

And, speaking of footage, the cameras on the aircraft are really resulting in some great shots.  Especially the in-cockpit cameras.  Here’s an example of Mark on the pull.  You can see the pyro trailer on the right side of the frame.  I’m down there with several cameras and a fire extinguisher, trying to both document and play my crew role.  As you might imagine, James is pretty patient about that, yelling to me if he needs something that he can’t do from the control board.

Have you ever wondered what it looks like when Mark flies through one of the smoke rings?  Here’s a shot that shows you.  When the wind is right and the pyro ignites perfectly, you get a really dramatic ring and and Mark makes the best of it by really nailing them.  The black smoke looks a little sinister, but the white smoke from the Yak’s spoke system provides a pleasing contrast.

And, if the rings provide three-dimensionality from the show line, I’m here to tell you that they make the footage from up in the aircraft really pop.  I can’t wait to stitch this together for the team’s promo video.

Like I said, it’s late and I need some sleep.  So off I go.  Tomorrow’s my last day at the show before heading up to Jekyll Island to go see my folks.  More soon!


About Steve Tupper

Stephen Force is the superhero alter ego of mild-mannered tech and aviation lawyer, commercial pilot (glider, with private privileges in ASEL, ASES, AMEL, IA, and DC-3 (SIC) type-rated), and Civil Air Patrol lieutenant colonel Steve Tupper. Steve writes, records, and brings you the inside story about everything that really matters in aviation. He's flown with the USAF Thunderbirds, he's and airshow performer and air boss, and he's one of only five pilots ever to earn a FAST card in the glider category. Follow Steve's ongoing quest to do all that is cool in aviation at or on Twitter as @StephenForce.

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