Gathering of Eagles – Lost Nation – Saturday

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Yeah, being the narrator is cool.  You get the ears of everyone at the show for 15 minutes each day.  And, if you really rock that mic, you occasionally get asked to pick up another performer and narrate for him or her, too.

It’s also cool to get up and fly the demo liaison and media flights, whether solo or in a formation.  Watching the guy in the next aircraft over work out the camera angles and try to get the right light.  Or watching the face of the guy in your own aircraft when you hand over the controls on a single-ship ride and and let him or her fly over his home town.

The team looks really good up there.  It’s not hard to be impatient about getting to the FAST card checkride.  But then something happens that makes it kind of worthwhile.  You walk across the ramp and see a guy enthusiastically taking pictures of the cockpit of one of your team’s birds.  All of that stuff on the panel is cool as hell and he’s taking shot after shot of it.

And, yeah, that’s the bird that you flew here and the bird that you’re going to fly back.


Gathering of Eagles – Willoughby – Arrival

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I spent the afternoon and part of the early evening packing and then heading to Lost Nation Airport at Willoughby, Ohio for the Gathering of Eagles airshow.  Team Tuskegee is flying the show with its three-ship TG-7A demo.  No T-6G this time.  It’s just the longwings.

I remain without a FAST card and the team’s airshow routine is now all formation all of the time, so I’m here as a ferry pilot and as team narrator.  I flew here, adding another couple of hours, more or less, of stationkeeping and keeping the formation skillset current.  And I’ll fly media or liaison flights as needed.

We’re quickly approaching the point where I think there’ll be a checkride opportunity so that I and the team’s long-suffering FNG (whom I don’t pre-date by much) can get our wingman cards and expand the number of show-capable personnel (and – for that matter – the number of FAST-card-holding glider drivers in the world) to five.

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The demo is really shaping up.  I handed over the controls to John over the Pointes for a run-through before heading to Willoughby and got to see the demo again from the No. 3 ship.  I’ve also flown 2 in three separate demos at higher altitudes for River Days.  So I’m doing everything I can to be show ready.  Probably just in time for the show season to end, but you never know.  And next year isn’t that far off.

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And it’s worth getting the formal formation qualification.  We do so much more in the box in formation and it looks so much more compelling that the old demo.  And the leapfrog landing (in which lead lands first, followed by 2 and 3, each landing over the preceding aircraft) is really compelling.  It looks like snakes mating.  But it’s utterly structured and we’ve gone to great lengths in the briefs and in practice to make it safe.

If you’ll be near Willoughby this weekend, get out to the airshow.  I’ll be wantering the grounds and getting on the mic and I’ll hope to see you there!


The Back of the Yak

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It’s another great day here at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival!  This is my eighth year covering Battle Creek and it’s my favorite airshow.

It’s different this year, as it is with many shows.  Where, in light of sequestration, the shows are even still on this year!  Battle Creek usually has a jet team.  Not so this year.  Thus it’s an interesting year and the civilians are working hard to make the show happen and keep it viable.  Dave Dacy, Dan Buchanan, Firebirds XTreme, Rob Holland, Iron Eagle, Dusty from Planes, and the Shockwave Jet Truck are all here.

The Aerostars are here, too, with their three-ship of Yak 52 TWs.  I connected with them last week and was delighted to learn that they might have an opportunity to let me launch in the back seat of the left wing aircraft.

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I strapped in behind Paul “Rocket” Hornick, the team’s left wing pilot, for a brief flight out east of the Battle Creek airspace.  The sticker in the back is pretty cool.  And it’s on point.  And, judging from the number of Facebook Likes that it received within a few minutes of my posting the picture above, that approach has a lot of traction.

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Paul demonstrated a few light aerobatic maneuvers.  A loop, a half-Cuban, a barrel roll, and some other yanking and banking.  Very smooth demonstrations of coordination.

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Paul was even kind enough to give me the stick for a couple of maneuvers, to-wit barrel rolls.  Nose down for energy to about 190 IAS, pull up to put your feet on the horizon, then take it around.  I even remembered to go to the right (opposite the rotation of the Yak’s propeller).

This was my first time getting inverted this season and my vestibular system objected as it usually does at this time in the season.  That was about it for the ride.  Paul was extremely understanding about it and we headed back in.  After all, the aircraft is going to sit out in the sun all afternoon and then Paul has to fly it this evening and the rest of the weekend.  Not a place in which you want your back seater to hurl.

I have to dash out and gather a couple more interviews, but I had to get this post up.  I’m grateful to the Aerostars for the ride and I can’t wait to edit this down and get it up in the form of an episode.

There’s more information about the Aerostars at