Airspeed Hits a Million

Airspeed MillionAs Airspeed has swung into a higher operational tempo with the recent River Days airshow episodes, I’ve had more frequent occasion to be logged into Libsyn, uploading and managing the episodes. And a funny thing happened. The odometer on downloads passed 1,000,000.

Airspeed moved to Libsyn during the second year of the show’s production.  And many episodes are served through other providers, so the real number is likely larger.  And a million is really just an arbitrary number.  But a million is a million and deserves at least this modest note.

I realize that there are shows that get that kind of exposure in weeks or months. But that’s okay. Airspeed isn’t for everyone. The show goes really deep and follows the passions of those who love to fly fast, slow, and upside down and want to understand how it’s done.  And, based on the people who flag me down or comment on the show, it reaches the people I most want to reach. Influencers, thought leaders, and  dreamers.  I couldn’t ask for a better audience. I’m talking to the people about whom I most care.

Thanks for listening and watching. There’s more where that came from!


CFI Endorsement Day

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I spent a couple of hours on Thursday in the skies over Ionia in the mighty SGS 2-33A with Lee Larder. Seven flights. I think that I’m becoming comfortable in the back seat. It’s a constant struggle to keep the tow plane above the cowl on the climb (especially when the tow plane hits sink and tries to disappear), but I’m not going to add a cushion to the seat now because I’d have to get used to a new sight picture and new muscle and inertial memory. And, as much easier as the whole thing is in the front seat, I don’t think I’d fly the ride from the front even if I had the option.

Still, I’m constantly put in mind of the Mike Meyers bit from So I Married an Axe Murderer:

We started with a tow to 2,500 to demonstrate all of the high airwork. Naturally, the dive brakes became jammed with a mixture of ice and extraterrestrial fauna, so I flew it sideways to that landing, happy with my slip and the control on the roll-out.

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Next came what I had in mind for most of the flights of the day. I’ve long been a little worried about my ability to land the glider precisely. It’s always reasonably safe, but it doesn’t always come to rest on the runway where I want it to. So we did five pattern tows to try to dial in the precision of my landings. We set up a pair of cones along the runway edge about 400 feet apart, with the idea of touching down after the first one, but coming to a stop before the second one.

The first touchdown was a little short and the second one rolled out a little long, but I was generally happy with things. I had been avoiding slamming on wheel brake out of some aesthetic sense, but Lee suggested that I throw elegance to the wind if it looked like I had too much energy in the rollout. After all, it’s an emergency maneuver and you should expect a little brute force. And, as long as the wingtips are well off the ground and you don’t have a substantial side load, there’s little chance of a ground loop. So, if the second cone appears to be advancing too quickly, I’m going to be full-on the wheel brake and I can also let the stick come forward to dump a little more weight on the skid to get it stopped.

Otherwise, I’m doing things like a real CFI candidate. Get stabilized at 60 mph in the middle of the approach cone with half to three-quarters dive brakes. Get that aim point 200 feet short of the first cone (and on the other side of Lee’s head) to hold still in the windshield. Then flare and use the rest of the dive brakes once I have the first cone made. Then throw out the anchor and hope really hard.

The last flight was a 180 abort from 200 AGL. Lee pulled the clown nose at or above 200 AGL (and after my callout) and I know that the altimeter was correct, but we sure looked low at the 135-degree point in the turn back. As a TG-7A driver, I push pretty hard and pretty long for airspeed on a 180 abort because the TG-7A is a draggy beast that loses energy prodigiously when the thrust quits. The 2033A soesn’t slow down as quickly, so waited too long to bank for the turn. I need to get the turn going sooner next time. But we made it back with no problem and I even managed to retain the right amount of energy to get it back to the start point and even taxied off to the side using rudder so there wasn’t as far to push back.

CFI 2015-05-28 03At the conclusion of flying, Lee and I went through the items I missed on the FOI and FIG knowledge tests, then he signed me off. My IACRA application had already been in for a day, so I gave him the application number and FRN so that he could approve it. And I left with all of the required endorsements in my logboog.

So it’s on the the ride!  With CAP NLOC in Atlanta coming up June 10-14 and the River Days airshow June 19-21, I’m probably going to have to do the ride this coming week or push it until after the airshow. And, if I push it, I’ll probably fly one more time with Lee before the ride. I called Carol Dehnbostl (an FIE in the West Michigan FSDO and one of the main reasons that I went to Ionia to train) and I expect to hear back from her on Monday.


Audio Episode Show Notes: River Days Airshow – Part 3 – Fast Footwork

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio here:

Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

This is the third installment of the series that covers – in near-realtime – the events leading up to the GM Detroit River Days Airshow on the Detroit River 20-21 June 2015.  As before, David Allen of Other People’s Airplanes has taken the mic and is running the show in order to keep things moving.

In this installment, our heroes announce performers and deal with riverboats, timing changes, weather planning, and other exciting stuff.

If you’re following along at home, the lead image shows the new box configuration and the image below shows the former box for comparison.  We had to push everything back by a distance equivalent to the beam of a riverboat (62 feet), which squeezed the west end of the box down to 520 feet.  The good news is that we just abandoned the rectangular shape of the box and pushed the back of the box all the way to the Canadian border.  The border does not run parallel to the US shore, but rather dives a couple of degrees south.  Thus, the east end of the box is now 780 feet wide.  And the other good news is that the crowd is concentrated toward that end of the box.

River Days 03 Old Box

It also requires some fancy footwork to coordinate with the riverboat and the other large charter traffic on the river to assure that we’ll have a sterile area.

River Days 03 Datum

Here’s another shot that appears in the supplementary materials for the waiver.  You can see the riverboat over there on the right-hand side of the picture and the datum line that we’re using for the whole shore.  The datum is at least 70 feet from shore at all points and the CAT III line (the closest approach of performing aircraft) is 510 feet out from there.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.42.06 AMIf you really want to go inside baseball, you can see a copy of the waiver by clicking the image above.

Stay tuned.  There’ll likely be at least one more episode before the show itself.  In the meantime, you can see the River Days event page for the airshow here.  Thanks to Brad “Launchpad” Marzari for his questions submitted through Facebook.


Airspeed Contest – Shoot the Boomer

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Here’s a contest for all of you long-lens types.  You know who you are. You’re there in the photo pit at the airshow with a Howitzer-sized lens, shooting pictures of the airplanes and shouting “Vapes! Nice Vapes!”

Long ago, I heard from my friend Liza Eckardt of Fence Check about a strange and wonderful custom:  The “watch pass.”  Airshow pilots, and particularly Navy demo aviators would hold up their left fists on a right-to-left banana pass in front of the crowd so that their watches were visible through the canopy. The long-lensers would try to get a picture that showed the time on the pilot’s watch.  Naval aviators are known for wearing particularly large watches, but this is still a challenge.  Mark Sorenson of Tiger Airshows did this a few times and some of the pictures that resulted were pretty good.

Knowing Phil “Mongrel” Landram and other current and former boom operators as well as I do, I realized that they don’t get the love that the fighter drivers do.  And some of them even have heads bigger than a Naval aviator’s watch.  So I came up with a little contest.

The first photographer to send in a recognizable picture of a boom operator’s face gets USD 100 of Airspeed’s cash.  Here are the rules.

  • The picture must be shot during the 2015 airshow season (through November 30, 2015).
  • The picture must be shot at a US airshow during the practice or an airshow performance.
  • The show site must have FAA-approved box dimensions.  No special mil boxes.  The usual crowd standoff has to be in place and you have to be on the crowd area.
  • The boom operator must be at the boom position of a KC-135 and the view of the boomer must be through the boom operator’s window.
  • The aircraft must be in flight with the boom deployed.
  • The picture must have been shot from the ground and from the crowd line (photo pit okay, but shots from the pyro position or otherwise on the box side of the crowd line are not eligible).
  • The picture must show the recognizable face of the boom operator.
  • The winner must be eligible to receive the prize money in his/her country of residence (no remittances to Yemen, please).
  • Cropping and processing are okay, but only to isolate the boom operator’s face and/or bring out detail.  You can’t add detail.
  • You cant do unsafe things to get the shot.
  • You can’t break any law, FAA waiver restriction, or other rule in getting the shot.
  • This is supposed to be fun.  Don’t make it not fun.
  • Wheaton’s Law applies.

Airspeed’s editorial staff is the final judge of the qualification of the picture and the photographer and any construction of the rules.  We are horribly arbitrary and capricious, so be forewarned.  Contact us at with your picture.  You can attach it or send a link to where we can see the picture.  By entering, you give your permission to publish the winning shot and to identify you as the photographer.

Thanks to Kevin Hauswirth for the KC-135 image above to get everyone’s creative juices flowing.


More CFI Training – Focusing on the Fine Points

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Another session in the mighty Schweizer SGS 2-33A Absteigend Reibungmaschine. Two flights this time.  The first was a basic flight with wake-boxing, slack line, some thermaling, and an interesting landing abeam lots of other waiting gliders.  The second flight was a lot longer and involved a lot more thermaling and then the PTS airwork on the way back down.  The track from the first flight is reproduced below.  I apparently ham-handed the iPad on the second flight and didn’t capture the track log.  Bummer, because we maneuvered a lot and that would have been cool to see.

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It was a really good day for soaring.  Lots of bumps on tow, but lots of thermals as well.  A generally cool day through the whole relevant range of the atmosphere, but clear skies allowed the sun to heat the surrounding area unevenly and it was sporty.  Lots of non-school gliders lined up to get towed. The nice thing about training at Benz Aviation is that the tow operation belongs to the school and tows for other gliders are on an as-available basis while I go to the head of the line each time I’m ready.  Yeah, it costs money, but I get the training in and that’s what matters at this point.

This was my third time in the back seat and my fourth week of flying at least once each week.  I’ve nearly doubled the 30 tows that I had in the logbook when I first showed up.  I’m reasonably good in the maneuvers.  I need some work on the precision of my landings and dialing in the SA that I need in order to make the peanut butter and jelly of altitude and distance come out roughly evenly.

I’m scheduled to fly next Wednesday and Thursday.  We’ll go through the other maneuvers to make sure that I still have the inertial and muscle memory, but it will likely be mostly pattern tows to dial in the landings.  If I fly well on Wednesday, Lee says that he’ll sign me off and I’ll call the DPE/FIE to schedule the checkride.  That could be as soon as the first week in June, depending on schedules (and on whether I suck next week).  If it doesn’t happen the first week in June, I’ll probably have to put it off until after the Tuskegee Airshow 20-21 June. But I have a clear path forward one way or the other.

A lot of work stuff to do this weekend, but I’ll also spend a fair amount of it studying for the oral.  And David Allen and I will likely record another Airspeed episode about the impending airshow.