Mike "Bloke" Robinson of the Starfighters

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Mike “Bloke” Robinson – the Supervisor of Flying for the Starfighters – and I go back a few years. It turns out that Bloke was one of the links in a long and unlikely chain of events that culminated in my getting the Thunderbirds ride in 2008. Bloke happened to be confirming some details with the Battle Creek show’s director and mentioned that he had heard her on Airspeed in the preceding week. That apparently stick my name in her head at just the time at which the show was thinking about who might be a good alternate Thunderbirds rider. And the rest is history.
Bloke and I connected recently at ICAS in December and he was nice enough to invite me down to spend parts of the TICO Valiant Air Command airshow in Titusville, Florida in March. I spent Friday and Saturday on the ramp with The Starfighters, Heavy Metal, Scooter Yoak, Mark Sorenson, David Allen, and others.
When I could get Bloke to hold still for a few minutes (he’s an amazingly busy guy during a show, as you might imagine), he was gracious enough to do it in perfect light next to a gorgeous F-104 in front of a couple of cameras. We talked about the F-104 and his impressions of it and even went a little into acro and energy management for use in the Acro Camp movie.
Here’s the interview, along with other images from the two days at TICO.
The Starfighters use the F-104 Starfighter for suborbital flight training, flight test, threat simulation, photo chase, and – of course – airshows. The team is based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. More information is available at www.starfighters.net.

Flying the Black Rocket: The Northrop T-38 Talon

These are the show notes for a video episode. Check out the video episode on your handheld device or personal computer by subscribing to Airspeed using iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or watch it right here by clicking above. It’s all free!

Here it is! Airspeed’s biggest and best video episode so far!

I’ve loved the Northrop T-38 for years. Born in the cauldron of the F-5 Freedom Fighter program in the late 1950s, it has since trained more than 50,000 military jet pilots throughout the world. It’s sleek and pointy and fast (Mach 1.3 capable). It’s the advanced jet trainer for the US Air Force. And it’s also the companion trainer for many of the Air Force’s most amazing aircraft.

In July, I got an orientation flight with the 99th Reconnaissance Sqn, 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB near Sacramento, California. 1.2 hours in the White Rocket. (Or, if you’re flying a “BB” tailed T-38, black and red.) It was a great experience.

It has taken some time, but I think that it has been worth it. 49 minutes of JP-4-burning acceleration, pull, and float. In true Airspeed style, the episode covers every angle and isn’t afraid to dig for the details that aviators and aviation enthusiasts love.

From a tour of the ramp to see the U-2 Dragon Lady and the RQ-4 Global Hawk up close to egress and survival training to the briefing to highlights from the flight, it’s all here.

And it’s all swaddled in original music. This is the first outing for Acro Groove, a track that’s going to be one of the major themes underlying Acro Camp. It’s by 7600, a loose-knit group of aviator musicians. In this particular incarnation, it’s FAA Designated Examiner Barry Sutton on drums, yours truly on guitar, and acro IP Don Weaver on keyboards.

This episode is game-changing in aviation podcasting. There’s nothing else out there that comes close. I’m fiercely proud of this work. But, even so, it’s a waypoint on a journey that will include even bigger, better, and more exciting projects.

Stay tuned! It only gets better from here.

This I Believe

You can hear the audio episode that resulted from this post at http://traffic.libsyn.com/airspeed/AirspeedThisIBelieve.mp3.

I’m trying to put things to bed at work so I can get down to Lakeland and Sun ‘N Fun. But, being that I’m going to be recording a show live on the air for the first time (at the Sun ‘N Fun Radio patio on Saturday 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET), I’ve also been working up a couple of things to use for that show.

I once read a piece by Robert A. Heinlein in a collection of his stuff. It was called This I Believe. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Heinlein’s essay was probably written for the five-minute CBS Radio Network program of the same name, hosted by Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955. NPR revived the series a couple of years ago.

I don’t know if Heinlein’s essay ever made it on the air, but it got me thinking that I should try to write one as well. It’s not as good as Heinlein’s but it’s mine.

I’m thinking about reading it on the show at Sun ‘N Fun on Saturday, so you can think of this as a blog-only exclusive preview.

I’ll see you down at Sun ‘N Fun!

I believe in altitude, airspeed, and options. And that we don’t spend enough time thinking about options.

I believe that the Hobbs meter should run backward when the aircraft is inverted.

I believe that 100LL on your hands during preflight on a blustery January day in Michigan is the coldest substance in the universe.

I believe that pilots, musicians, actors, composers, and others like them do a special thing in an environment hostile to dreamers.

I believe in Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo and all who preceded them and all who will succeed them.

I believe in Joseph McConnell, Jr.

I believe that there is no courage in facing a thing of which you are not afraid. The bravest thing you will ever do is to face a thing of which you are afraid when the only person driving you to do it is you. When you could back out without anyone else knowing. Where the dream is a gnat’s ass larger than the fear.

I believe in Fletcher Lynd Seagull.

I believe that you should go ahead and cry when you hit a rough spot or get discouraged. If it’s not worth crying about when you run into a rough spot, it wasn’t worth doing in the first place. And I believe that you shouldn’t take on projects that aren’t worth crying about if you fail.

I believe in the patient competence of nurses.

I believe that, short of a guy who has actually bent your airplane, there are vanishingly few line personnel or gas jocks who aren’t deserving of a $5 tip before you climb back into the aircraft.

I believe that all of our eggs are in one basket and that it is a species imperative that we place live, walking homo sapiens DNA on other celestial bodies as soon as practicable. I hereby volunteer for Luna, Mars, or such other destination as becomes available.

I believe in the Mercury 13.

I believe that the mainstream media is hopeless, will never understand aviation or any other science, will never really try, doesn’t care, and will continue to be our worst bugaboo in our ongoing quest for legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

I believe in anyone who has washed, marshaled, fueled, or maintained aircraft in trade for flight time.

I believe that no flight instructor should ever have to pay for lunch or beer.

I believe that anyone who has sat in an airplane all alone, firewalled the throttle, and rotated is a pilot, regardless of whether any certificate says so.

I believe in actual IMC and those who seek it as an environment in which to train.

I believe in Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest, Bell’s Oberon, and Maker’s Mark. I have no idea why anyone would put Scotch of any kind into his mouth, but I will concede the inexplicable levelheadedness, pragmatism, and solidity of almost every person I know who likes that sort of thing.

I believe that picking a landmark on a map and then locating it out the window – in that order – is a great way to fly cross country. And that that order of operations is the worst possible way to do science.

I believe that, when it comes to truth, there’s no such thing as no harm, no foul. Veritas! Veritas! Veritas! Pascal’s Wager is for the lazy and the criminally self-deceiving.

I believe that moderates in a wrong-headed doctrine make it okay for the extremists.

I believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

I believe in whatever altitude lets you drag the gear in the top of the overcast layer.

I believe in leaving the beacon and nav lights on and looking at the airplane one last time before you get in the car to make sure that the master switch is off.

I believe that anything worth writing should go over the head of at least 50% of any general audience. Otherwise you reduce the writing to mediocrity. An audience that must be spoon fed and refuses to learn through context is not worth writing for.

I believe in telling approach that, not only do you have the Mooney in sight, but she’s gorgeous against those scattered cumulous clouds.

I believe in Tom Hanks.

I believe that you should always return the courtesy car with a full tank.

I believe that, if you can do so while having adequate reserves, you should leave room in the tanks of your airplane to buy fuel at the smallest field at which you land.

I believe that there is no volume at which one could play the music of Aaron Copland or David Kneupper that is “too loud.”

I believe in the patient and noble service of members of the armed services. I disagree from time to time with the policies of the elected officials who direct the actions of the military, but I will never look askance at the pilots, maintainers, and others who follow difficult orders under trying circumstances. I believe that it is out patriotic duty to read everything we can get our hands on, engage in public discourse, and thoroughly vet candidates for elective or appointive offices who would presume to command or direct such men and women as these. Thus – and only thus – will we preserve our civil society.

I believe in taking children to airports.

I believe that there is no other demographic like “pilot” that is more likely to identify competent, kind, and skilled people who will give you the shirt off their backs, their last quart of oil, a couch for the night, a jump start in the parking lot in the middle of the night, or directions to a good restaurant and I’m so proud to be one that I can barely stand it.

This I believe with all my heart.

Viper East F-16 Demo Pilot Maj Jason Koltes, USAF

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We ran into Maj Jason Koltes, USAF, on the ramp at Battle Creek and managed to buttonhole him for a few minutes to talk about the F-16 and what it’s like to train and fly in the workhorse of the US fighter arsenal.

See more about the Viper East F-16 Demo team at http://www.shaw.af.mil/library/vipereast/index.asp.

More about the Air Force in Airspeed’s sidebar or at http://www.airforce.com/.

Many thanks, USAF, Viper East Demo Team, and Maj Koltes for tearing up the skies here at Battle Creek!