Rules of Engagement/FAQ

TG-7A Final

Here are Rules of Engagement and FAQ for the show and lots of the other projects in which Airspeed is involved.  This FAQ is updated occasionally as things come to mind or updates otherwise become necessary.   The plan is to turn the then-current edition of the FAQ into an Airspeed audio episode every few years (the last time being June of 2014) to keep everyone updated and to provide some background to newcomers to the show.  This page was last edited 2015-07-13.

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Hey, I love your show!

Thanks!  We’re going to get along just fine.

What’s with this “Stephen Force” superhero alter-ego?

Aviation is always and ever about superheroes.  After all, we fly, right?  And I adopted the “Stephen Force” moniker for a number of other reasons, too.

First, it’s a branding thing.  The more unique one makes one’s identity, the more effective it is a brand.  That allows me some extra hook points to use in protecting the integrity of Airspeed’s content and viewpoints from interlopers.

Second, have you ever looked up “tupper” or “to tup” in the dictionary. It describes the activity by which we get baby sheep.  No lie.  It’s also why I’ll probably never hold public office beyond dog catcher.  I’m fine with the name myself, but it’s probably less than exciting for an aviation podcast.

Third, it allows me to separate the on-air personality from me personally.  That’s not so much an editorial thing as it is a succession thing.  I’ve always thought of this Stephen Force guy as a sort of Doctor Who character.  If and when I hand off Airspeed to someone else, the plan is that the logo will change to a different face and the person and voice will change abruptly with no explanation and no transition.  Just a new face and voice.  Just like The Doctor.  Carry on.  Nothing to see here.  After all, if I’ve done it right, the Stephen Force persona will transcend the individual.  Kind of like the Nike “I am Tiger Woods” commercials.  Or not.  But that’s the plan.

Lastly, at various times during the first couple of years of production (2006-2008), I thought about dropping the pseudonym and just going with my real name.  Then, on 4 July 2008, I walked out onto the ramp at the Battle Creek airshow and saw that they had painted “Stephen Force” on the fuselage of Thunderbird 8 for my media ride.  The questionnaire that they have you fill out asks for, among other things, your air name.  I wrote in “Stephen Force” on the form without thinking too much about it.  Until I saw it painted on the jet, that is.  Whatever thoughts I might have had about changing the air name evaporated then and there.  If the fact that the Thunderbirds painted the air name on the No. 8 jet isn’t a good enough reason for you, there’s nothing more I can do for you.

Who are you, really?

I’m Steve Tupper.  Mostly, I’m a lawyer with a great big law firm, where I’ve been for the last 16 years.  I do mostly technology development and licensing, US and international privacy, data security, and e-commerce.  I’m also very good with UCC Article 2 and 2A stuff, including supply chain.  I lead the firm’s aviation transactions group, doing purchase, sale, lease, and other transactions, as well as some air carrier work.

I came to the law later in life.  I started out as a commercial banker for six or seven years, then worked as a contract administrator at EDS while I was going to law school at night.

Otherwise, I’m a guy who lives in the suburbs north of Detroit,  I run the rat race about as well as the next guy.  You wouldn’t recognize me if you ran into me in the grocery store.

Where do you fit in the aviation media world?

I do aviation inspiration and fist-pumping rhetoric as well as any human in media.  And at least as well as several other sentient species.  I also handle music and essays pretty well.  I’m pretty good with relaying my own experiences from my own viewpoint.

I don’t teach very well or, if I do, it’s by accident.

I don’t do news or anything so current that it’s likely to be noticeably outdated within two years after I first post it.  For that reason and others, I don’t date or number shows.  Ezra Pound said that “literature is news that stays news.”  I try (with infrequent but non-trivial success) to make “literature.”

My best stuff is long.  Sometimes really long.  Like two hours for an episode.  I’m the only guy in the aviation podsphere doing stuff that’s that long-form.

I also tend to write from a first-person perspective and talk a lot about what’s going on in my head as I chase big experiences.  Like flying in an aerobatic competition or becoming an airshow pilot.  You could be forgiven for thinking that all of this first-person stuff is evidence that I’m self-obsessed.  There’s probably some truth in that.  But the biggest reason is that I do first-person stuff is that it’s the most true and honest voice.  I might get some factual stuff wrong about the world, but I’m the final authority on what I felt about a thing.  And, if I write and speak honestly, on a good day I can put you in an aircraft in my place and give you a real sense of what a particular experience is like.

How long have you been doing the show?

I dropped the very first episode into the feed in January of 2006.  For the first six months or so, I ran two feeds.  One was Airspeed (the full episodes) and the other was Airspeed in Brief (five-minute distillations of the full episodes for those with short attention spans.  I ended the Airspeed in Brief feed when I realized that nothing that I wanted to say could be fully said in five minutes.

The show has more than 200 episodes in the feed and somewhere close to 1 million total downloads since moving to Libsyn as its host in 2007.

How often do you publish?

I published every couple of weeks from 2006 to 2010.  Then I shot the first Acro Camp movie and the movie ate the podcast and threw me off the previous frequency.  Since then, I’ve published as few as four episodes per year, but they’ve tended to be pretty high quality, including the massive essays for which Airspeed has become known.

Do you do video?

Airspeed is, and will always be, primarily an audio podcast.  But I’ve done several video episodes and each has had a good reception.  The most notable was a 48-minute video episode called Flying the Black Rocket: The Northrup T-3 Talon.  I’ll keep doing video from time to time if video turns out to be the best way to tell the story at hand.

What certificates, ratings, and endorsements do you hold?

I hold a commercial pilot certificate and I’m a certified flight instructor (CFI).  I have commercial and CFI privileges in gliders with self-launch and aero-tow endorsements.  I have private privileges in ASEL, AMEL, and ASES and I hold high-performance, complex, and tailwheel endorsements, as well as an instrument rating.  I’m type-rated (SIC) in the DC-3/C-47. I also hold a FAST formation card as a wingman through the Red Star Pilots Association.  I’ve built that resume over the course of about 600 hours total time.

What aircraft are in your logbook?

In roughly ascending order of performance: SGS 2-33, SGS 2-32, L-23 Super Blanik, K-7, ASK 13, ASK 21, Grob 103, C-152, PA-12 (on floats), American Champion Citabria, Schweizer SGM 2-37/TG-7A, American Champion Super Decathlon, C-172, C-172RG, PA-28 (151, 161, and 181), C-182T, PA-23-150, Ford Tri-Motor, Pitts S-2B, P-51C Mustang, T-6A Texan II, Ford Tri-Motor, DC-3, T-38A, F-16D, and B-2A Weapons System Trainer.

There are some, like the T-6, Cessna 510 (Citation Mustang), and L-39 in which I have time, but it wasn’t loggable.

I fly both round and glass.

What kind of flying do you do?

Most of it is training or en route to and from airshows.  I do very little $100 hamburger flying and I try to never have the same flight twice.

I’m in formation about as often as not.  I have somewhere around 120 hours in form and I’m training for my Lead card now.

I’m a Young Eagles pilot and flying kids is one of the coolest things I do.

I’m an instructor and orientation pilot for CAP in gliders (mostly or entirely in the ASK 21 and SGS 2-32).  I’m also a CAP SAR/DR pilot, usually flying a C-182T Nav III platform.

What aircraft do you fly most?

Since 2012, most of my time has been in the TG-7A motorglider.  Nearly 100 hours a year with a lot of it in formation and the opportunity to fly formation is the biggest reason that I fly that airframe.  I’m one of only five guys in the world with a FAST card earned in the glider category.  Having recently become a CFI in gliders, I expect to add a lot more aerotow experience, mostly in the back seat.

Otherwise, it’s usually a mix of C-172 and C-182, split evenly between round-gage and glass avionics.

What aircraft do you want to fly?

Lots, but the following lead the list.  Any Piper Cub, any airship, F-86, L-39, F-15E, F/A-18E.  And F-16D again.  And again.  And again.

What’s in the works for future certificates or ratings?

I’m working on adding my ASEL to my commercial certificate and I want to become a CFI in the glider category.  I also want to upgrade my FAST card to Lead from Wing.

Hey, I don’t like this or that about the show.  Will you change this or that?

Hey, I’ll listen to anything, but Airspeed is my media outlet.  All mine.  I am executive producer, host, engineer, and janitor.  I fly the aircraft and I offload the blue ice after landing.

I understand that what I like to put out and what people like to consume don’t always match up.  I reserve the right to go completely off the map, use profanity, address things outside the usual core subject matter, etc.  If I go off on some tangent or offend some folks, I’ll probably lose them.  I might gain some in their place.  Or not.  But that’s the tradeoff.  I understand it and you should, too.  If you don’t like the show, just unsubscribe and we’ll part friends.  If you love it, stick around.  You’ll probably only love it more.

I do prefer having more consumers of this media than fewer and this fact does indeed influence what I decide to put in the feed, on the blog, etc.  For instance, I decided long ago to avoid political discussion that doesn’t bear directly on aviation (even though I hold a degree in political science and have very strong feelings on many divisive issues).

But nothing will keep me from pursuing stuff about aviation that I find compelling.  If it’s sufficiently compelling but the audience is only one person, that’s fine with me.  Better that than a huge audience, the price for which is shoveling drivel.  I like to think that there are huge audiences for non-drivel, and this media endeavor is, in part, an experiment in defining the parameters of how long the long tail really is and how much of it will stop by, pull up a chair, and listen.

You suck!  I can do better than this or that!

Good for you!  Start up a show and, if it’s good, I’ll subscribe and be a loyal listener.  Do a man a favor!  Kick my ass!  I adore good audio and I’m happy to be bested by better media.

But you’d better get up early and stay up late if you want to keep up.

Will you do a show about this or that?

Drop me an e-mail or call me.  I might.

I’m most likely to do shows about stuff that I might actually do.  This is mostly about hands-on experiences that the average listener is capable of doing himself or herself with the right training and opportunity.

I’m less likely to do shows on stuff that I can’t do myself.  Unless it’s extraordinarily cool or it captures my imagination.

And I might as well anger the RC community now and get it over with.  I’m vanishingly unlikely to do anything on radio- or remotely-controlled anything unless they let me actually fly a Predator with live weapons or surveillance systems.  I appreciate the technical skill required to build and fly RC aircraft.  But they’re toys.  They will never, ever, ever be as cool as airplanes that you can climb into and fly.  Get over it.

Do you use profanity in your shows?

I generally don’t.  “Damns” and “hells” and anything else that the FCC permits on TV before 9:00 p.m. local are fine with me and they generally don’t even get considered for editing.  I let one F-bomb slip through in Instrument Rating Checkride Part 2, but I haven’t gone back to kill it.

The English language is broad and beautiful and that characterization includes the language’s curse words.  I love the English language and I adore its curse words.  But I get that they bother some people so I don’t keep them in gratuitously.

If a curse word is necessary to express an important emotion or make a particular point, in it goes and there it stays.  But I reserve them for especially deserving emotions and points.  Note that I didn’t use any curse words in my comment on the TSA’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program, which should tell you that I have a pretty high threshold for curse words.  (But it makes them so much more effective when I do use them!)

How come you didn’t do a show about such-and-such big aviation thing?

If it was a news event, the chances are excellent that any number of actual news organizations covered it better than I could.  The Miracle on the Hudson, etc.  You get the idea.

Additionally, most events like that don’t generally deal with the kind of flying that the average person can or does do.  I like to focus on the actual kinds of flying that most listeners either actually do (because they’re pilots) or might do (because I might be able to talk them in to beginning flight training).  So stuff that deals with airliners (the DC-3 excepted) and similar elements of aviation usually doesn’t make the show.

How on Earth did you obtain this or that opportunity?

Massively parallel begging.  I ask a lot.

And I research thoroughly and come up with an angle that appeals to the target of my inquiry.  This has to be a win-win for me and for the opportunity-giver and I bend over backward to make sure that I offer a good value proposition for the target.

And nobody, but nobody, writes a better proposal than I do.

I also work my ass off to build credibility with each opportunity.  In the case of the T-6A and T-38A, I acquired the POH and checklists (or as close to those documents as I could obtain) well before the rides and showed up with boldface memorized, ready to do a stand-up and ready to fly the airplane.  Had my IP slumped over during the rides, I would have given myself 99% and 90% chances, respectively, of getting the T-6A and T-38A back down in reusable condition.  You can be reasonably assured that, unless they shoot me down, I’m bringing the airplane back to base with aircrew intact.  I study that hard.

And I provide each organization copies of the coverage.  When I’m assembling the episode, I know that the opportunity-giver is going to see the end product and that the opportunity-give is probably going to be in a position to recommend (or wave off) subsequent rides.  So the end product had better be good.

Do you have an affiliation with the armed forces?

Other than being a lieutenant colonel in the Civil Air Patrol (the civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force), no.  I have never served in anything other than a civilian capacity.

If you gather from the show that I have a fondness for the armed forces, you’re right.  Especially with respect to armed forces that fly aircraft.  And even more especially those who fly me in, or let me fly, their aircraft.

It’s kind of interesting.  I occasionally get a communication from a listener who’s conflicted about how much (s)he loves noisy and fast military aircraft and how much (s)he is bothered about what those same aircraft do when employed for their stated purposes.

Look, there are times that I disagree with the nation’s policies.  I hold a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics, an MBA in finance, and a law degree.  In fact, I suspect that I’m the most (if not best) educated guy in my media space.  I have well-formed opinions about many issues.  Some of my nation’s policies are simply wrong-headed and ill-advised.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the personnel flying or maintaining the aircraft that we love get to make those decisions.  Foreign policy (including the decisions that go into picking the fights and stating the terms of the fights) comes mostly from elected officials.  If I disagree with a particular military endeavor, I’m never going to point a finger at the pilots or the maintainers or anyone similar.  I start with the executive branch and the congress, which is where that quibble belongs.  I vote.

The important thing is this.  You should never let misgivings about the assigned missions of the military get in the way of your pursuit of the sweet perfume of JP-8 and freshly-mown grass on a beautiful airshow Saturday.  You are a pilot or other aviation enthusiast and it is fitting and proper that you do this.  Render to the pilots and maintainers the respect that they’re due for their skill and courage and pump your fist in the air and shout with wild abandon as they tear up the skies over the show line.  If there’s somebody standing next to you doing the same, it’s probably me.

Then go home, read everything you can get your hands on, transcend the rhetoric, understand the core issues, and stay informed about the nation’s politics – and particularly about those elected and appointed officials who would presume to lead such men and women as these pilots and maintainers.  And, most of all, vote.

Thus will we best preserve our civil society.  Further affiant sayeth not.

Can I give you money to help out with the show because I’m such a generous guy/gal?

Of course!  There’s a “Donate” button on the right-hand sidebar of most of the internal pages of the website.  It’s not on the home page, but just about all of the interior pages have it.  Be assured that I’ll put the cash toward stuff that supports the show.  I doubt that any amount that I receive will actually cover more than hosting, equipment, studio rental, etc.  But, if it does, be assured that I will piss away the money on flight-related stuff and record as much of it as I can for broadcast.  In the unlikely event that donations exceed the amount that I could possibly spend on aviation-related activities (vanishingly unlikely!), I have no idea what I would do with the surplus and it would be disingenuous of me to speculate about it.

Do you run a store or other operation where I can get Airspeed swag or support the show by buying stuff?

Check out the “Store” page on the website.

  • You can see the deal that I have with Audible.com where you can sign up for a free trial and Airspeed gets money when you do that.
  • You can buy really cool magnetic novelty decals for your car, fridge, or anything else made of ferrous metal.  They include the ejection seat triangle and arrows and other placards warning of jet blast.
  • You can buy Airspeed apparel drop-shipped from the Queensboro Shirt Company, which embroiders all of the Airspeed and Acro Camp stuff.

Can I give you wheelbarrows of money and sponsor your show?

Of course!  Park ‘em over there.  Your form of agreement or mine?

I’d love to have more sponsorship.  I won’t compromise the content (much) or change the essential nature of the show unless you bring Fox Uniform money and, let’s be honest, nobody’s going to do that.

Can I offer you this or that experience?

Sure.  I’ll consider trying anything once.  Maybe twice if it doesn’t hurt or taste bad.  But please don’t take offense if I turn it down.  I have two kids and I have a calculus of risk that is tortured and convoluted and I reserve the right to apply it in ways that might result in my boneheadedly foregoing an innocuous yet cool opportunity.

By the way, I don’t skydive.  I have a shoulder that dislocates and the arm position for even the most basic tandem belly-flying would almost certainly result in a very painful experience.  I prefer flying skydivers.  It’s such a wonderful demonstration of fore-aft weight and balance change!

Where do you get your music and stuff?

Glad you asked.  I write and record most of it myself.  I play (to one degree or another) guitar, drums, mandolin, bass, sax, xaphoon, keyboards, etc.  I also collaborate with others, most notably audio engineer par excellence Scott Cannizzaro (www.nycmixer.com).

Sometimes, I license music.  I used five pieces from the Truth in 24 soundtrack by David Robidoux for the Inside Airshows series.

Can I license some of your music or other stuff?

Sure.  Let’s talk.

I represent a branch of the US military or NASA.  Can I use your stuff?

Heck, yeah.  Especially if your organization gave me the opportunity that is the subject of the material.  It’s be nice if you attributed it with words to the effect of “[Audio/video/whatever] from Airspeed.www.airspeedonline.com. Used with permission.”

Hey! You used my stuff without getting a license!

I use very little material that I don’t write, record, or otherwise originate myself.  (See above.)  Where I use someone else’s stuff, it’s usually either under a PodSafe or similar license, with express permission, or in the public domain.  Alternatively, I claim fair use under 17 USC § 107.

I use precious little stuff under a fair use theory and only when I have a rock-solid basis to claim fair use.  If you disagree, please contact me and I’ll be delighted to listen to your claim and work it out in a friendly and civilized manner.  In the event that you’re right and I’m wrong, I’ll do everything I can to make it right.

On the other hand, if you want to be a jerk and have an unnecessary fistfight over fair use to prove your bad-assed-ness, please be advised that I make all this money that I spend on flying as a technology licensing lawyer for a positively huge law firm, I know my stuff, and I will hand you your recently-extracted spleen in a pizza box at the hearing on the motion for summary judgment.  If you seek a hard target and want a high-profile, unpleasant, and expensive brawl in which my lawyer is committed to the freedom of the podsphere, hates bullies, is regularly listed in Best Lawyers in America, and (unlike your lawyer) works very cheap and loves his client dearly, please trundle your case in and have a seat.  I’ll get to you after I land and debrief.  Make sure you bring towels and some gum.

Will you speak at our gathering?

Heck, yeah!  If it’s somewhere other than where I already plan to be, you’ll need to get me there and back, feed me, shelter me, and give me enough free time and an Internet connection to juggle stuff from my day job.  But the accommodations don’t otherwise have to be top-notch or fancy.  Honorarium is negotiable.  It’s usually pretty cheap.

I don’t do religious or partisan political organizations of any kind.  Don’t ask.

Do you claim credit for having originated any aviation memes?

I do.  To the best of my knowledge, I originated the following memes.

  • “The voices in your head,” referring to aviation podcasters.  It was a part of the Podapalooza 2007 promo that I wrote.
  • The #HaveTheFish hashtag.  It refers to the circumstances in the movie Airplane that caused Ted Striker to find himself at the controls of an airline flight.  The meals available on the flight are steak or fish.  Both pilots have the fish and succumb to food poisoning.  I use the hashtag every time I’m on a Part 121 flight, usually in the form of the flight designator, the departure airport, the destination airport, and the #HaveTheFish hashtag.  E.g., “DL1234 KDTW KATL #HaveTheFish.” It’s a nod to the secret dream of every pilot that he or she might have the opportunity to stride forward from coach and land the airplane, thus saving all aboard.  I even did an episode with Rob Mark in which we talked about what that would be like.
  • “My [day of week here] kicks your [day of week here]’s ass.”  I usually tweet or post something like this when I’m getting a great ride or doing something really cool. When I do, my day usually really is kicking most everyone else’s day’s ass.  And I’m pleased to say that I’ve had the meme used by other people whose days were definitely kicking my days’ asses.
  • “Fly angry!  Pull hard!”  this is the benediction that I use when someone else is about to go fly, especially if it’s on the ramp at an acro contest where I’ve just checked belts for someone.

What is Harper’s Field?  Are you going to do more with the Harper’s Field milieu?

“Harper’s Field is smallish strip a mile from the edge of town,
Parallel to the section lines with farm fields all around.
An FBO, two dozen Tees ‘mid green alfalfa hay,
And a battered sign on the county road: ‘Airplane rides this way.’”

To more directly answer the question, Harper’s Field is the fictional uncontrolled airport that provides the setting for the poem, Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined (The Ballad of Jimmy Short), released in December of 2007, and The Magi of Harper’s Field, Airspeed’s take on Ogden Nash’s The Gifts of the Magi, released in December of 2008.

Harper’s Field serves as Airspeed’s own Lake Wobegon, Mayberry, or Hogsmeade.  The original plan was to write something new involving Harper’s Field toward the end of each calendar year to serve as sort of holiday gift to the audience.  That has fallen by the wayside of late, but I might go back to Harper’s Field again.  I rather like it there and I frequently wonder why I don’t spend more time there.

Because those kinds of episodes take a long time to write and because I’m a corporate lawyer for whom the end of the year is usually pretty busy, I haven’t put out a Harper’s Field episode since 2008.  But I do plan to revisit the place again.

How and when do you hatch these episode ideas and how and when do you write the longer pieces?

I walk and I ride a lot when I can.  If I can get the time, it’s not uncommon for me to walk out the door and hoof 10 miles.  In 2013, I bought  a Terra Trike Tour II recumbent tricycle and I rode that about 1,000 miles that summer.  (And, yes, the third wheel is in the back.  It’s a taildragger.)  Whether walking or riding, I rarely go very fast.  It’s all about just letting the ordinary stuff of life slip away and let thoughts happen.

I usually listen to podcasts and audiobooks while walking or riding.  Maybe 20% of the time, it’s music from the 4,000 or so songs on my iPod.  I also walk around most of my waking hours with my iPod connected to my head.  I consume 30+ books a year that way, as well as discover a lot of new music.  The best ideas usually happen while listening to music while walking or riding and usually after at least an hour.

I prefer to write in coffee shops.  Yeah, I know that that’s cliché, but it’s true.  I especially like the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company location inside the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills on Maple just west of Telegraph.  It’s a five-mile walk or ride and that’s about the right distance to let me clear my head before sitting down.  It also gives it a magic quality conducive to creativity.  I almost never drive there if I can help it.

I write at Starbucks if I have to, but most of them close at 2100L these days and most of the locations near me have been reconfigured so that there are fewer available AC plugs around.

If I wanted to line up a “Greatest Hits” series of Airspeed episodes, which episodes should I include?

I’m most proud of the following episodes.

Who would you love to get on the show but despair of being able to do so?

  • Alex Lifeson (musician, pilot)
  • Neil Peart (musician)
  • Tom Hanks (actor, producer)
  • Ed Robertson (musician, pilot)
  • Clarence Richard “Dick” Anderegg (USAF pilot who wrote up the origin story of how Jeremiah Weed became the preferred drink of fighter pilots)

What is Acro Camp?

Acro Camp is an independent feature film about four pilots’ experiences coming together and flying aerobatics for the first time.

In the spring of 2010, four pilots came to Oakland County International Airport in southeast Michigan. Two men and two women. All pilots, but no one had ever flown aerobatics and no one even so much as had a tailwheel endorsement.  Lynda, the US Army helicopter pilot and corporate jet pilot, who brought along some uncertainties about aerobatics. Jim, the USAF reserve JAG officer and Civil Air Patrol pilot who wanted a challenge. Michelle, the psychologist and flight instructor who had always been curious about how aerobatics work. And Paul, the long-time airline pilot who said “I’ve been flying airliners for so long, I’ve become a systems manager. I want to learn to fly an airplane again.”

When they arrived, the “campers” were met by two flight instructors and three aerobatic aircraft and, over the next four days, they flew their first aerobatics. From the basics like stalls, loops, rolls, and learning to land basic tailwheel aircraft like the American Champion Citabria and Super Decathlon to seeing the outer edges of the envelope in a Pitts S-2B.

We captured all of that and more in high-definition video with cameras and digital audio recorders in, on, and around the aircraft, on the ramp, and in the pilot lounge.

And it goes deeper than that. Acro Camp is a labor of love that was shot, edited, scored, and produced by a cadre of pilots and aviation enthusiasts from all over the country. It is, in many ways, the first aviation media project to result from this collaboration born in the streams of data criss-crossing the Internet.

Acro Camp is a love story about what happens when four pilots come together to fly airplanes upside down for the first time. It’s also about the new-media and social-media community trying out its own wings for the first time by creating a feature-length expression of its love of aviation.

At some point, you quit wondering, climb over the fence, and go find out.

We made this movie for anyone who’s ever flown an airplane upside down. Or who might if given the chance.

The film is still in post.  All of the ground footage is logged. We’ve completed maneuver logs for all of the 41 sorties and fully assembled and logged all video and audio for about 95% of them. We have eight airshow performer cameos complete and ready to drop in. The sequence from the IAC Michigan Aerobatic Open with the Dave Scott commentary is done. The ground school segment (with the parachute packing) is essentially done. The storyboard is up and running, as is the BAPP (the big-ass piece of paper), which consolidates all of the flights on a timeline and identifies flights in which we can synch stuff that happened in two different aircraft at the same time. The “Smoke on the Weaver” sequence is done.

I recently re-tooled with a new computer and new editing software and I’m going as fast as I can on the editing.  There’s more information available at the Acro Camp website at www.acrocamp.com.

Are you working on any other projects?

Yes.

I’m putting together a non-fiction book called Poser.  It’s basically the story of how I used new media and social media to reach up and do things like fly with the Thunderbirds and meet my heroes.  And it’ll contain a fair amount of how-to and other information, as well as some editorial thoughts about the kind of media that many of us produce.

I’m also forever working on a science fiction novel called Outbound.  What would happen if a ragtag bunch of physicists, pilots, makers, and hackers suddenly discovered how to transport matter from one place to another instantaneously in a way that allowed them to get to places like Mars?  And what if they decided to just go and start colonizing and terraforming without asking anyone for permission, particularly world governments?  Red Mars meets The Moon is a Harsh Mistress meets Salvage One.  All with the physics mostly right.  I got a lot of it written during National novel Writing Moth in 2005, but it’s been on the back burner for a long time and will probably stay there for the foreseeable future.

What the heck is this “Jeremiah Weed” I head you guys mention every so often?

Jeremiah Weed is a 100 proof liquor that is the preferred drink of fighter pilots.  If Southern Comfort and Yukon Jack have an illegitimate child, Jeremiah Weed is it.

For now, I’ll leave you with this:  There is no quicker way to be thought a rube than to get the proper variety of Jeremiah Weed wrong.  There are a number of products on the market under the Jeremiah Weed brand.  They include everything from a so-called “sweet tea” concoction to a whisky-and-cola beverage to a blended whiskey that comes in a square bottle.  The only Jeremiah Weed beverage about which fighter pilots or other aviators care is the 100 proof bourbon liqueur in the round bottle.  You have been warned.

What audio do you love?

I live in a sixteenth-note rhythm.  I suppose that’s why I love mandolin (which I play) and banjo (one of which I own, but can’t honestly say that I play) so much.

For writing and creativity, I like repetitive music that leaves space for the magic to happen.  In particular, I like:

I find film and installation soundtracks compelling, too.  In particular:

  • David Kneupper’s music from the Apollo/Saturn V Center;
  • James Horner’s soundtrack from Apollo 13;
  • Michael Kamen’s soundtrack from From the Earth to the Moon;
  • Mark Mancina’s soundtrack from August Rush;
  • Michael Boddicker’s Hero Walk from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension;
  • David Robidoux’s soundtrack from Truch in 24 (which I licensed for use in the Inside Airshows series); and
  • Theodore Shapiro and José González’s soundtrack from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

I love music that requires motor skills to play.  I admire Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooton, Stewart Duncan, Jerry Douglas, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson, and Joe Satriani more than you can imagine.  It’s all about precision with impossible speed and beauty.  The English language fails me.

I think that John Mayer’s Your Body Is a Wonderland, The Spice Girls’ Wannabe,  Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories’ Stay, and Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles are perfect, or very nearly perfect, pop songs.  I recognize when a thing is perfect for what it is.

Who are your heroes?

I’ve recently begin doing a thing that I hope will catch on.  I’ve assembled series of four portraits of people who, together, exemplify a particular thing to me.  Each is a pantheon for a particular idea or skill.  Each pantheon occupies a particular part of my basement studio.

Creativity Pantheon

My creativity pantheon consists of Tom Hanks, Henry Rollins, Jim Henson, and Kevin Smith.

Music Pantheon

My music pantheon consists of James Murphy, Ben Folds, Bobby McFerrin, and Neil Peart.

Each pantheon necessarily leaves out vital people and ideas.  If each pantheon consisted of 10 people, some of the people in the four-person pantheons wouldn’t even be included.  But the idea is to consolidate everything you admire or want to be in a given field of endeavor into just four people.  Thus, one or more have to do double or triple duty.  It forces you to think and to make some hard choices.  Coming up with each pantheon has been a great exercise that has forced me to think hard about what I most care about in that field of endeavor.

I’m working on my science pantheon now.  Early favorites include Johannes Kepler, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Rosalind Franklin, and Grote Reber.  Yeah, I might have to break it down among theoretical, observational, and experimental scientists to get anywhere near enough granularity to say something about myself or the field.  But that’s the fun of it.  Your suggestions are welcome.

You’ve closed each episode for years with the phrase, “ground point niner.”  What does that mean?

Most or all ground control frequencies are between 121.0 and 121.95.  In any case, the “121” is pretty much a given.  Some tower controllers abbreviate the frequency to just the numbers to the right of the decimal.  Most of the airports at which I fly that have ground control services use 121.9 and the call from the tower is therefore “point niner.”

I’ve closed the show with a number of different phrases over the years.  “Seat backs and tray tables” seemed too airline-y. Others just didn’t fit.  But “ground pont niner” conjures feelings of accomplishment.  It’s usually the first thing you hear in your headset on roll-out after a flight.  And after all that screaming from the other seat dies down.

What’s next for you and for Airspeed?

As far as my own flying, I’m pursuing my Lead FAST card, I want to add ASEL, ASES, and AMEL to my commercial ticket (I have only private privileges in those areas at the moment), and I want to add ASEL to my CFI ticket.

As far as flying with other people goes, I’d love to get time in the back seat of an F/A-18D/F.  I have the NATOPS for the Rhino and I’m willing to show up any time, any place with boldface memorized and ready to do a great episode.  Sequestration killed the last proposal that I put in, but it’s a great proposal.  If you’re with VFA 106, VFA 122, or another unit that wants some great coverage, please contact me.

In the doesn’t-involve-aviation department, there are a few things that I’d love to do that I despair of ever doing.  But speaking them into the aether is such a lovely thing to do, isn’t it?  As through speaking them aloud makes them more immediate and possible and dangerous.  Here are two.

I’d like to perform (or even just do a full audition) as the narrator of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.

I’d like to perform Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians with an ensemble.  I’d learn any percussion part you wanted to throw at me.