Still More Frame Grabs from the T-38 Ride

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After getting the Acro Camp trailer ready to show at the Great Lakes International Aviation Conference on Saturday, I sat down to really crank on the episode covering my T-38A ride with the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB. All of the pieces other than the voiceover material is in the can and I’m going through all of the footage again to see where voiceover is necessary in order to help explain what’s happening on screen.

And, of course, that means that I get frame grabs as I go to post here.

The lead shot is an inverted moment out in the MOA. I didn’t have a chamber card, so we had to stay below FL 180. Given the elevation of the terrain, we couldn’t really get in a full loop, but the alternative maneuver was pretty cool regardless. Imagine a slashing loop that’s canted over 45 degrees. That presents a pretty sight out the window. Especially if you roll it at strategic moments like this one.

Here’s a view of three of the cameras that I flew on the sortie. The primary camera is a GoPro HD Hero mounted on the grab handle. Behind it, clamped to the AOA indicator housing, ate two ContourHDs, one looking forward and the other looking 90 degrees left. I also flew with a hand-held ContourHD so that I could shoot footage inside the cockpit.

Like this, in fact. If you look straight down into your lap in the back of a Talon, here’s what you see. I’ve got my sectional strapped down so I can follow along for the route. I also carry a couple of sic sacs, although I’m happy to say that I didn’t need either of them on this sortie. You get a pretty good idea of the ergonomics here. The stick is right there handy. There’s a T-handle on the panel just in front of the stick that moves the pedals fore and aft to give you the best distance. Obviously, the fact that you’re sitting in an ejection seat makes it more practical for the aircraft to have movable pedals than a movable seat. You can raise and lover it within an approx. 5-inch range, but that’s about it for the seat.

Here’s one of my favorite shots. Inverted at 15,500 MSL and 280 KIAS. Clearly, this shot is post-G-ex. You can see that we’ve already pulled/pushed +4.7/-0.8. I think that the range for the whole sortie was +5.0/-1.0.

I like the color in this one. This is just after launch on the first landing – a touch-and-go. We got a total of two takeoffs and two landings and I learned a lot about the sight picture in really pointy aircraft like the T-38. Something about a 160-KIAS short final really gets your attention.

More editing to do this week. I have a couple of proposals to draft for some additional military flights and the T-38 episode is going to be a big part of those packages. I’m really pleased with the way it the footage looks and it’s a lot of fun turning this into a cogent story for you guys. Stay tuned for the full episode, coming soon to a handheld device near you!

How to Prep for Pulling Nine Gees

This is a regular blog post. Please check out the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio.

Although I’m sure that I’ll work this in to the summary episode now in production, this communication bears posting in full.

SSgt Russ Martin is the guy with whom you communicate if you’ve been selected as a primary or alternate flyer with the USAF Thunderbirds. (Don’t inundate or stalk him. He’s not the guy who decides who flies.) He coordinates your suit-up, hands you off to the correct people, and generally makes sure that you have the great experience that the Air Force wants you to have.

I know that the Airspeed audience is particularly interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff that has to do with the actual aviation, and I thought that the text of SSgt Martin’s e-mail to me might be interesting to you. I received this about a week and a half before the flight. It covers the aeromedical factors and the process for the day of the flight and answers a lot of questions that I’d imagine most media riders have.

It’s also the first tangible indication that this experience has a very real chance of happening. It’s the kind of e-mail that makes you just sit there in disbelief that it’s actually there on your screen.

It’s also an excellent example of the Air Force’s media relations culture. It contains all of the necessary information in very clear and professional terms while at the same time being engaging and even witty.

Anyway, enjoy!



Congratulations on being selected as an alternate for a flight with the Thunderbirds. Obviously we would love to fly everyone who is nominated for a flight, but keep in mind that if the primary nominee for the flight on Thursday, July 3, is not able to fly for any reason, you are next in line!

Should that happen, the following instructions would apply…

We will need you to arrive for your flight equipment fitting at the airport by 2:30 p.m. We will meet you [location redacted]. If you need directions, please talk to [name and contact information redacted]. She should be able to point you in the right direction. She is our local Public Relations point of contact.

Please make sure that your cameraman or photographer is with you for complete coverage of your day’s activities. Also, please bring a cotton t-shirt (any color) and a pair of cotton athletic socks that come up to the middle of your calves. Both are for your comfort. We will provide you with the flight suit, harness, helmet, G-suit and all other gear necessary to make your flight as comfortable as possible. All you will wear under your flight suit is your socks, t-shirt and underwear.

The scheduled take off would be at 5:30 p.m. and would last about an hour. Because of weather and air traffic variations, we cannot guarantee an on-time take off and landing.

Your cameraman or photographer will have access to everything during the day with the exception of the few minutes you spend with our flight surgeon. Also, we will have a still photographer there to capture the entire day for you and we will ensure that you receive a CD of digital photos as soon as possible for your personal use.

Some things to keep in mind to make your flight as enjoyable as possible:

Starting 24 hours prior to your flight, hydrate. Drink water until you’re silly and then drink another bottle. Hydration combats motion sickness, so this step is key.

It is not recommended that you go drinking the night before your flight. The alcohol and its after-effects also quickly dehydrate the body and will encourage a feeling of dizziness and nausea that you will want to avoid while flying at speeds approaching the sound barrier!

The day of the flight, unless you can’t live without it, please avoid that morning cup of coffee. Avoid carbonation and caffeine the day of your flight. Both are diuretics and will cancel out all of the work you did for the 24 hours prior getting yourself good and hydrated.

The day of your flight, I want you to have food in your stomach, but nothing greasy and nothing spicy. It’s a good idea to stay away from deep fried breakfast Taquitos! A piece of fruit and a bagel, or a light turkey sandwich would be ideal. The carbs will be good for you and will help to keep your stomach settled that day.

In the meantime, remember that just because you weren’t selected to fly with us this time around doesn’t mean that you never will. The Thunderbirds return routinely to cities such as yours to participate in air shows. You can learn more about the Thunderbirds by visiting us on-line at

Thank you and have a great day!

Staff Sgt. Russ Martin
Chief, Media Relations
USAF Thunderbirds


Guys, SSgt martin is a real pro and very clearly loves what he does. He made the whole experience go smoothly and this e-mail is just one of many artifacts of that process.

Civil Air Patrol Makes It into Air Force Blues Again

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Farva sends 1Lt. Kenneth “Barbie” Dahl headlong into contact with the Civil Air Patrol again. Enjoy! For more Air Force Blues, head over to

Air Force Blues with Austin "Farva" May

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In the words of today’s guest, “You’re not truly sh*t hot until there’s a comic about you.”
This week, we talk to Austin “Farva” May, the author of the relatively new web comic “Air Force Blues.” Air Force Blues directs a finely-tuned wit at the US Air Force and fighter pilots in particular. We caught up with Farva at his home during a recent evening to talk about the Air Force, flying, and comics.
May was an airborne surveillance technician on the Boeing E-3 Sentry for four years. The E-3 is a a military airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft that provides surveillance, command, control and communications in all weather conditions.

Click here for interview audio.

Additional information:

Air Force Blues website:

Farva’s AWACker MySpace page:

Wikipedia entry:

USAF Recruiting:

AWACker at Chairforce:

CAPblog’s entry about