Sequestration: Remarks by Rep Sam Graves – Audio Episode Show Notes

2013-12-03 017

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here:  Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

I thought about doing a post about sequestration and its effects, but ICAS made that unnecessary by bringing Rep. Sam Graves to the podium this morning prior to the keynote.

Graves is the US Representative for Missouri’s 6th congressional district, serving since 2001. The district consists of Northwest Missouri and includes the portion of Kansas City north of the Missouri River and many northern suburbs. He is a member of the House General Aviation Caucus.

There’s not much more that I can add to this, so I thought that I’d simply put up the remarks so that you can hear them directly.

Inside Airshows – Part 3: Tuskegee 3 – Audio Episode Show Notes

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 8.00.43 PM

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here:  Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

If you want to understand a subculture or an experience, a great way to do that is to take an outsider and plunge him into the place you want to know about, wait awhile, then drag him back to the surface and wring him out to see how it changed him.  It’s even better if you can get the guy to wring himself out.  You begin to realize that not everybody who writes about the majesty of flight does it because he’s a fighter pilot.  Some of us write because we’re not fighter pilots.

You also need to talk about the world in its own terms, using the lexicon of the world, sometimes without explaining the vocabulary to the uninitiated, except maybe through context.  If you’re a pilot, you’ll understand most of this.  If you’re not a pilot, that’s okay, because you’ll feel a little of the strangeness of this world and you’ll put it together in context and in realtime.  Just like I did.  In some ways, you’re in for a better ride than the pilots.

There are three things you need to know about me.

First, I’m a pretty average Joe.  I’m 46.  By any reasonable estimation, my life is more than half over.  I live in the suburbs.  I have a wife and two kids.  I run the rat race every day about as well as the next guy.  You wouldn’t recognize me if you ran into me in the grocery store.

photo (67)

Second, I always wanted to be an astronaut.

Third, I realized a few years ago that it was entirely up to me where between that baseline and that dream I would live each day of the rest of my life.


photo (63)

Listen to this.

[ICAS hall noise.]

This is the sound of a magical zone in spacetime.  It’s a room with about 60,000 square feet of floor space.  It’s at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I don’t know what happens in that room for the other 361 days each year.  I’m not even sure that this room  exists for the other 361 days of the year.  But, for four days each December, it’s filled wall to wall with just about every airshow performer who’s active anywhere in the us and Canada.  This is the exhibit hall at the International Council of Air Shows annual convention.

Standing at the back of the hall facing the doors way across the room, the Thunderbirds and the other Air Force TAC DEMO and static display pilots and leadership are off to the left against the far wall.  The Blue Angels and the rest of the Navy and Marine Corps contingent are on the opposite wall.  The Snowbirds are in the middle on this side.  Sean Tucker, Mike Goulian, Skip Stewart, Patty Wagstaff, Bill Stein, Rob Holland, Billy Werth, Greg Koontz, Kent Pietsch, Andy Anderson, Bob Carlton, Gene Soucy, Scooter Yoak, Team Aerodynamix, John Klatt . . . every one of them is in this room right now.  Hanging out.  Booking next year’s appearances. Swapping stories.  Doing whatever superheroes do when they get together each year between seasons. [Read more...]

Inside Airshows – Part 2: With a Mic in My Hand – Audio Episode Show Notes

Airspeed Narrator Lead Image 02

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here:  Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

A narrator can make or break an airshow act.  Especially for an audience that doesn’t understand what it’s seeing.

You’ve heard me say it before.  John Mohr, Greg Koontz, Kent Pietsch, and others cast pearls before swine.  I don’t mean to sound rude or elitist.  It’s just true.  Most of the audience has no idea how difficult some of those maneuvers are.  You and I know that it’s very often not how fast but how slow, and not how high but how low, that is the really amazing thing about an airshow performance.

2009-07-04 065

If the announcer isn’t there telling the crowd  what to look for, there’s no way they’ll get it.  Take John Mohr.  He rolls a stock Stearman inverted low to the ground.  He holds it there until the engine sputters and eventually quits from fuel exhaustion.  The Stearman has a very slow roll rate.  If John doesn’t do a lot of things right – and immediately – he’ll make contact with the ground inverted in an open-cockpit aircraft.  He has to know without a doubt that he can get the aircraft rolled upright in time to either get the engine restarted or land on the wheels. [Read more...]

Gathering of Eagles – Willoughby – Arrival

LostNation 02a

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.

LostNation 06

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.

LostNation 01

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!


Team Tuskegee Ramps Up Training


Team Tuskegee has begun to ramp up its training. Element takeoffs and landings yesterday deep in the Bravo. Echelon. Tail chase. Overhead break back at Detroit City (KDET). It’s still less than a year since I first flew a TG-7A. Last march, it was all about giggles and having fun. It’s still a lot of fun.

But the standard is different this time. This is the first pre-season when I’m actively working with an airshow standard in mind. There’s nothing whatsoever wring with with working to PTS or working up to competent $100 hamburger flying. Train for your mission and for safe outcomes and I’m with you.

As for me, though, every time I take off, land or maneuver, I see a crowd line and 10,000-plus people out of the corner of my eye and I hear Ralph Royce in my headset. It’s not long now before I won’t just be imagining that crowd (or Ralph). It’ll be real. And, providing that we nail down out FAST cards and get some additional training done in time, the Tuskegee demo will be even more complex.

Picture 43

Think landing at OSH is intimidating? It is. Or so I’ve heard. But what if everyone near the flightline at OSH was actually watching you instead of buying stuff and talking and not paying attention to arrivals? And what if they had all had cameras? And what if there was a guy on the PA system telling them who you are and where you live? Suddenly, even the simple act of landing an aircraft ought to become pucker-palooza.  That’s what it is to fly an air show.

But with enough of the right kind of training, it’s no more than you should reasonably expect of yourself. The airshow guys are fond of saying: “Perfection is expected. Excellence will be accepted.” They mean it. So you go out on cold February mornings, brief the flight exhaustively, fly it with everything you have, then pick it apart back at the hangar. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Picture 42

We’re working hard, bundled up with extra socks and thermal undies under our flight suits. Because each of us imagines that crowd line in the snowy fields near the flight line. And we imagine you in that crowd.

Soon, the fields will be green, the barrels and stakes will go up, and you’ll actually be in that field. We’re training hard now because we know what it is to be in that crowd and we’re very conscious of that part of your dreams that you vest in us by coming to see us fly.

And every single one of us can barely believe that we get to do this.