Return from Rogers City (as an Airshow Pilot!)

It’s been a big, big weekend in Airspeed’s world.  It’s going to take a while to write and record the episode that covers it, but that’s because I need to take some time to make the episode as epic as the weekend was.

Long story short, I took things to a new level this weekend.  On Friday, I climbed into a TG-7A motorglider, flew to Rogers City, Michigan (KPZQ) in a two-ship formation, flew in my very first airshow as a performer, and came back in a three-ship formation.

I first started covering airshows from the fence along the crowd line seven years ago.  Over time, I’ve worked my way onto the performer area, then inside the box on the hot ramp, then out to show center with the pyro guys.  The only place that I had not been was up in the actual box in front of the crowd.

I had no idea in March of this year that I’d be flying motorgliders.  Or that I’d become reasonably good at it.  Or that I’d upgrade my certificate to commercial pilot in the process.  Or that I’d find myself spending time in formation with up to two other aircraft.  Or that, on Saturday, I’d be in that last frontier of the airshow fan: Actually in the box in an aircraft flying a demo for the crowd down below.

It’s been an epic weekend by any standard.  This is way, way beyond any expectation that I might have harbored just a few months ago.

I still have a lot of work to do.  I need to get a lot tighter and a lot more precise in my formation flying.  I need to develop even better situational awareness for those shows where the box isn’t over water with a definite shoreline to use as a reference.  But I’m part of a great team with really cool aircraft and – even if only in a very minor way – I’m now a part of that rarified community that flies aircraft in the box in front of airshow crowds.

My weekend.  Your weekend.  And a lot of my other weekends.  You know the drill.


The Airspeed Virtual Airshow

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen online right here by clicking:

It’s time for Airspeed. I’m Stephen Force and I’ll be your announcer and air boss for this, the first Airspeed Virtual Airshow.

This is an airshow of the mind. Please fully engage your senses and align them with the auditory content of this broadcast for best results. Please avoid operating motor vehicles or other heavy equipment during the show unless you are certain that no sneak passes will surprise or distract you and you are sure that you are able to resist the temptation to drive at excessive speeds while listening. This means you, Ron.

The temperature is about 72 degrees Farenheit with just enough humidity to permit dramatic condensation clouds around the wing areas of the fighter jets at high angles of attack. We have sunny skies over the field with just a few white puffy cumulous clouds to allow for dramatic photographs. We have arranged for the sun to hold its position behind you and at about 30 degrees above the horizon for the duration of the show to provide for the best possible photographic opportunities during the dedication passes.

Please observe the fact that there are no snow fences between you and the runway. Please feel free to set up you chair anywhere between the parking lot and the runway, but avoid the runway itself unless you really want to get that close-up of the approaching aircraft. No security personnel are on duty today because the show is restricted to dedicated aviation nuts and we know we can count on you to police yourselves. By the way, everyone gets an orange tee shirt with “Security” stenciled on the back. Make sure that you pick up yours at the gate.

Hot dogs are just a buck at every booth and soft drinks are a buck as well with free refills all day long. Tee shirts are just five bucks at every vendor tent.

All of the show aircraft will be on the ramp behind you and available for your up-close inspection. All of the demo teams have agreed to let you into the cockpits of the respective aircraft, provided only that you make airplane noises when you’re in there.

Please keep your cameras and attention near show center at all times. Because this is an airshow of the mind, we’ve eliminated all of that waiting while the aircraft circle around for another pass. This show is all noisy passes for the entire length of the show.

Featured today are the F-16 from the Viper East Demo Team from Thunder Over Michigan at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the F-16s of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the F-15 Eagle of the F-15 West Demo Team from the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival in Battle Creek, Michigan, the F-22 Raptor from the F-22 Raptor Demo Team from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and others.

At the conclusion of the show, you can amble to your car any time and we’ve arranged for easy exit from the grounds by means of any exit you like and all freeway on-ramps are open and flowing at posted speed limits.

Or stay around for the acoustic jam session at Firebase Airspeed just a few hundred yards away in the campground. Plenty of Leinie’s and other beverages in the big blue cooler near the tent.

And, best of all, you don’t have to leave at all! Just hit the “back” button on your player at any time to start the whole thing over. It’s that easy!

Other aviation media spend a lot of paper or electrons talking about aviation and we here at Airspeed love them for it. But c’mon. When’s the last time one of them put on an airshow just for you? Point made?

Enjoy this Airspeed Virtual Airshow. Brought to you by 100LL, JP-8, Jet-A, soda pop, beer, hot dogs, and frozen deserts sold from pushcarts on taxiways everywhere.

The Lake Parker Arrival

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Very much in the mood for an air show this week. Only a few weeks until Sun ‘N Fun down in Lakeland. I leave tomorrow to go see Greg Summer of The Student Pilot Journal in Titusville near Kennedy Space Center and then go play some golf with my brother and my dad on Jekyll Island in Georgia. But it won’t be an airshow.

I now have almost 30 outtakes from my checkride all set to go and the commentary is about a third of the way written, but my voice is still shot, thereby making a new episode a little difficult to cut just now.

So I sat down this weekend and recorded a little meditation I’m calling The Lake Parker Arrival. It’s me on 12-string guitar, six-string guitar, and mandolin. I tried laying down a little Ashbory bass, but I think it muddied the mix, so I left it out. Kind of like Ben Folds leaving the string section off Give Judy My Notice. Actually, nothing like Ben Folds, but you get the idea.

Anyway, there’s a link to the file here: Please feel free to listen to it and pass it around for noncommercial purposes or use it at any airshow for which you happen to need music. Just give me credit.

I’ll be back online soon with an update for preparations for the Battle Creek air show and, as soon as my voice comes back, I’ll record the checkride episodes. In the meantime, it’s time for a little R&R with the family.

Tray tables and seat backs!

Airspeed – Aerobatics and Airshows with Michael Mancuso

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Here in the US and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, airshow season is either here or right around the corner. We’re making some early calls to some of the performers that you’ll see this summer to get a preview of the upcoming season and to find out a little more about what makes them tick.

Michael Mancuso is a fixture on the airshow circuit and this is his 10th year doing shows. He has 7,000 hours total time and commercial and instructor certificates. He started flying gliders at age 11 and soloed for the first time when he was 13. He and his family own Mid Island Air Service on Long Island in New York and Michael started Gyroscopic Obsessions in 1995 to teach aerobatics.

He competed in IAC aerobatics from 1992 to 1997 and then spent from 1998 to 2000 with the Northern Lights.

Michael flies the Klein Tools Extra 300L. The 300L is about 23 feet long and nine feet tall at the tail, and has a wingspan of about 25 feet. It’s powered by a Textron Lycoming AEIO 540-L1B5 300 horsepower engine connected to an MT three-blade prop that pulls the aircraft through the air at 170 knots when cruising at 75% power. It’ll get off the pavement in 315 feet, climb at more than 3,000 feet per minute, pull plus and minus 10 g’s, and do all kinds of crowd-pleasing gyrations between its 55-knot stall speed and Vne of 220 knots. The aircraft is built in Germany and certified in the United States.

We caught up with Michael as he was preparing to head down to Sun-n-Fun to talk about the Extra, aerobatics, airshows, and flight training, and we even got to talk a little about light sport aircraft.

Let’s go to the interview.

[Interview audio.]

A couple of administrative notes and other cool things for you.

We’ve added a voicemail system so that you can leave us feedback and enter some of the upcoming contests! Call 206-339-8697 any time – day or night and leave us voice mail.
It’s a Seattle number, but it’s free to me, so that’s all that matters! And it’s always free when you call from work (thanks, TMBG!).

No, I haven’t moved to Jet City. Still here in southeast Michigan waiting for the frost to melt off the planes so I can get up and train without turining the airplane into a Cessna-cicle.

To get us warmed up, let’s kick off the first contest of the year. Call the Airspeed voice mail line and leave us a short message telling us one thing about aviation that non-pilots don’t experience and probably won’t understand until they get up. For me, the main thing that comes to mind is flying with a head cold and feeling like my face is caving in during descent. Or what it’s like to fly with just your wheels in the clouds. But I’ll bet that you guys can come up with even more funny, strange, and inspiring observations. Call us at 206-339-8697 and leave us your observations.

Also, please leave us your e-mail or other contact information because the best observation gets an Airspeed embroidered logo hat and we’ll need to know where to send this standard-setting garment of 21st century aviation that will surely soon to take its place next to the silk scarf and the bomber jacket in the pantheon of aviation icons.

Lastly, but not leastly, there’s good news from The Pilotcast! Everybody loves the video content that The Pilotcast has posted of late, but many of us miss the hangar-flying sessions with Pilot Mike, Pilot Dan, and Pilot Kent. the’ve recorded a new hanger-flying episode that should be up very shortly. If you haven’t checked the Pilotcast feed lately, watch it over the next few days for the new episode. The Pilotcast is one of my two favorite hangar-flying shows on the net and I’m delighted that they’re back talking shop. See the Pilotcast website at

Aditional information for this episode:

Michael’s web page:

Extra Aircraft:

Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival:

Klein Tools: