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

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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.

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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.


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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

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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.

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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...]

Airshow Ops and a Preview of the 2008 Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival with Barb Haluszka

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We continue the annual tradition of calling up Barb Haluszka, the executive director of the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival.

The show takes place at Battle Creek, Michigan (KBTL). The festivities begin on Wednesday, July 2 this year when the amusement park opens at noon and there’s a scheduled balloon ascent at 6:30 p.m. They start burning avgas and JP-8 in earnest on Friday, July 4 and keep it going for three days with such attractions as the Shockwave Jet Truck, Dacy’s Super Stearman and Wingwalking, Oliver’s DeHavilland Super Chipmunk and Skywriting, Skip Stewart’s Biplane, Herb and Ditto’s Smokin’ T-28, The Aerostars three-ship Yak flight, Bill Stein’s Edge 540, military demonstrations, an F-104, an F-15 demo, a P-51 heritage flight, and The Starfighters F-104 demo team.

And the USAF Thunderbirds are headlining the show!

If you are or were at Sun ‘N Fun this year, you probably heard me doing some of the audio production for Sun ‘N Fun Radio. That took a couple of months of preparation and, although very satisfying, was a lot of work. Today, as we do every year, we talk to someone who really knows the meaning of preparation. Barb Haluszka spearheads all aspects of putting together a major air show and has been running at or near full speed essentially since the 2007 show in preparation for this July.

We caught up with her at her office at the airport to talk about preparations for this year, including her trip to the International Council of Air Shows (or “ICAS”) convention, what goes into selecting performers, interactions with the FAA, and more. Let’s go to the interview.

[Interview audio]

I’ll be at Battle Creek again this year along with photographers and Airspeed team members Tim Reed and Dan McNew and I hope to see you there.

And, if you go to an air show this year, take a moment to think about the preparations that go into them. It may be April out there now but, for many professionals and volunteers, June, July, and August and the rest of the airshow season is just around the corner. Be sure to take a moment to thank every airshow organizer and volunteer you meet!

Check out the show’s website at!

Stay tuned to Airspeed in the coming weeks. Airspeed goes retractable this week as I start my check-out at Flight 101 this week in a Cessna 172RG. Then I’m scheduled to train for my multi-engine rating in a 1957 Apache with Traverse Air at its winter home in Cadillac, Michigan April 19-21. The extended weather forecast for this week looks good for the RG training at Pontiac, but dodgy for Cadillac next weekend. In any case, if I get up, so do you as I plug in the MP3 recorder in the back seat and take you along for the ride.

Aerobatic Ride with Michael Mancuso in the Extra 300L

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The second of my 2007 aerobatic rides!

The show starts out with an update on my instrument training, including cockpit audio. Then we get into the ride, complete with audio from the MicroTrack 96/24 plugged into the Extra’s intercom.

Michael Mancuso is in 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 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.

The Extra on the ramp when I arrived. Taking on fuel and getting ready for a morning of flying media riders. How nice is Mike? And I’ll bet you that going that Extra mile (pun intended) gets really valuable exposure for his sponsors that they wouldn’t otherwise receive. All this and flying two demos a day at the actual show? That’s hard work.

The guy scheduled to go after me cancelled when he got his signals uncrossed and figured out that this was an aerobatic flight and not a balloon ride. Gotta pay attention to who’s in town, my friend! This is Michael Mancuso we’re talking about! Anyway, since when does a balloon ride start at 9:00 a.m.? Not with any balloon pilot with whom I’d ride.

This is throw-the-airplane-ass-over-tea-kettle-high-over-Gull-Lake time!

Arriving back after the ride. My glasses came off as I took off the headset and – “sproing!” went flying into Michael’s lap. That’s alright. A ride like that and I’m set for the week.

Last shot on the ramp for the day. Then it’s time to go sit in the Meijer parking lot and let my vestibular system reset while awaiting the Blue Angels’ arrival a few hours later and the rendezvous with photographer par excellence Dan McNew for the interview with Craig Olson.

Great interview with a great naval aviator, but the ride makes Michael the Airspeed MVP for this trip to BTL!

Here’s the maneuver I discuss in the audio. Michael performs barrel rolls around an inverted Matt Chapman’s track on Sunday. You need to be on the ground and at the fence to really appreciate this. Precision in all three axes and power management to boot. Unreal. I hope the non-pilots in the audience recognize the difficulty of this thing that Michael makes look so easy.

Contact Information for Michael:

Michael Mancuso Airshows
Brookhaven Airport
139 Dawn Drive
Shirley, New York 11967
Phone: 516-359-9948
e-mail: or

Blue Angels Opposing Solo LCDR Craig Olson

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Lieutenant Commander Craig Olson comes from Kirkland, Washington. He attended Central Washington University and earned B.S. in Aeronautical Science. In March of 1994, he reported to Officer Candidate School at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida, and was commissioned as an ensign in August 1994.

Olson completed primary flight training at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, and transferred to NAS Kingsville, Texas, for intermediated and advanced jet training, flying the new T-45 Goshawk at Training Squadron 22 (VT-22). He received his wings of gold in April 1996.

Olson remained with VT-22 as an instructor pilot in the T045 as a Selectively Retained Graduate (SERGRAD). In April 1997 he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125), at NAS Lemoore, California, for replacement pilot training in the F/A-18 Hornet.

In January 1998, Olson reported to the VFA-22 “Fighting Redcocks.” White there he completed to sets of work-ups and a six-month Western Pacific deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), flying combat missions in support of Operation Southern Watch. During his tour with VFA-22, Olson served as the Schedules Officer, Aircraft Division Officer, Air-to-Air Weapons training Officer, and Landing Signals Officer (LSO).

In January 2001, Olson reported to the VFA-122 “Flying Eagles” also based at NAS Lemoore, as an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet instructor pilot. While at VFA-122, Olson served as an OSO, T-34C program phase head and Ground Safety Officer.

He transferred to the VFA-106 “Gladiators” at NAS Oceana in December 2005, where he requalified in the Super Hornet and served as an Instructor Pilot. He reported to the “Fighting Swordsmen” of VFA-32 also at NAS Oceana in April 2006, where he served as the Operations Officer and Safety Officer.

He joined the Blue Angels in November 2002 and returned in April 2007. He has accumulated more than 3,500 flight hours and 345 carrier arrested landings.

As many of you know, Olson did not start the 2007 season with the Blue Angels. He replaces LCDR Kevin Davis, who was killed on April 21 toward the end of a demonstration flight at Naval Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. LCDR Olson rejoined the Blue Angels as the opposing solo pilot in the No. 6 jet. The team resumed practices soon after the accident and LCDR Olson resumed his duties as a solo, reintegrating into the team after having returned to the fleet a year and a half ago.

Dan McNew and I were treated to a Blue angels demonstration flight from the ramp of the Western Michigan University School of Aviation on the northeast corner of the field at Battle Creek International Airport (KBTL) in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Blue Angels arrived at about 10:30 local and the diamond and the solos, respectively, flew familiarization maneuvers between then and 2:30. The team then flew a full demo before meeting us out by the aircraft for interviews.

Thanks again to LCDR Craig Olson for joining us on Airspeed. You can find out more about the Blue Angels at The US Navy is running open houses and recruitment efforts in connection with several of the Blue Angels’ appearances. It’s Detroit Navy week here in southeast Michigan. If you’re age 18 to 24 and want to obtain free tickets to the show and an opportunity to meet the Blue Angels, check with your local Navy recruiting office.

The Blue Angels will be appearing around the country all summer and into the fall.

7-8 Ypsilanti, Michigan (Willow Run Airport)
14-15 McConnell AFB, Kansas
21 Pensacola Beach – Florida
28-29 Bozeman, Montana

04-05 Seattle, Washington
11-12 Hillsboro, Oregon
25 – 26 Indianapolis, Indiana

Demos continue through August, September, and October until the final show of the year scheduled for November 9-10 at NAS Pensacola, Florida.


Blue Angels:

US Navy Recruiting:

US Marine Corps Recruiting: