Audio Episode Show Notes: River Days Airshow – Part 4 – Debrief

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio here:

Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

We did it!  We put on a full-up airshow over the Detroit River in some of the most challenging airspace in North America. In this episode, David Allen takes the bully mic again and Dean Greenblatt (“BIRD” during the show) joins Steve to talk about what went right, what went wrong, and what’s in store for the show next year.

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 4.01.28 PMHear how we put a jet, three gliders, and lots of other aircraft up in this box and managed to do it despite low weather on Saturday, communications SNAFUs, and the fact that nobody on the crew had ever put on an airshow before.  It’s an exciting story of what can happen when a dedicated crew of volunteers gathers together to turn dinosaurs into decibels.

Many thanks to Jo Hunter for the great photos!

Audio Episode Show Notes: River Days Airshow – Part 1 – Waiver Application and Planning

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio here:

Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

We’re deep in the process of trying to bring a full-up airshow to the Detroit riverfront and we’re giving you an inside look at the process.  In this episode, Other People’s Airplanes producer and host, David Allen, takes over the host mic so that Steve can talk about the process so far.

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You can follow along, too, by reading the waiver application.  Just click the image above to see the very PDF file that went to the FAA this week.

Nobody takes you deeper inside airshows than Airspeed.  Not content to watch them or even to fly in them, we’re actually putting together our own and you have a seat at the table for all of the planning, training, and excitement.  Stay tuned!

 

Making it Real

River Days Break

Since going for a fateful haircut in Detroit last March, I have amassed something like 112 hours in the TG-7A, about 70 hours of that in formation.  I’ve flown three airshow demos as the sole pilot of one of a team of two or four aircraft.  I’ve flown as observer in one show.

It’s not routine.  It’s never going to be truly routine.  But, having flown demos of one kind or another in practice or for airshow crowds, I have a level of comfort with a great deal of the process.  I’m a little more relaxed.  I can widen my focus a little because I have most of the core stuff under control.  I’m one of four or five guys who do this so regularly that we’re beginning to anticipate each other’s moves.

But that’s an insular community.  Very few of my other friends have any idea what goes into the planning, briefing, flying, and debriefing every flight.  They’ve never been around to see it.  And there’s always that sense that if I fly a demo in the forest and the wider community of my friends isn’t around to see it, it made no noise.  (Horrible mixing of metaphors, I know.)

But then Lindsay Shipps showed up in town.  Her parents live in Ann Arbor and it turned out that she could get to KDET early enough on Saturday to get up for an orientation flight in the mighty Terrazzo Falcon.  The team was flying demos over the Detroit riverfront for the River Days celebration.  I had flown 2 on Friday and was slated to fly the same position both Saturday and Sunday.  I scheduled the bird so that I could fly Lindsay prior the show time to fly the demo.

Lindsay showed up and we preflighted and launched.  She flew a good chunk of the ride out to Belle Isle, up the coast along the Pointes, then back down around to Belle Isle.  The TG-7A doesn’t do much that’s dramatic, but it will fly a mildly satisfying parabola.  Push for about 110 mph, pull up and set the nose high, then push over the top to achieve zero G for about two seconds.  If you’re not used to maneuvers like that, it feels really strange.  And it’s cool even if you’re an acro pilot.

Shipps Laugh

I’ll hand it to Lindsay.  She was not entirely comfortable with the ride, but agreed to the parabola and ended up loving it.  And the next one, too.

Shipps 180 front

And, perhaps more dramatic, Lindsay let me demonstrate a 180 abort back to the runway.  I hadn’t performed one for a while, so I simply did it from 400 feet instead of 350, pushed for 85 mph instead of 80 mph, and did the initial climb from a touch-and-go instead of a dead stop, the better to climb higher sooner.  It’s still dramatic-looking if you’ve never seen one and you don’t get extra credit for doing stuff any lower or slower with a first-timer aboard.  To paraphrase Ralph Royce, they’re amazed that you can return to the runway at all.  Doing it from 50 feet lower isn’t going to impress ‘em  any more.

River Days Brief 01

We landed, did the paperwork, gassed up the aircraft, and greeted the rest of the team as they arrived.  Linsday stayed around and shot pictures of the brief.

Then it was time to step.  I have to confess that I felt like I was abruptly abandoning my guest, but she’s pretty comfortable on any airport ramp and I’m sure that she understood that I had to go fly the demo.  A couple of text messages later in the day confirmed that all was cool.

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It wasn’t until I got some of Lindsay’s pictures this morning that the coolest part of the experience came home for me.  The picture in question was this one.  Click on the picture for the full-sized version.  I had just lined up next to lead and 3 was rolling up behind us.  The T-6 was preparing to roll into place behind 3.  Four guys in four aircraft, all poised to go about the business of flying in front of thousands of people.  And I was one of them.

I remember flying my favorite C-152, N94891, to Hillsdale (KJYM) from Willow Run (KYIP) in 2001 on my first solo cross-country.  I met my college buddy Jim Angus there for some coffee.  Jim helped me park the aircraft when I arrived and he got to see me climb into it and take off when we returned to the airport from breakfast.  My flying became more real at that point because one of my friends from outside the aviation community had seen me do it.  Before, aviation had been something that I practiced in isolation with acquaintances whom I only knew through aviation.  Now that Jim had actually seen me fly an airplane by myself, by flying somehow had an anchor point in my “real” life.

I know Linsday from the aviation world.  But it’s mostly as fellow media people and more as enthusiasts than operators.  We’ve flown together on Fat Albert Airlines.  We’ve crewed for an A-4.   But neither she nor any of my non-airshow acquaintances had seen me fly in airshow mode.

That picture made it apparent that someone outside the circle of performers had seen me launch with my airshow team as the sole occupant of an aircraft that was expected to fly in close formation both precisely and safely.  Just as Jim seeing me fly 891 had done for my initial flight experience, that photographic evidence of a friend’s view makes my airshow ops “real.”

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I’m continuing to write whenever I can.  I have three episodes all coming along in parallel to try to tell you this story in more detail.  From standing around on the ramp to pyro guy to narrator to performer.  I still sometimes have a hard time believing it myself, so I have to get the words just right to show you how magical this whole thing has been.  It’ll be worth the wait.  That much I know.

 

Red Bull air Races in Detroit – Saturday – Part 1

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or audio, please check out the other posts.

We’re at the Red Bull Air Races on the Detroit River! Windy as hell with a constant breeze of about 25 knots coming more or less directly out of the south. I understand that this is pretty much directly opposite where they were for the practice runs yesterday, so all of the racers are paying a lot of attention to how that’s going to change matters.

We have a lot of riverfront upon which to do this, so this is the longest course (3.8 miles from end to end) in the four years of the Red Bull series. And the wind today is just about directly aligned with the long axis of the course, so that’ll have a big effect, depending on the relevant maneuvers.

Rod Rakic is here for the weekend and is helping out with coverage. Rod grew up in the Detroit area and did his primary pilot training at Detroit City (Coleman A. Young) Airport (KDET). He also spent a summer as an office manager at a flight school there. He’s visiting from Chicago and is going to be a key part of the Airspeed team for this event. We’re going to try to hangar-fly a little tomorrow and get an episode up from the media center on site.

The setup on the race course is pretty cool. Red Bull has brought along two of its own control towers (yeah, they brought their own control towers!). Here’s the one that’s down on the waterfront with the landmark Renaissance Center.

The High Flyers’ Club is just on the other side of the tower. As with any event like this, I like to go around seeing where my media pass will get me in. I can say with some certainty that, although it has gotten me many places, it has not gotten me into (or even near) the High Flyers’ Club. But I can hardly whine. Red Bull has provided free valet parking, lots of other access, a spectacular media center on the waterfront (and another really nice one at the airport) and, naturally, all the Red Bull I can drink. I am so wired right now I can barely stand it. And I’ve only just begun.

The sound system on the waterfront is pretty good, too. Check out this unnamed media member who was overpowered by a little James Brown during the Canadian Harvards performance prior to the racing.

A couple of cans of Red Bull with the other cylindrical icons of the event in the background. A first class event in all respects so far. More posts soon!