Michigan Aerobatic Open 2012 – Day -2

Another day in Jackson.  I got up first thing this morning with Don and worked on hammerheads and the humpty.  A productive flight.

I’m not at a good acro tolerance point yet.  It could have been that I flew first thing this morning and I’m just not a morning acro guy.  It could be that I’m just not an acro guy.  But we’ve talked about that before.  And it’s not going to stop me.

The order of the day was hammers.  Lots and lots of hammers.  I got to the point where I could do a hammer with the only talk from the front seat being suggestions for improvement.  And that’s a good thing.  I’m pretty happy about that.  I need to keep the aircraft at right angles all the way around and wait for the roll to the left.  Then it’s right stick to about the halfway point and kick.  I’m feeling as though I get it and it’s really just a matter of getting a more intuitive feel on top of the mechanical stepwise process.

I noticed on the video from yesterday that we spent three potatoes or so on the upline in the humpty on that flight.  We got slow and had to work it over the top.  On the humpty this morning, I started the pull over the top after only a single potato and it worked out well.  Positive control all the way over the top and a good float.

After we landed, it was time to set up the box markers.  The Jackson box is a little odd in several respects.  It’s aligned with Runway 6/24 (and, therefore, not with any of the section lines or anything else intuitive.  Part of the box is situated over the swamp to the west of the field.  That means that we have to put markers in the swamp and in several other interesting locations.  It was 85 F early on and it only got worse.  Humping markers around the airport will take a lot out of you in that kind of heat.  By the time we were done and Don had done several other flights, I was pretty well done for the day.  Discretion being the better part of valor, I packed it in for the day and returned to the Tri-Pi House .

I have stuff to work on tomorrow.  I think I’ll hit the shark’s tooth (vertical up, pull over to a 45 down, half roll to upright, and exit level) and then do each of the other maneuvers other than the spin.  I’m guessing that the spin will do my tummy in, so I’ll conclude with that.  If I can get the spin dialed, it’ll be time to fly the entire sequence out in the practice area.  If I can make it through the maneuvers themselves, then I’ll bring it into the box and see how it works in the box itself.  Most likely, I’ll stay in the practice area on the first flight.  Them I’ll bring it into the box for the second flight (which might or might not start out in the practice area.  The Unlimited guys will show up tomorrow and the box will only get more crowded from here on out, so it’s time to get into the box and see how these things go in a confined space.

Lots to do, but this is all doable.  I’m looking forward to it!



Michigan Aerobatic Open 2012 – Day -3

A down day to get some work done for clients, do laundry, and snag a little sleep, and it’s back to it.

On Sunday, I left the Battle Creek airshow shortly after finishing my narration gig for the Tuskegee Airmen glider demo team.  I picked up Don Weaver in Jackson and drove him to Ray and loaded up a care package for the Pitts.  Don then flew the Pitts to Jackson and I headed home, where such laundry, work, and other more mundane activities ensued.

Fast forward to this morning, when I awoke at the Pi Pi Pi House (which is what we’ve dubbed this dorm at Spring Arbor University where many of us are staying).  Off to Jackson County Reynolds Field, where the Pitts awaited.

I signed on to my second FAA waiver.  As you’ll recall, the waiver is necessary to cover things like aerobatic maneuvering, fuel requirements, altitudes, and other matters.  It essentially allows us to do stuff in Class D airspace that not even a retiring Lt Col on a fini flight would consider.

I realized that I couldn’t find my acro shoes.  They’re actually just wrestling shoes and there isn’t anything special about them other than the fact that they’re narrower than my usual tennies and are less likely to snag when I move my feet up or down on the rudder pedals to use the brakes.  I can feel the pedals a little better and wrap my toes around the turface features of the pedals, too, so that’s a plus.  I had to hit Dunham’s to buy another pair, but was rewarded with a pair that fits even better than my old pair.

The flying was reasonably good.  A couple of half-hour flights.  The idea is to get my tummy settled down.  As many of you know, I don’t really have the stomach for acro.  I’m the dog who continues to chase cars even though I have little business doing so.

The first flight was all positive G with little or no roll.  I can pull G all day long.  It’s roll that messes with my head.  So we flew loops and half Cubans for awhile.  I’d been having issues with getting all wing-low on the float in the loop maneuvers anyway, mostly because I’m pulling the stick back and to the right.  I’m now pulling straight back and that’s really helping.  It’s always easier when you’re not trying to correct in the float when you see the horizon appear and start creeping down the glass all cock-eyed.

On the second flight, it was all about the reverse half Cubans.  (Pull up to a 45, roll inverted, stick it there for a few potatoes, then pull over the last 5/8 of a loop.  I had never flown a reverse half Cuban before, but managed to pull them off.  The issue was figuring out what the float is supposed to look like and how long to hold it.  I also needed a sight picture.  I tried looking left to the sight gage, but, if you’re a guy who doesn’t like roll, you should not be rapidly turning your head left and back while inverted.  It turns out that, if you can find a cloud as a reference, that’s best.  If you can’t, you can try to use the horizon low and outside as a gage, assuming that your roll to inverted was true.

Toward the end of that flight, I had Don demonstrate a humpty-bump (the fifth maneuver in the 2012 sportsman).  That’s a pull to the vertical with a half loop at the top.  Very short upline (unlike the hammer) because you need the energy to get you up into the float for the half loop.  We got a little slow up there, but made it over.  I’m going to pull after only three potatoes or so in the upline.

Tomorrow, we hit the hammerhead hard.  That’s the newest maneuver and the one I’m most concerned about getting right.  If I can nail the hammer and the spin, I think that everything else will fall into place.  (We’ll see how that process works out for me . . .)

Off to bed.  Three flights to get in tomorrow!


Acro Camp Sneak Peek 04: With Friends Like These . . . – Video Episode Show Notes

Despite the aggressive schedule around here (glider training, trying to find a new acro ride, doing really cool legal work for the best clients on the planet, etc.), I managed to get some time this weekend to do some editing on the movie.  The result is this sneak peek, “With friends like these . . .”

The campers at both of the Acro Camp shoots were very collaborative and supportive of each other.  But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t at least a little laughter with (okay, at) each other when stuff went wrong.  And stuff is bound to go wrong when you’re learning to fly an aircraft whose center of gravity is behind the mains.

In the course of logging all of the footage, I’ve noted when both IPs were in aircraft and noted opportunities to synchronize the conversation across both cockpits.  Usually based on ATC calls or radio communication between the aircraft.  This was one such pair of sequences.  I loved the big bounce on Jim’s wheel landing and I loved the reaction that it got from Barry and Lynda.  I lined them up this evening and voila!  Tailwheel magic!

I’m actively working on putting together more time to get the film edited.  It hasn’t been easy, but I’m making some real progress.  Watch this space and the new Acro Camp web page (in development) for more news and updates!

Blues, Blue Ridge, and the Commercial Checkride Looms

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes for audio and video episodes, you’ve come to the right place! Just scroll around and you’ll find ‘em!
I’m almost decompressed from the weekend. Saturday at Indy, I was invited to head over to Indianapolis International for an interview with CDR Dave Koss, Boss of the Blue Angels. They had lined up an F-4U Corsair, an FM-2 Wildcat, and an F/A-18D Hornet (Blue Angel jet No. 7) on the ramp as a backdrop highlighting the Centennial of Naval Aviation (“CONA” for short).
I did my best to ask some nonstandard questions, but Boss is both well-prepared and enthusiastic. I asked him how all of the aircraft behind him were . . . wait for it . . . the same. He didn’t skip a beat. “The Naval Aviators who fly them.” And he’s dead right.
It was a short interview because it was raining and the Wildcat and Corsair had to beat feet back to indianapolis Regional (KMQJ), where they were on static display. But it turned into a really good three or four minutes that I’ll likely edit into an episode for the show. I might also try to grab a piece of it to use in Acro Camp.

The remainder of the weekend was also pretty epic. I got home around 0400 local on Sunday morning. After a reasonably full day of domestic bliss, I met up with Don Weaver at Pontiac (KPTK) and proceeded to knock out my long commercial cross-country by repositioning a Cirrus SR22 (N711CG) from Pontiac Raleigh-Durham (KRDU) via Mansfield, Ohio (KMFD) and Upshur County, West Virginia (W22).
We were inside the eggshell from about 1,200 AGL off of KPTK all the way to KMFD. We shot the ILS to 300 feet in actual with a stiff crosswind from the right. Later, we broke out of the clag and had some fun poking through fat, ragged cumulus piles most of the way to W22. We cancelled IFR and landed at W22 for gas.
It looked as though we’d be able to stay above the mountain ridges and below the clouds the rest of the way to KRDU, so we departed W22 VFR and had an amazing time navigating through the valleys and over the ridges using a sectional. The peaks were around 4,000 MSL and the clouds varied from 4,500 to 6,000. Plenty of room to stay legal both above and below. But it’s the kind of flying that makes you really work on your SA and keep all of the back doors available in case you round a corner and find out that the next cloud and the next peak are in contact.
We landed at KRDU and buttoned up the airplane. Then we did an almost equally epic 13-hour dash back to KPTK in a rental car. We traded driving duties and whoever was the PND took on DJ duties, digging into the deepest depths of his iPod to introduce the PD to the best of the best in music and motor skills. Don went out and immediately bought Chris Thile’s Not All Who Wander Are Lost after we returned, so I was reasonably successful in my PND shifts.
Now it’s back to the grind. Lots of interesting clients with interesting work. But I also have only a 100nm night cross-country to go in the aeronautical experience department to go, then it’s polish the maneuvers, get the written out of the way, and I’ll be ready to take the commercial checkride.
Back to the trenches! Ttere’s a movie to edit and Battle Creek is only a few weeks away!

Acro Camp Sneak Peek 02 – Formation

These are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch by subscribing to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. Or just click above to watch the episode through Vimeo. It’s all free!
On the third day of filming for Acro Camp, Don Weaver and Barry Sutton decided to do a formation flight out in the practice area. They gathered the Pitts and Paul, and the Super Decathlon and Lynda, respectively, and briefed the sortie at Pontiac. The Super D departed first and the Pitts followed shortly thereafter.
This sequence captures the join-up and two passes.

Editing is coming along well. Believe it or not, I think that I’m going to be able to complete the whole thing with nothing more than a Mac Book Pro and an array of outboard hard drives. The ultimate shoestring movie from beginning to end.
But still a beautiful movie! Just look at some of the near-golden-hour lighting in this sequence!

This sequence was a lot of fun to edit. I synched up all of the cameras and audio so that you get to hear all of the people in each of the aircraft all simultaneously, including both the radio transmissions and the intra-cockpit communications.
Everybody has his or her fears. Paul Berliner, the high-time airline driver, was fine with all of the acro, but was not at all comfortable with formation flight. He was a trooper and agreed to do the flight. And he stuck it out all the way through both passes. But I’d be lying if I said that I thought that he enjoyed it.
That’s a great deal of what Acro Camp is about. Confronting areas of discomfort. And exploring one’s envelope, whether mentally, physically, or otherwise.
Side note: Formation flight, like aerobatics, is not for the untrained or unfamiliar. Both Don and Barry have prior formation experience and they were on the controls of the respective aircraft during the entire formation sequence. And, although the footage looks in places as though the aircraft are pretty close, that’s an effect of the lenses and the aircraft kept a healthy buffer between them. Especially, you’ll notice, where Don rolled inverted.
Do try this at home. You’ll be a better, safer, more competent pilot. It might even safe your life someday. But do it with an experienced instructor in a capable aircraft and in compliance with the regs. And ease into it. You don’t have to be ready to fly wing for the Thunderbirds after your first flight.
The movie is on track for release later this summer, so stay tuned. More information about post-production and release coming soon. Stay subscribed to Airspeed and check out the Acro Camp website at www.acrocamp.com.