Kim Crow, the Original Bitching Betty – Audio Episode Show Notes

Kim Crow

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!

In the early days of the Fighter Mafia and the first generation of new E-M fighter development, systems designers realized that lights, bells, and whistles simply weren’t immediate enough to give pilots urgent information that they needed while aloft in the battlespace.  Engineers realized that spoken annunciations were necessary, especially for urgent or dangerous conditions like terrain proximity.

The very first voice digitized for use in fighter cockpits was that of actress Kim Crow and the voice soon became known, loved, and hated as “Bitching Betty.”

Kim spent an hour talking with Airspeed about being Betty, from the very first Betty sessions in a conference room and later in a studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Betty evolved with different platforms and conflicts and Kim was there at the mic and breathed life into this icon of aviation throughout Betty’s early history.  Betty has been a constant companion to pilots in many airframes in many conflicts and has even likely been the last voice that some pilots have ever heard.

There have since been other Bitching Bettys and Betty has even been joined by Nagging Norah (UK), Hank the Yank (Australia), and others.  But, for many pilots, Kim will always be the one and only Bitching Betty.

This is a very special episode and we still can’t quite believe that we get to bring it to you.

More information about Kim:

More information about Bitching Betty:

This episode’s selection:

Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe


Making Good on a Deal

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or links to show audio or video? Keep scolling or check ou the archives in the sidebar. It’s all here!

On Sunday, I went to the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival in the more traditional sense. I spent Friday and Saturday at Hangar 1 on the field, embedded with The Hoppers, a civilian L-39 jet team, setting up cameras, offloading video, and riding on a couple of hops in the back seat. Sunday was about hanging out with the crowd and touching base with that element of the airshow experience.

I got to see Kent Pietsch fly his Interstate Cadet from the other end of the show line. It’s closer to the staging areas for the show aircraft and it’s a different view. Kent has long captured my imagination in much the same way that Greg Koontz or John Mohr have. In the “It’s not how fast, it’s how slow” vein of classic barnstorming. Hammerheads peaking at 200 AGL. Doing a steep turn at treetop level around the TACAN station. Picking up Tom Green from the top of a camper. Really wonderful control with light wing loading and low horsepower.

Then the F-15E Strike Eagle Demo. Cash and BUDA wringing out the jet in one of the best-orchestrated and executed single ship demos I think I’ve ever seen. This was the second show at which I’ve seen them fly and second, third, and fourth time I’ve seen the 2011 demo. It just gets better every time.

About the time the Eagle landed, my iPhone buzzed. It was a text message from Don Weaver saying that Don had the Berz Flight Training Pitts at Pontiac. Don and some others were practicing for next weekend’s IAC Michigan Aerobatic Open and, if I could get there, there was a slot for me to fly.

I had enough content from the Battle Creek show. And I had even handed off in-cockpit video of the Hopper flights to the local TV station. Mission, for all practical purposes, accomplished.

I packed up, headed through the trampled grass, said goodbye to the Battle Creek media chair, and pulled out of the parking area.

The world has more than its share of aviation enthusiasts. I know. I’m one of them. And I’m as competent an enthusiast as you’ll ever meet. Climbing in, on, and around jets with hot seats. Setting cameras, knowing the angles. Troubleshooting technical issues. Being a very-low-maintenance rider who needs only the safety brief and is never a distraction in the back seat. Being a guy who has a better than average chance of being able to land the jet if the front-seater ever took a nap.

But, at the end of the day, I’m something of a poser. I post gorgeous shots of myself looking stern and competent in the back of the jet. I look good. But the fact of the matter is that my hands are in my lap or holding one or more cameras. I purposely crop the shots so almost every shot leaves the shot ambiguous as to whether I might be flying the jet.

I don’t have a problem with that. And I’ll keep doing it. No shame there. But, driving home in the car all alone with myself, it’s hard not to think about the disconnect between the guy in the pictures and who I actually am and what I actually do. It’s not guilt, exactly. But there’s a sense that I spend this time basking in the glow of others and then hope that some of that residual glow makes it into the podcast or the blog.

But this year is a little different. This is the year that I put my skills where my mouth is. On Thursday, I go to Jackson (KJXN). I’m not going to be there looking for a ride with another pilot. I’m going to Jackson to fly.

The IAC Michigan Aerobatic Open is slated for Saturday and Sunday. And there will be practice times on Thursday and Friday. One of the entrants is flying the Primary sequence in a Pitts S-2B. That guy is me.

The Primary is not complicated. You can fly it in a minute or so. 45-degree upline to level, one-turn spin, half-Cuban, loop, 180-degree aerobatic turn, and slow roll. It is by no means anything that would impress even the average airshow crowd. But I will fly it. In a box. With people watching. Some of whom will be judges.

Don and I launched in the Pitts at about 7:30. The sun was low in the sky. We turned west toward Ray Community Airport, where we’d be dropping off the aircraft after the flight. About two thirds of the way there, I cleared the area, then flew the sequence. Good spin! Stopped right where it was supposed to. Even better Cuban. The loop needed work. The aerobatic turn was pure joy, performed (as I like them) with more G than is strictly necessary. The slow roll was a train wreck (as usual). I went over the maneuvers that needed work until I was reasonably satisfied with that session. Then we proceeded to Ray and got some dinner with Rod Rakic before flying back to Pontiac in Don’s Archer.

I’ll probably have at least two more practice sessions before I fly for the judges. I’ll be ready. For now, it was a good flight and a great evening. And a step along a path that I’m only just beginning to tread.

I’m flying in the competition for a number of reasons. I’m flying for the challenge against objective measures that has drawn me to ratings and endorsements. I’m flying because it’s a perfect next step in my evolution as a pilot.

But no reason is as important as this: I’m flying because it’s no longer acceptable to be a poser. Because it is no longer enough to show up for a military media/fam flight with the manual memorized. Because it’s no longer enough to know the vocabulary and pass in conversation as one of the bros.

Because it is time to take the controls with my hands and feet and do this above a field surrounded by upturned faces.

This weekend, I go find out.

It’s just the IAC primary. No one that I admire in the airshow community will be especially impressed that I flew the Primary, even if I fly it well.

But the guy who drives back from airshows all alone in the car will want to know about it. He’ll care. And he’ll look me in the eye and know that I took up this challenge, even when I could have avoided it for any of hundreds of reasons.

That’s because I made a deal with him. If I firewall the throttle, rotate, climb, fly my ass off, and leave everything I have up there in the box, he’ll no longer have reason to think that it’s all a veneer. He’ll know that I reached up into the wind for the real thing and either caught it or tried as well as I’m capable.

There are worse deals one could make.

I’m not Kent Pietsch. I’m not Greg Koontz. I’m not Dawg, Puck, Mildred, Skids, GH, Cash, BUDA, Bloke, Slick, or Snort.

But on Sunday, I expect to be, if only in the most basic sense, a competition aerobatic pilot. And no longer a poser.

See you this weekend. I have a deal to make good on.

Russell Military Museum

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. If you want to listen online, please use the direct link below.

This spring, I got a call from listener Luke Donald from Russell, Illinois. Luke volunteers at the Russell Military Museum and thought that the museum might be a good subject for the show. I took a look at the map and realized that Cole and I would be driving right by the museum on our way to Oshkosh, so I wrote Tim back and asked whether I might be able to stop by and interview someone in person.

So, on the Wednesday of AirVenture Oshkosh, Cole and I departed from Airspeed Headquarters in southeast Michigan at about 5:00 a.m. and pulled into the parking lot in Russell at about noon Central Time.

I met Luke and he walked me around the grounds, including having the chance to climb up and walk around on top of the newly-arrived F-15. I then interviewed Mark Sonday, the museum’s director.

We had to get going to make it to Oshkosh and then Appleton for the Cessna Citation Mustang flight, but we stopped back in on our way back on Sunday to interview Luke and talk a little more about the museum and what it’s like to volunteer among these rows of military aircraft, vehicles, and other items.

I’m going to run both interviews back to back here.

[Interview audio]

More information about the Russell Military Museum:

Russell Military Museum
43363 Old Highway 41
Russell, Illinois 60075
Phone: (847) 395-7020
Fax: (847) 395-7025

F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team

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These are the show notes to a video episode. If you want to listen online, please use the direct link below.

I caught the members of the F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team just before the briefing on Friday at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival for an interview. Lots of good information about the aircraft, the team members’ roles, commissioning tracks in the Air Force, and how you get into one of the seats of the mighty F-15E.

More information about the F-15E Strike Eagle, the demo team, and the US Air Force:

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.