Battle Creek 2010 – Media Day

Yeah! It’s Battle Creek time again! The Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival is going on now through Sunday in Battle Creek, Michigan.

I spent the day on the field (when I wasn’t up in a balloon) and shot stills and video and caught up with my friends there. And, naturally, I got a preview of the attractions this year.

Randy Harris of Bearfoot Aerobatics really flies beautifully. I think his Skybolt 300 is one of the most photogenic airplanes on the field this year. It was really catching the sun today in a way that not a lot of aircraft do (especially when you consider where the sun is when you’re facing north on a crowd line but the acro is flown along Runway 5-23 – You have very narrow angular area where the sun makes it worthwhile to shoot). The airplane puts out a lot of smoke, too, which makes the presentation even more dramatic.

The F-22 Raptor is headlining the show this year. It’s no secret that I’m a huge raptor fan and I got up close and personal with both of the specimens that were on the ramp. David “Zeke” Skalicky, Maj, USAF, is flying the Raptor this year and he put her through her paces. I can do some of that stuff in a Citabria, but I have to do it at 60 KIAS and then I have to recover from the ensuing spin. The handling is just too sweet for words. My only complaint is that the aircraft doesn’t come in a two-seat variant.

The Raptor is flying with a F-4 Phantom II for the heritage flight. I’ve never been a Phantom fan because I’ve always seen it as a misguided foray away from the core Boydian energy-maneuverability philosophy that makes this kind of flying worthwhile. The Phantom was a missiles-only ship for most of its operational service life. Only later did they add the gun. Maybe the Raptor (which is about as automated an aircraft as we have that still has a seat in it and fights BVR and drops JADAM) ) is the more proper expression of what the Phantom’s designers had in mind.

I’m hopelessly romantic about the idea that one ought to crank and bank and engage in combat where the actual maneuvers of the airplane matter. Regardless of whether the Raptor fights BVR, it can move like nothing else out there and perhaps there’s poetry in flying the Phantom in the formation – Maybe the Raptor is the redemption of the Phantom. Or maybe I’m full of crap. Either way, the Raptor is much more fun to watch than the Phantom. Even if the Phantom has two seats.

Am I over-thinking this? Come on, Steve, it’s an airshow! Enjoy yourself! Truth is, I really am enjoying myself. The formation flight is beautiful and well-executed and I’m having a great time.

I interviewed the safety officer for the demo team in front of the airplane for Airspeed and Acro Camp. It was a good interview and he was enthusiastic about the airframe. I need to get his name from his tag in the video. The team was ready to brief the demo and the captain was very kind to take a few minutes to do the interview at that point in the day. I don’t have the hardware to pull the video off the cards here in Battle Creek, so it’ll have to wait until I get back the Airspeed HQ.

Last thing about the Raptor. I know that everyone thinks that a jet team like the Thunderbirds of the Blues is necessary to anchor an airshow. And nobody loves jet teams more than I do. But I think that the F-22 is a wholly satisfying anchor demo for an airshow. For the reasons stated above and because it gives the show an opportunity to really craft the mix of other acts on the schedule. This is a really satisfying airshow with 100LL and JP-8 burners and pyro and other elements. I’m really looking forward to watching this tomorrow with a crowd pressed up against the snow fence.

The Iron Eagle Aerobatic Team was also there to play. Formation acro is just such a quantum leap from single-ship acro. And these guys get really close and match each other so nicely. It’s just a joy to watch. Satisfying prop whine, lots of smoke, and dramatic coverage of the show line. What’s not to like?

Bob Carlton demonstrated some truly beautiful stuff in his Super Salto. It’s a sailplane powered by the PBS TJ-100 jet engine that puts out 225 pounds of thrust, which is more than enough to aloow the sailplane to self-launch and makes it the only sailplane on the airshow circuit capable of performing a low-level, jet-powered airshow program. I didn’t expect to enjoy Bob’s routine as much as I did. Maybe it’s the same thing I feel when I’m watching John Mohr or Greg Koontz. Although the Super Salto has a jet engine, it’s not that powerful and I’d imagine that it requires some pretty good pilot chops and attention to energy management to make it do the things that Bob makes it do.
Get the heck out here and enjoy this show! The weather is supposed to be great, the schedule is well-rounded, and the grounds are ready to go. Adults are only $10 and kids under four feet are free!

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.

AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 – Day 2 – The F-22

This is a regular blog post. Please check the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio.

The F-22 Raptor took to the skies at Oshkosh yesterday and it was a really great demonstration. I understand that airspace restrictions required that the team perform only a part of the usual demo, but the flying I saw (and heard!) was pretty impressive. The sound is reminiscent to me of the F-14 Tomcat. You get a little rocket-style crackle in the thunder and I’ve always been a fan of that.

Here’s a pass with the weapons doors open. Part of the F-22’s stealth comes from the fact that all of the weapons are internal t the fuselage. That also makes it a pretty big aircraft (weapons take up space), but it still manages to have a gnat’s-ass radar signature. A ghost in plain sight.

Here’s a shot of the heritage flight with Dale Snodgrass at the controls of the P-51 Mustang.