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...]

Indy 2010: Arrival

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A meandering trip this morning and early afternoon through Dayton and then over to the Mount Comfort Airport. A stop at the Waffle House, 25 minutes hung up in a gawker jam, lots of podcast listening, and then the parking lot at Indy Aero.

It’s that time of year again! Time for the Indianapolis Airshow! I attended the event for the first time last year and I’m enthusiastically back.

Thursday before a show is one of my favorite times. The ramp is relatively bare. But the energy is building. A fleet of golf carts awaits volunteers and staff. The rows of vendor tents are going up. Indy Aero, the FBO, is starting to buzz with activity (red shirts everywhere!). People like Billy Werth who were new friends last year greet you with familiarity that far exceeds the time that life has thus far let you spend together.

It’s a special time when a performer aircraft are arriving every half hour or so and golf carts and tug whiz around like crazed gophers. But, at the same time, right next to Kent Pietsch’s Jelly-Belly-liveried 1942 Interstate Cadet and Billy Werth’s Pitts S-2C, 30-hour student pilot Jon Ebbeler is preflighting his aircraft for a few trips around the pattern.

I strolled through the hangar and got some drool on Mike Goulian’s Extra 330, one of the Horsemen’s P-51 Mustangs, and the Red Eagle II.

Then I strolled the ramp with Liza Eckardt from Fence Check. Although mostly unpopulated, parts of the ramp were beginning to take shape. The A-10 Thunderbolt IIs of the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command East Coast A-10 Demo Team had arrived and the maintainers were getting the birds show-ready. Although he was busy, I got Maj Johnnie “Dusty” Green to talk energy management and aerobatics on camera in front of the aircraft as a possible sequence for the Acro Camp movie. The A-10 has no afterburners, so energy management is very important to both combat maneuvers and the airshow demo profile. With no blowers to fall back on, the energy you have is basically the energy you have and you have to manage that while supporting the ground operations and potentially being shot at.

By the time we got the rest of the way around the ramp, all three of the Horsemen aircraft were on the ramp and preparing for a flight to warm up and work out some elements of their demo. The package at the show is pretty impressive. The Horsemen, Mike Goulian, and announcer Rob Reider form a pretty impressive core of airshow entertainment.

I got the chance to sit down with managing partner Kurt Kratchman at the ICAS convention in December and talk about everything from the airshow operations to other properties like Mike da Mustang to the online presence (which, by the way, includes the innovative BlackBox presentation engine).

And, of special interest to me and other aviator-musicians, composer James Horner has scored and directed the music for the Horsemen’s demo. You’ve heard Horner’s stuff. To name just a few of the 100-odd scores he’s worked on: Braveheart, Apollo 13, Glory, A Beautiful Mind, The Perfect Storm, and Avatar. (And Apollo 13. And Apollo 13!) You get the picture. Horner is tight with the Horseman and gets to ride along with some frequency. There’s a short film at called Write Your Soul that goes into the backstory.

Kurt, Ed Shipley, and others from ASB sure seem to have a broad and deep set of properties in the airshow and lifestyle vertical. And I think what they’re doing has the seeds of revolution for some areas of new media. I’m perhaps pretty decent at thinking deeply about the present infrastructure and shape of new media. I think I play well with that. But I look at ASB and see a gathering critical mass of . . . something. I don’t know what and I’d be foolish to speculate. But there’s a lot of talent and resources in very close proximity. I’m watching pretty closely and can’t wait to see what happens.

Anyway, the time hack for this post will likely be in the ridiculous hours of the morning, so I’m going to go ahead and post this. Media credentialing is at 0800 local and I intend to be there. Bleary-eyed, but there!

Red Bull air Races in Detroit – Saturday – Part 2

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I spent a little time at the public pit walk at Detroit City (Coleman Young) Airport (KDET) this morning. Really stinkin’ neat for any number of reasons. First is the other control tower that Red Bull brought in for the event. An apparently fully-functional control tower that’s customized for the race and fully portable. Unreal! Let’s get this thing to Fond du Lac during AirVenture Oshkosh this year!

This is really neat. There’s a full pit line with all of the aircraft and pilots in an L-shape. Between 9:30 and 11:00, the public can come in and freely walk the pit line, talk to the pilots, and get autographs. The lines are really reasonable and it would surely have been possible to obtain all of the pilots’ autographs within the space of an hour or less. I didn’t really feel compelled to talk to anyone other then Mike Goulian, but I did walk right up and got headshots of all of the pilots within 20 minutes.

I think that this is absolutely brilliant on the part of Red Bull. Make the pilots and the aircraft as available as possible and build bonds between present and future fans through access. Every single staff person (even security guarding the ingress/egress and tower) was cordial and friendly. The guy guarding the media center door went out of his way to look for my media pass and proactively invited me in.

Red Bull is really nailing it with this model. The fans really seemed to appreciate it. Especially the kids. No MLB or NBA, this. Red Bull is going out of its way to give as much access as possible. I didn’t see any access restriction at all that didn’t make sense in at least some way (e.g. airport security, integrity of the aircraft, etc.). How cool is this?

I kind of think of it as NASCAR without as much ass crack and beer. Am I wrong?

On another note, with the event being held in Detroit and all, I have high hopes that the audience will include lots of black and other minority folks. You’ve heard me complain that aviation in general is overwhelmingly male. It happens to be overwhelmingly white, too. I’m sure that (at least since the 1970s) been much more de facto than de jure, but any change is going to require that we get minorities (and especially minority kids!) up close and personal with 100LL, Jet-A, and JP-8.

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see as many minorities at the pit walk as one might have hoped, what with City Airport being right in the heart of an overwhelmingly black population. Lots of folks down on the waterfront (which is great!), but I hope that we see more at the pit walks over the coming years which, to me, would be an indicator that there’s more interest. I say that because you kind of have to work at it to get to the airport and then park and then hoof it to the flight line. The demographics of those who show up at the airport (as opposed to the waterfront) are probably more indicative of who the faithful and the obsessed are, or at least more so than the general population.

Not going to make a big deal of it, but you guys know me and know that I’m all about encouraging as many humans as possible to get into general aviation. Black, white, green, purple, Nova Scotian, you name it. If you’ll stand still long enough, I’ll tell you about GA. It there’s a population for which a special approach or more exposure would help, I’m all about it. And, by the way, I think that holding the race in Detroit in the first place is a great step.

(By the way, I tend to use the term “black” instead of “African American” becuase not everyone who’s black is necessarily American and because Thurgood Marshall preferred the term “black” and that’s more than good enough for me. I hope no offense is given because none is intended. Prefer otherwise? No problem. But you have to let me talk GA to you.)

We got to touch base again with Mike Goulian of the USA, who flies the No. 99 Edge 540. He’s also an airshow performer and appeared on Airspeed in November of 2007, featured in a July interview from the Battle Creek airshow. He finished fifth in the 2006 series and eighth last year. He hasn’t had a podium finish this year, but posted a second place in one contest during the 2007 series. He was upbeat and the only concern he seemed to have was the wind out on the course, which was exceeding 34 knots as I post this.

Kirby Chambliss of the USA, pilot of the No. 4 Edge 540 for the Red Bull team, takes time with a young fan. Kirby signed the little guy’s shirt which, from the looks of it, had already made the rounds of several of the other pilots. Chambliss finished first in the 2006 series and brought home third and fourth in 2005 and 2007 respectively. He has placed third in one contest so far this year.

Yeah, another tower shot. Not sure what this guy is doing, but who cares? A completely mobile control tower is just so cool!

Just heard that the winds caused the organizers to cancel the qualifying flights this afternoon. They’re planning to fly tomorrow and the weather looks good with mostly sunny skies forecast and winds of around 10 from around 300. I’ll be there the whole day with Rod and we’ll try to do a little hangar flying and post an audio episode from the media center.

Back to Your Regularly-Scheduled Airspeed with Aerobatic Pilot and Red Bull Air Racer Mike Goulian

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Mike Goulian’s family founded one of the largest flying schools in the Northeast, Executive Flyers Aviation (EFA) in 1964. Michael learned the aviation business from the ground up by washing airplanes and sweeping the hangar floor. Michael started flying lessons in 1984 and soloed a Cessna 150 on his 16th birthday. He started aerobatic training in 1985 while he was still a student pilot.

By age 22, he had become US National Champion in the Advanced Category. A year later he won the prestigious Fond du Lac Cup invitational competition and by 1992 he was the top ranked US male aerobatic pilot and Silver Medalist in the Unlimited Category, an achievement he repeated in 1993. His performance earned him a spot on the 1994 US National Aerobatic Team, which represented America at the World Aerobatic Championship held in Hungary. In 1995, Mike became the US National Champion in the Unlimited Category. He has been a member of the 1994, 1996, and 1998 US Aerobatic Teams.

Today, Mike performs at airshows across the country.
He flies and races in the Extra 300 SHP.

Empty weight: 1,290 lbs.
Engine: 350hp Thunderbolt Lycoming “Reno” IO-580
Construction: Carbon fiber wings and steel tube fuselage
Speeds: Top speed, 260 mph – stall speed, 60 mph
Roll rate: 380 degrees per second

G limits: Plus and Minus 10g

He also races overseas in the Red Bull Air Races.

We caught up with Mike this summer on the ramp at the Battle Creek Balloon Festival and Field of Flight Airshow this summer.

Thanks to Mike Goulian for taking some time out to talk to us here on Airspeed.

Mike is sponsored by Air BP’s Castrol Aviator brand of piston aviation oils, Aubuchon Hardware, Avidyne Corporation, Champion Aerospace, Hartzell, Lycoming, Oxford Aviation, Sennheiser, and Tempest.

Be sure to support Airspeed’s sponsor, Gleim, and use your special promotional code, “ASPD,” when ordering your Pilot Kit to get your 25% Airspeed discount!