Airspeed Alfresco – Inaugurating the Patio for the 2009 Season

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or links to ahow audio? Please check out the other posts.

So I’ve finally had the opportunity to set up the studio in one of my favorite authoring spaces, namely my patio. It’s in the low 70s and sunny and it’s the perfect circumstances to categorize, edit, assemble, write, and think. Which is what I intend to do, along with a whole boatload of work from the office (three hours already billed today, so I’m taking a little break here and I feel good about that).

I have a lot to do. I have the seaplane rating audio to categorize and edit. I have pictures and video of that, as well, that I need to figure out how best to present. I have loads of audio and video from recent acro training that I need to marry up and then cut for release. And all of this is to say nothing of the great material from the T-6A Texan II ride (as well as the voiceovers that I need to write and record for that).

(By the way, thanks, Uncontrolled Airspace, for the kind shout-outs in Episode 135. I’ll try to not disappoint your listeners that hop over here for a taste!)

I’m still on a high from the Randolph AFB trip. Here’s a shot of Jo Hunter and Will Hawkins in the conference room that we used for the preflight briefing and as a staging area. One of the few pictures I think we have of Jo. She’s a wizard behind the lens but seems to avoid the other end of the lens for the most part.

One of the central resources of any incarnation of Firebase Airspeed (and especially in 94F San Antonio) is the beverage station. The hotel was very nice in almost all respects, but no fridge. So we loaded up the sink with ice and brushed out teeth using the bath tub. Got to get your priorities right!

Back to herding electrons. Look for really good stuff in the feed soon!

More Shots from the T-6A Texan II Flight

Check out the Airspeed episode Firebase Airspeed: T-6A Style right here:

The crazy-talented photographer and fellow aviation enthusiast Jo Hunter of Futurshox was a part of the coverage crew at the recent T-6A Texan II sortie at Randolph AFB and she made her Airspeed debut that night on the episode Firebase Airspeed T-6A Style, along with Will Hawkins of Wilco Films and A Pilot’s Story.

Jo shot stills, assisted with video, and contributed her distinctive Texas drawl (listen to the episode for details) to the proceedings.

Jo has posted several shots from the coverage at her site, and in a blog entry at Please be sure to check it out!

The lead shot of this blog entry is one of my favorites. After the flight, will shot some commentary from me for a Scheyden ad next to the aircraft. Glad I got a haircut the day I left for Randolph. I had developed a pretty good rooster tail in the helmet, but a little water and it looked like hair again for the shoot. And there’s nothing like a zoom bag, gee suit, helmet, and oxygen mask to make stuff like that just not matter.

Here’s a shot of the aircraft taxiing in. Maj Jarrett Edge in front and yours truly in back.

Just after takeoff. You can see the video camera pretty clearly in this one. I remain very indebted to the 559th and AETC generally for the accommodations that they made to allow this coverage. The in-flight video came out very well and we’re all pretty excited about it. I recognize that the jet teams have gee- and systems- based reasons for not flying better-resolution cameras, but I’m not complaining a bit about the Thunderbirds ride, but the video from this flight is orders of magnitude better than any I’ve seen from a jet team flight.

And the T-6A is such a wonderful-looking (to say nothing of performing) aircraft, I think the footage is actually more exciting than the jet team footage I’ve seen.

Will is hard at work editing and I’m going to be providing music and voiceovers to put together the video episode. I’ll also be doing a comprehensive audio episode of the whole thing and I’m hard at work writing and editing for that.

Are there luckier people on the planet? Three days of hanging out with perfectly resonant folks who love what you love for all of the right reasons. Having access to beautiful airplanes that turn mere pilots into the best-trained aviators in the world. Meeting and talking to the people at the top of their games who train the trainers. And now having a little breathing space to take that raw material and use it to tell a story to a loyal and enthusiastic audience.

I can’t thank Will, Jo, the US Air Force, and many others enough. Look for a great couple of episodes (probably a couple in audio and one in video) soon!

More Frame Grabs from the T-6A Texan II Flight

This is a regular blog post. Check out the other posts for show notes and links to show audio and video.

I’m just now getting a chance to look at the video from the T-6A Texan II ride and start parsing out the pieces that are going to be the most useful. It’s also a great way to remember the flight and make sure that I get all of my impressions down so that I can incorporate them into the episodes. I thought I’d post a few frame grabs so that you could see what I’m working with.

The day was fairly overcast, which means that we’re going to have to pump up the color a little in places. That said, we have a lot of great sequences of flying by – and through – big ragged cumulus clouds, and those are going to be great once we make the clouds pop a little better.

Here’s a shot of the strap-in process just after we turned on the camera. The camera is mounted on one of the vertical structures above the front ejection seat and the horizontal stabilization bar of the canopy just barely clears it coming down. I mounted the camera and Maj Edge turned it on and hit the REC button just before strapping himself in. Here, the LtCol is helping me complete my own strap-in. I’m carrying the audio recorder in my shoulder pocket and I have a condenser tie-clip mic (sans tie clip) dangling behind my ear to capture the intercom and ATC sound. I was pretty worried about the audio because I’d never tried doing it this way before, but it ended up working very well. You need to adjust the audio levels once you’re taxiing to make sure that you have it right, but it worked very well.

A nice shot of me and the Texas countryside as the aircraft went vertical in a maneuver. It’s a little gray and shadowy, but Will is working on that in post. Want to talk superpowers? Will can change the weather in post and actually use those clouds to his advantage!

Just before touchdown on Runway 14R at Randolph AFB. It’s hard to see much up front for landing and I’m craning a little to get an idea of Maj Edge’s sight picture.

A lot to chew on over the next few weeks. I need to write the backing music, hit the studio to record it, and get the mix in process. I wrote a lot on the flights on the way home last night from San Antonio and there’s much more yet to write. And then there’s the triage of w3hat I’ve written to get the whole thing down to the core story. I feel a little like Quincy Jones sitting down with a whole bunch of stupendous material and trying to figure out how best to tell the story. My favorite problem!

T-6A Ride – Starting to Look at the Video

This is a regular blog entry.  Looking for show notes or links to show audio?  Please check out the other entries.
We started looking at the video and other media from the ride yesterday.  It’s looking pretty great and we’re pretty happy about it.  I wanted to get a frame grab up this morning, so here it is.
More soon!

T-6A Texan II Flight – Emergency Training and Life Support Fitting

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or links to show audio? Check out the other posts.

This morning, I headed to Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. There’s a locker in the life support equipment room there with a helmet, mask, harness, and gee suit.

The locker is labeled “Mr. Tupper.” (Too stinking cool!)

Long story short, I just got a ride in the mighty T-6A Texan II with Maj Jarrett Edge of the 559th Flying Training Squadron at Raldolph.

I’ll post more as I gather in the pictures and video that Jo Hunter of Futurshox and Will Hawkins of Wilco Films shot during the process. We got great images in both cases and I’m very excited about the processof putting together both audio and video episodes covering the experience.

For now, I have the pictures pretty well organized from yesterday, so let’s talk about that.

I spent yesterday morning getting the training and fitted for the ride. The initial phase involved spending an hour or so with Reynaldo (“Ray”) Gutierrez.

I brought my own flight suit and boots. (Yeah, that’s the mark of a real aviation fanboy – “Ray, he brought his own zoom bag . . .”) All I needed to do was pull my Civil Air Patrol patches and cut the rank off of my shoulders.

By the way, if Civil Air Patrol aircrew members meet the Air Force height, weight, and grooming requirements, they can wear Air Force issue Nomex flight suits – Yet another reason to join CAP if you’re not a member already!

Then it was time to get familiar with the gear. Ray hooked me up with a gee suit and harness and taught me where and how everything connects. Then the helmet and the face mask. A quick tour of the seat kit (a small bag of vital survival stuff with an emergency beacon, a UHF radio, flares, and the like), and then it was time to meet the hardware.

First stop was the seat. It’s a full mock-up of the ejection seat and it’s used to familiarize the pilot with the straps, garters, and other stuff that makes you a part of the aircraft. It’s really necessary because you have seven buckles holding you in or holding onto the stuff that’s attached to you. Then you have your oxygen and your gee suit connection.

After you understand the hook-ups, you need to understand how the ejection system works. I flew with the safety pin in my ejection seat so I couldn’t inadvertently pull the handle. I could still remove the pin and punch out if Maj Edge in the front were to become incapacitated, but only then. Generally, the drill was that, if we were going to bail out, he’d announce “bail out, bail out, bail out!” and I’d simply assume the position (head back, chin in, elbows in, feet on the rudders) and prepare for the ride.

Here, I’m demonstrating for Ray that I understand the correct position for bailout. In this case, I’ve pulled the pin and I’m pulling the handle and punching out.

Next is the egress trainer. If bad things happen on the ground, you have to know how to get out of the aircraft in a hurry. You learn the operation of the canopy first and demonstrate that you can get out. Then you go into more detail, including the possibility that you might have to eject on the ground, shatter the canopy to get out, or otherwise egress in nonstandard ways.

You don’t unstrap until you’re sure that the canopy won’t open. Unstrapping basically eliminates your ability to eject and you don’t want to abandon that option until you’re sure that there’s no hope of ejecting. The T-6A is rated for zero-zero ejection, which means that you can punch out right there on the ground and still get a full canopy deployment and decent chance at a survivable landing. Ideally, you don’t want to eject unless you’re at least 6,000 feet AGL in an uncontrolled ejection or 2,000 feet AGL in a controlled ejection. But the aircraft will give you the ejection option under lots of circumstances and you don’t give that away until you know that ejection isn’t an option.

Anyway, I completely strap in and put on the helmet, gloves, and oxygen mask. Ray closes the canopy and talks to me over the headset. He tells me that there’s a fire in the cockpit and “egress, egress, egress.” I get the canopy open, unhook myself (two harness points, one lap belt point, two seat kit points, and two leg garter points. Then I stand up with authority and all of the hoses and other stuff tears away so I can get out.

Then comes the dangle. Ray goes over the parachute. What it’s supposed to do, what it looks like, how to use the toggles, and how to deal with malfunctions. It covers everything from line twists to how to land (toggles at eye level, eyes on the horizon, knees bent, toes down and just wait for contact). The idea is not to flare or otherwise pay attention to the landing, other than to assume the proper attitude and just wait for it.

And this isn’t just a stand-there-and-listen exercise. The facility has two hoists with parachute risers on them. Ray connects the risers to my harness and hoists me up off of the floor. I get to demonstrate what I’ve just learned while hanging in the harness.

After that, it’s on to life support. I’ve used generic equipment thus far in the training, but now it’s time to fit me for the harness, gee suit, and other equipment that I’m actually going to wear. The gee suit (“speed jeans” in the parlance of some) is basically a pair of high-waisted Nomex pants with air bladders around the calves, thighs, and midsection. It gives you a squeeze and helps you to strain against the gee forces in flight to maintain good consciousness.

The T-6A is rated for a fairly high gee load, but it’s generally not flown out to high gees like the F-16. For that matter, although it is pressurized, it’s generally not flown at really high altitudes that would require an oxygen system. But I think that it’s good that this aircraft allows you to become intimately familiar with all of the life support systems that you’d find in the Viper, the Eagle, etc. And I’m certainly not going to argue with a big hug around the lower body when I experience acceleration four times what I’m accustomed to.

Then comes the harness, helmet, and mask. The mask is probably the next most important system. Even if you’re not going to depend on the mask because of a thin atmosphere (the cabin is pressurized to 8,000 feet with normal max of 3.6 psi and a bleed-off point of 4.0 psi.), you are going to have it strapped onto your face and it’d be darned inconvenient if it didn’t seat properly or didn’t give you a good flow of air.

Once it’s sized, you walk over to a machine that allows you to test the airflow, seal, and audio connections. It looks for all the world like one of those vacuum tube testers that I used to see in TV and appliance stores when I was a kid. But it’s vital to make sure that everything is working. You don’t launch and fly the airplane around the edges of its envelope with malfunctioning equipment. Lots of things can scrub a flight like this and it’s important to go through all of the testing right there where you have a dedicated staff of people who can fix what’s broken and swap out what they can’t fix.

At the conclusion of the process, they put it all in a locker in the life support room. Locker 240. And put my name on it. Avery nice tough.

The flight itself went very well and I’ll give some detail on that once I get the pictures in. And I’ll probably head into the studio to cut some original music for the episode that covers the flight. I’m also thinking about shooting video in the studio during recording and making a music video out of it. Ought to be fun!

Anyway, it’s off to get the video offloaded and do a few more things before hitting the sack. Watch for a lot more on the show and here on the blog about this great ride!