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...]

ICAS 2010: Barnstorming Live

This is a regular blog entry. If you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio, please check out the other entries.

ICAS is having its first film festival. This evening, producer/writer/director Bryan Reichardt, producer/writer Paul Glenshaw, and musician Suzanne Brindamour presented the film Barnstorming in a new road-ready iteration called “Barnstorming Live.”

To crib shamelessly from the film’s website, Andrew King and Frank Pavliga “steered their planes toward a dark green plot of alfalfa on a dairy farm and landed to take some pictures, just for the fun of it. Matt Dirksen, the farmer, thought he had just seen two planes crash in his field, and went over to investigate. Andrew and Frank quickly made up a story about engine trouble. Almost immediately, they heard the approaching shouts of excitement from two young boys, and a slightly suspicious Matt himself. The past was suddenly reborn. In the old tradition, the pilots treated the boys to their first flights. Matt and his wife invited the pilots to come back someday for a home-cooked meal. The pilots returned the next year bringing a few friends with their own airplanes, and a new tradition was born.”

The film tells the story of the gathering in the context of the ninth such gathering at the Dirksens’ farm. With lots of aerial footage and an emphasis on letting the people come alive in their own words, the film captures the magic of what can happen when general aviation meets the non-aviating public.

Bryan and Paul introduced the film, Suzanne performed part of the music live, and all three did the Q&A afterward.

The film was shot over the course of four days split between two years of the event. Fortunately, the weather was nearly identical each year and, if there are continuity problems, I didn’t see them and they don’t interrupt the story.

With a film of my own allegedly in the can and much editing to do before it’s ready to go, I did more than my share of interrogating Paul and Bryan, both on the floor of the ICAS exhibit hall and at the showing. Paul in particular has been wonderfully forthcoming with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There’s a growing network of aviation filmmakers. Much like the podsphere, these people freely share and help each other out. As Paul is quick to point out, the audience for these films will buy any decent film that comes out. The primary market is a focused and rabid group of the aviation faithful and it would be nearly impossible to saturate that market. There’s room for everyone and more than enough stories to tell.

I’ll be heading home with plenty of motivation to get Acro Camp edited. Don, Barry, and I go into the studio on Friday 17 December to record some of the music. I have everything I need to at least put together the trailer, so I think that’ll be out soon. And I’m sorely tempted to call in sick for most of January to really lower myself into the well. But that’s the kind of thing that makes one extraordinarily lucky, isn’t it? To have a big, honking, wonderful project to work on and people who want to see it when it’s done.

We already know that pilots are extraordinary people. I guess it follows that aviation filmmakers would be more of the same. It’s sure true of these folks.