Oshkosh Arrival; T-6B Texan II

We arrived yesterday at Oshkosh and hooked up with the myTransponder crew at Lindbergh and 48th. Thunderstorms and rain kept the skies pretty low and gray most of the day and the shooting was iffy at best. But that’s the beauty of Oshkosh. There’s something to do no matter the conditions. So I went strolling in the static area.

It’s not as though there aren’t a load of really fast and pointy aircraft on the ramp. There’s even a 9th RW T-38A from Beale. But I remain a sucker for the T-6 Texan II.

The copy on ramp yesterday was a B-model in the unmistakable Navy yellow. The Navy uses it for for Primary and Intermediate Joint Naval Flight Officer (NFO) training. It’s also a B model, which I hadn’t yet had the chance to see up close.

The airframe and powerplant are essentially the same as those in the T-6A. A Pratt & Whitney PT-6A-68 engine, downrated to 1,100 hp, provides all of the power you’ll need for maneuvering and the straightforward flying characteristics provide a platform that makes pilots out of pedestrians. The T-6A and B are both essentially Pilatus PC-9s with Martin-Baker ejection seats.

Lt Col Tom Priest is the Operations Officer at Training Wing Five at NAS Whiting Field in Florida. He brought the aircraft to OSH and was taking questions from the crowd. I asked him about the difference that make the B model what it is. A quick hop up onto the wing made it all pretty clear. Where the A model has an overwhelmingly round-gage cockpit, the B model is wall-to-wall glass.

Lt Col Priest says that the glass makes sense because most of the destination platforms for NFO trainees are either glass now or will be soon. The only downside of the automation of avionics and flight systems appears to affect NFO trainees who go on to helicopter platforms, where that automation is either not available in the airframe or of a kind that doesn’t really lend itself to automation in the first place. Just as we’re seeing in the GA fleet, glass is taking over cockpits.

There’s nothing wrong with anything else on the ramp. But I just keep coming back to the T-6A/B. It’s a go-kart in the sky that makes military pilots. It’s a blast to fly in the lower parts of the MOA and it has better power and performance than the Air Force had with the T-37 Tweet or the Navy’s T-34C Mentor. I look back very fondly on the 1.4 hours I got to log with the 559th FTS at Randolph AFB. And I’d climb back into one of these airframes any time.

If you’re headed for NFO/UPT, I envy you. You have a spectacular airframe to look forward to. Especially if it’s yellow like this one!

Video from the First Acro Session in the Super Decathlon

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These are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch online right here by clicking on this direct link. http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedAcro02.m4v.

It’s here! The second full-up Airspeed video episode!

These are highlights from my first flight in the American Champion Super Decathlon. I had flown the Citabria with some frequency in 2007 and had a couple of flights in that aircraft in 2009, but this was the first Super-D flight.

By this time (April 16, 2009), I had received word that my T-6A Texan II ride had been approved and I knew that is was going to be sometime in May. So I got out to the airport and flew acro aggressively to condition myself for the Texan ride. I wanted to be able to fully experience that ride and motion sickness can be such a buzzkill, in addition to making the coverage for you guys pretty lame.

So I headed out to Sutton Aviation and set up an acro program with Barry Sutton where I’d train as aggressively as I could and try to build my endurance for the T-6A ride. Toward the end, I was flying twice a week and getting a pretty solid 25-40 minutes of maneuvering each time. But this flight was pretty short. I rag-dolled myself pretty quickly, both because I was just getting my tolerance back after a long winter and because this aircraft is a lot more powerful and maneuverable and I was able to throw myself around the sky a lot more aggressively.

Anyway, here’s the video. For those to prefer, or miss, the audio episodes, I have more in the pipeline. I’m out on the patio this evening writing the script for the seaplane episode. And I go into the studio in a few weeks to record the music for the T-6A episode (provided that I’ve finished writing it by then).

Be sure to catch me at the Indianapolis Air Show next weekend. I’ll be there Thursday through Sunday. I’m doing a presentation for the Civil Air Patrol at Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria in Greenwood, Indiana 6:00 – 9:00 and I’m thinking about having an Airspeed meetup/Tweetup at Damon’s in the Holiday Inn Indianapolis East on Friday at 7:00. Watch my Twitter feed for details and to confirm before showing up.

Contact information for Sutton Aviation, where you can fly this airplane with Barry Sutton:

Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive – Waterford, Michigan 48327

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: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedFirebaseAirspeedT-6A.mp3.

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, www.futurshox.net and in a blog entry at http://futurshox.net/blog/blogger.html. 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!