Flying the Black Rocket: The Northrop T-38 Talon

These are the show notes for a video episode. Check out the video episode on your handheld device or personal computer by subscribing to Airspeed using iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or watch it right here by clicking above. It’s all free!

Here it is! Airspeed’s biggest and best video episode so far!

I’ve loved the Northrop T-38 for years. Born in the cauldron of the F-5 Freedom Fighter program in the late 1950s, it has since trained more than 50,000 military jet pilots throughout the world. It’s sleek and pointy and fast (Mach 1.3 capable). It’s the advanced jet trainer for the US Air Force. And it’s also the companion trainer for many of the Air Force’s most amazing aircraft.

In July, I got an orientation flight with the 99th Reconnaissance Sqn, 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB near Sacramento, California. 1.2 hours in the White Rocket. (Or, if you’re flying a “BB” tailed T-38, black and red.) It was a great experience.

It has taken some time, but I think that it has been worth it. 49 minutes of JP-4-burning acceleration, pull, and float. In true Airspeed style, the episode covers every angle and isn’t afraid to dig for the details that aviators and aviation enthusiasts love.

From a tour of the ramp to see the U-2 Dragon Lady and the RQ-4 Global Hawk up close to egress and survival training to the briefing to highlights from the flight, it’s all here.

And it’s all swaddled in original music. This is the first outing for Acro Groove, a track that’s going to be one of the major themes underlying Acro Camp. It’s by 7600, a loose-knit group of aviator musicians. In this particular incarnation, it’s FAA Designated Examiner Barry Sutton on drums, yours truly on guitar, and acro IP Don Weaver on keyboards.

This episode is game-changing in aviation podcasting. There’s nothing else out there that comes close. I’m fiercely proud of this work. But, even so, it’s a waypoint on a journey that will include even bigger, better, and more exciting projects.

Stay tuned! It only gets better from here.

Thunderbirds Flight – The Ride and Thoughts from the Ramp

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen online right here by clicking:

Photography by Tim Reed.

Radio and other audio media: Download the takeoff audio to run with my interview at (1MB).

I got the Thunderbirds ride! Unbelievable! Didn’t want to get too excited because anything can happen from a schedule change to a malfunction at the hold-short line. But it happened!

And get this . . . I have 1.0 hours dual received in the logbook! In the F-16D. If it gets any better than this, I’m not sure I can handle it.

Here’s the deal. I’m posting the best of the pictures here this morning. Then I’m heading for the airshow to shoot more pictures and interview an Air Force recruiter in connection with the Thunderbirds story. After the airshow, I head home and Rod Rakic (CAPblog publisher, fellow CAP captain and Air Force aviation enthusiast) and I are going to sit down and hangar-fly the whole thing from beginning to end to talk about the experience. I think that will be a great way to make sure that I get the whole experience brain-dumped early on and then I can do a summary episode with the audio (and, yeah, as soon as I can get the video drivers to work, I’ll post video!) this week later on.

Anyway, above is the briefing with Maj Tony Mulhare, No. 8, the advance pilot and a narrator for the team. He briefed me on all of the procedures around 2:00.

The walk to the aircraft with Maj Mulhare and SSgt Kristi Machado. We launched just before the team’s demo for the afternoon, so we went up just before the diamond launched. 350 KIAS to the end of the runway and then a 4-5-g pull vertical to 10,000 feet or so within a few seconds. I got to see the diamond launch from 15,000 feet above.

In-cockpit briefing with Maj Mulhare. Somehow, I don’t remember arming the ejection seat as being a checklist item on any other flight! The briefing is mainly about things not to touch and a few things to touch. I had control of my oxygen and the COM radios. COM1 for ATC (Minneapolis Center for most of the ride) and COM2 for the discreet frequency for the team so we could hear the demo going on.

After the flight with Maj Mulhare in front of F-16D No. 8.

Receiving the nine-gee pin. I’ll get a macro lens at some point and post a picture of it. Only those who have pulled nine gees with the USAF Thunderbirds get to wear this baby.

Look for more audio Sunday morning as I post the episode with the full download of the experience!

A Picture Is Worth . . .

A picture is worth . . . Well, you get the idea. And, in fact, I’m in the process of writing a thousand words (several of them) both for the blog and for print and other media. Hope to have a post and episode out tomorrow morning.

I’ve also planned a very special episode to initially tell this story. I’d like to have as much of this up as possible as soon as possible – at least the first thoughts and gut reactions, and that probably means that the usual sitting down on and off for a week won’t work. So I thought I’d ask Rod Rakic (of CAPblog fame) to turn the tables and interview me about the experience. I think that’ll get the information out in an efficient and constructive way.

Rod’s very knowledgeable and should be able to pull a little more information out of me that I think I’d get to you solely through the keyboard and I think it’ll work well. It’s a little experimental, but that’s okay. It’s called for. This is new territory for the show and this approach seems promising. We’re scheduled to record tomorrow night.

In the meantime, I’ll write and post some more pictures by tomorrow morning.

More soon!