Sunday, July 23, 2006

Muskegon Air Show and a Ride with the Golden Knights

Spent the day at the Muskegon Air Fair. ( Up at 5:00 and on the road by 6:00. 188 miles to Muskegon. (Planning to fly that on Tuesday for the long cross-country for the instrument rating, but that's another story).

Sublimely-run air show! Mike Murphy was an absolutely outstanding media coordinator. I pulled up to the VIP gate, they were expecting me, they showed me to the parking spot, and Mike was right there in no time with a golf cart and gave me the grant tour. Couldn't have asked for better.

Lots of explosions and pyrotechnics during the bomber flyovers (see above). Made it hell to try to record interviews and get the levels right, but that's okay.

I ran around and interviewed anything in a Nomex jumpsuit that would hold stilllong enough for me to put a mic in its face. All of the military personnel (especially the Canadian Forces C-140 crew and the Wisconsin ANG KC-135 crew) were very forthcoming. A couple of the enlisted guys begged off on interviews, but that's perfectly fine by me. Probably instructions from their public affairs officers. But anyone with lieutenant's bars or better was all talk and they were enthusiactic about their aircraft and their roles.

Biggest thing at the show was the C5 Galaxy. I tried to take pictures of it up close, but you couldn't tell what it was. Tried to take pictures (like the one above) from further away, but you just don't get the scale of the aircraft. It's farging huge. They set up a rock band on the rear ramp toward the end of the day and still had room to play a respectable game of basketball (or golf for that matter) in the remaining volume of the aircraft. They say that it'll carry two M1A1 Abrams tanks or six helicopters and I believe them. Explains why the standard crew on the Galaxy includes three (count 'em: three) load masters.

More very soon. The highlight was a ride in the US Army Golden Knights' Fokker C-31A Friendship. Strapped in right next to the open door, we climbed to 12,500 AGL (about 13,000 MSL) and I had the best seat in the house for the jump. The team left the aircraft en masse just a few feet from me. I'm still startled by the transition from the comparative gloom and stability of the plane to the brightness and fury into which the team exploded out the door. A guy who is standing right next to me one minute is suddenly outside the plane and then he's gone. Really cool.

I was in shorts, but remembered to bring along my fleece vest. Good thing, too, because it was in the 30s Farenheit up there. They warned us once we were on the plane, but it's a little late by then. One of the guys from the local cable access show was very lightly dressed and they lent him a Golden Knights jumpsuit. His camera person got a sweatshirt. Nice guys, all of them. And laid back for a bunch of guys that are about to freefall for almost two miles.

I got two interviews on the plane, but it was noisy as hell, what with the door open and all. I'll see if I can clean up the audio with a filter.

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