Sunday, August 31, 2008

Capt Force Passes CAP Form 5 Ride and Thunderbird Groove Takes Shape!

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

I took and passed the checkride to fly Civil Air Patrol aircraft yesterday. 1.4 hours in a C-172P with Michigan Wing check pilot Tim Kramer.

There’s a lot of prep that goes into this ride. It requires familiarity with CAPR 60-1, which is the CAP bible of flight operations. You have to take and pass an online exam on 60-1 and also prepare an aircraft questionnaire for the aircraft to be flown, in addition to all of the usual stuff that you might expect to have to pass for an FAA checkride. Here’s my flight bag on the way to Willow Run Airport (KYIP). Stuffed to overflowing with the paperwork, a POH for the aircraft, a FAR/AIM, my kneeboard, my headset, and, of course, the MP# recorder. I captured audio of the whole thing for use on a future episode.

I really enjoyed heading back to Willow Run. I trained a lot there, including launching my first solo from Runway 5L. It’s nice to be familiar with a place when you’re flying to standards and don’t otherwise know what to expect.

We launched northbound to stay away from the TFR for the University of Michigan game. Once at 5,5000 and in cruise configuration, Tim had me lower the hood and fly attitude at 55 KIAS while maintaining altitude and making turns to headings. A little difficulty with altitude and airspeed coordination, but I had never flown that aircraft before and I’m not sure that I’ve ever flown a 172P before (most of my 172 time is in 172Rs).

The unusual attitudes. Nailed the nose-high. Not so much the nose-low. I have a bad habit of looking at the attitude indicator instead of the airspeed indicator first. When I looked up the second time, the attitude indicator was covered and the airspeed indicator was well into the yellow. I made the mistake of pulling first instead of immediately reducing power. Teachable moment.

Some more maneuvering and then Tim failed my engine. I ran the memory items and started heading for a field. I had discussed my unfamiliarity with the Apollo GX55 GPS (I’m most familiar with the Bendix/King KLN94 and learning the Garmin 430) in the aircraft and had decided to fly the procedures as though I had no GPS. Tim gave me a quick lesson on how to work the NRST function and we glided over to Oakland Southwest (New Hudson) (Y47). Still plenty of altitude and I picked up a pretty worthwhile technique from Tim on setting up for a deadstick landing. Tim likes to fly a figure eight perpendicular to the runway with the center of the figure-eight just short of the numbers. That way, you’re never that far from the runway itself and you simply make the decision about whether to land as you come around each time. Some hard slipping, and we put her down on Runway 25.

A short field takeoff from New Hudson and then the usual battery of landings back at Willow Run. 1.4 hours and four takeoffs and landings.

The logbook page continues to grow. I’m happy about this entry because it gets a C-172 on the page (without which the page wouldn’t have any element of what I usually fly) and because it’s another demonstration of competence, particularly competence as measured by the standards of CAP, for which I have great respect. I get a certain respect at squadron meetings for being the asst. wing legal officer and for having flown the DC-3 and gotten the Thunderbirds ride, but it was very nice to have this opportunity to demonstrate that I’m more than just a stuffed shirt and can fly to standards.

At least the VFR standards. It was enough to fly an unfamiliar airplane for the first time and enough to fly a C-172 for the first time since February (not counting the time in the 172RG at Flight 101), so I’m only checked out for VFR. But that qualifies me to fly mission transport, so I’m actually somewhat useful. And I can go get Norm or someone else who’s also Form 5 current and go shoot approaches or fly cross-country for currency in CAP aircraft.

Next up will likely be the mighty G1000 C-182, which I’ll probably do both VFR and IFR. Ultimately, I’d like to be qualified VFR and IFR in both the 172 and 182 as the medium-term goal. Then maybe train for mission pilot.

In other news, I got an e-mail from ace New York City sound guy Scott Cannizzaro with a link to the initial mix of the Thunderbird Groove (the music bed for the Thunderbirds ride summary episode). I seem to remember in the liner notes to John Mayer’s Continuum album that John thanked an engineer, saying something to the effect of “and thanks to Bob, who knows how we really sound.” Scott is very much that guy for me. From a rather skinny basic collection of tracks, he has augmented them beautifully with keyboards, lead guitar, and other very cool stuff. He’s not done yet, but what I’m hearing so far is really great. I’m going to have to work really hard on the script for the episode if it’s going to be worthy of the music.

Working title for the episode: Sometimes Alternates Fly. It’s still gestating, but parts will probably become fixed in a tangible medium before the holiday weekend is out. Really excited about how it’s coming together.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flight in the EAA Ford TriMotor - Audio Episode

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

I was all excited about Red Bull weekend here in southeast Michigan for a number of reasons, not the least of which was – well – Red Bull. But the EAA’s Ford TriMotor was also going to be at Detroit City Airport (KDET). I asked around and found that the only way to record intercom audio was to be in the right seat. That’s fine with me, because the right seat is only $100, as opposed to the EAA member rate of $40 for a ride in the back.

And being in the right seat might mean an opportunity to touch the controls. And log it!

Then, if what I’ve heard is true, management at Detroit City got completely squirrely and refused to accommodate the TriMotor. I’m by no means wired into the politics of the situation, but everything I’ve heard suggests that there was plenty of ramp area, sufficient facilities for loading and unloading, and everything else, but management flatly refused to accommodate the TriMotor. Who in Detroit refuses to accommodate the iconic Ford TriMotor. Ford! Detroit! Hey, I’ll put a retraction in the blog if it turns out that I’m wrong about the facts, but that qualifies in my book as a disgrace!

Can you tell that I was bummed? Anyway, the EAA refunded my $100 and I didn’t think about if for a few months.

Then I heard on the radio and read on the EAA website that the TriMotor was going to be at Jack Barstow Airport in Midland, about a 90-mile drive from my house. The wheels started turning and I ended up standing on the ramp at Midland with a right-seat ticket in my hand on a gorgeous August afternoon.

The Ford TriMotor (or “Tin Goose” if you like) debuted in 1926 and 199 were produced between then and 1933. It’s a boxy-looking high-wing taildragger that’s about 50 feet long, 77 feet wingtip to wingtip, carries up to eight passengers, weights about 7,800 pounds empty, and has a max gross of around 13,500.

It’ll do 150 mph max, it cruises at about 90 mph, and stalls at about 64 mph.

The EAA’s TriMotor, NC8407, a model 4-AT-E, rolled off the line in 1929 – the 146th TriMotor. It spent its early live in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It returned to the US in 1949, where it barnstormed for awhile before being converted to service as a crop duster in 1950. It has three Pratt and Whitney engines that replaced the original Wright Cyclones during the refit. It later gave service as a water bomber and smoke jumper in Idaho. After again flying enthusiasts from 1964 to 1973, the aircraft was severely damaged by high winds at the EAA fly-in. The EAA purchased the wreckage and, after a 12-year restoration, returned it to service flying enthusiasts like me on flights much like the one that’s featured in today’s episode.

The EAA volunteers were hot-loading it with passengers when I arrived a couple of flights early. I stood on the ramp and watched the aircraft taxi in and out and take off and land while taking pictures for the blog.

After a briefing about the history of the aircraft in the briefing area, we trooped out the plane. I was first in and immediately headed for the cockpit to hook up the audio recorder.

The pilot is Cody Welch. Cody runs Cody F. Welch & Associates and has spent 37 years providing aircraft sales and acquisition services to the general aviation and corporate owners market in Michigan. He lives at the Linden Price Airport and is co-developing Horizon Lakes Airpark as a live-with-your-airplane community. He’s also founder and president of Wings of Mercy East Michigan. He has lots of time in the TriMotor, as you’ll hear in the cockpit audio.

Shortly after I was situated and they settled in in back, we taxied out and prepared for takeoff. The TriMotor gets the ail off the ground within about 200 feet and it’s airborne in about 500 feet. We have a brief discussion about where he does or doesn’t want my feet, and then we’re on our way. It’s really noisy in the cockpit, so there isn’t a lot of discussion during the actual takeoff.

[TM 01]

I note that the TriMotor has three throttles right next to each other. All of the props are fixed-pitch, so operation is pretty standard. Cody sets the altimeter to zero on the ground and we shoot for a cruise altitude of 1,000 feet above that.

[TM 02]

Now the ride would be cool enough if all I got to do was sit there in the right seat. I had heard that the pilot sometimes gave the right-seater the controls on downwind and I was actually looking for any opportunity to touch the control wheel or otherwise do something loggable. I got my wish and then some at Cody gave me a couple of words of advice and then handed me the controls. How cool is that?

[TM 03]

It was a gorgeous day. Blue skies with just a few scattered clouds well above 10,000 feet. There was a little convection, but not an unmanageable amount.

Cody went around on the first landing that I saw when I arrived at the field. It turns out that I witnessed a fairly rare event.

[TM 05]

We headed north for awhile and then bent back toward the airport. Cody has me set it up for a downwind.

[TM 06]

Cody takes the plane just before we make the downwind turn. I ask if I can make the calls the rest of the way in so I have some audio to use on the show. He seems to get a kick out of it and there’s more conversation on the way in. I’ll just let the rest of the flight audio run for downwind, base, final, and the rollout.

[TM 06]

No go-around this time. We taxi to the gas pumps and Cody goes to fuel the aircraft. I take a few pictures and then head to the car, ready for a series of conference calls on the mobile phone. But an afternoon’s hooky well-executed by any measure.

(Photo courtesy of Roger Halstead - Used with permission.)

I’m very grateful to the EAA, both nationally and Chapter 1093, and to Cody Welch for making the TriMotor available where I could get to it and for making this a really nice flight.

This is a probably the last great quest of this summer. And nearly the end of what has turned out to be a really singular logbook page. As you probably already know, it happened that the four flights in the DC-3 for the type rating made up the first four entries on the page. Then, very unexpectedly, I got the F-16 ride with the Thunderbirds. Finally, I wrap it up with 0.3 hours dual received in the Ford TriMotor. And the rest of the page is sprinkled with Citabria N157AC for additional tailwheel instruction and a lot of aerobatics.

I considered talking about how the page covers a long period of history or covers a really diverse mix of aircraft, but I guess it really comes down to this. The private certificate and the instrument rating have been long-term projects that essentially concentrate on one kind of thing each. And that’s okay. Each require a lot of focus and they’re really worthy in and of themselves.

But this has been the summer of branching out. Of learning some new skills in different kinds of aircraft and under different circumstances. So far in 2008, I’ve had an instrument proficiency check, gotten a multi-engine rating, added complex, high-performance, and tailwheel endorsements, gotten a SIC type rating in a vintage airliner, flown in a fighter jet, and flown my first aerobatics at the controls. If there’s a story in the logbook or otherwise for this summer, it’s branching out and getting idea of the breadth of experience that GA has to offer. And that’s a really cool phase in any pilot’s development.

Plans for the future? Lots more aerobatics in the Citabria. A possible glider episode to be recorded in Ionia. Airplane single-engine sea in a PA-12 up in Traverse City in the spring. Probably recurrent training in Georgia in the Herpa DC-3. And I’ve been invited to attend the C-47 ground school with the Yankee Air Museum in March or April.

Am I going to top the F-16 ride? Probably not. Unless Burt Rutan or Sir Richard Branson call. (Hear me, gentlemen? 248-470-7944!) But there’s more than enough to learn and experience in GA. And I’ll continue doing the best I can to bring it to you.

Stay tuned for the big Thunderbirds summary episode and some of the audio from my aerobatics training. And I’ve been shooting video in the Citabria, so don’t be surprised to see a video episode or two.

I’ve really only scratched the surface, folks. Let’s keep on exploring!

More information about the EAA TriMotor:

More information about Cody Welch:
Cody F. Welch & Associates, Inc.
15057 Lindbergh Ct
Linden, Michigan 48451
Office: 800-982-7207
Mobile: 586-946-5381

More information about Wings of Mercy East Michigan:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

0.3 Dual Received in the EAA Ford Tri-Motor - The Logbook Page Gets Even Cooler!

This is a regular blog post. Show notes and links to audio appear in the other posts.

I finally rendezvoused with the EAA Ford Tri-Motor in Midland yesterday. It was scheduled to appear at Detroit City Airport du ring Red Bull weekend earlier this year, but the city refused to make even minimal accommodations for the appearance and EAA had to cancel.

But the Tri-Motor is in Midland (Jack Barstow Airport) and I played hooky yesterday to drive up and get a flight. Like last time, I had paid for the right seat ($100 as opposed to $40 or $50 to ride in the back) in order to record audio through the intercom. Same this time.

I recorded cockpit audio and also shot lots of pictures of the experience. I’ll be putting together an episode about the experience shortly. Most of the cockpit audio consisted of each chit-chat with pilot Cody Welch, but there’s a little about the aircraft and flying as well. Cody’s a very approachable guy and he’s extraordinarily easy to talk to. I think the flight was as enjoyable because of Cody as it was for the aircraft itself.

I asked around when I arrived to see if there was anything about the flight that might be loggable. I had e-mailed the EAA and asked before, but received no answer. Fair enough. They’re busy. But the lady running the manifest table said that it was common practice for Cody to sign your logbook. Too cool!

In fact, I got to fly a little bit of the cruise phase from about two minutes after reaching cruise altitude (about 1,000 AGL) to just before the turn to downwind. And Cody let me to the radio calls for base and final, so I have audio of myself saying “Midland traffic, the Ford Tri-Motor is turning left base for runway six, Midland.” Even more so than for the DC-3 pattern calls, it another Tri-Motor shows up in the pattern, I’ll revert to the tail number. Until then, I’m “the Tri-Motor.”

Cody signed my logbook with 0.3 dual received in the aircraft. That rounds out a logbook page that I don’t think I’ll ever better. DC-3, F-16D, and Tri-Motor with Citabria sprinkled in. That’s a really good logbook page and I’m really proud of it.

One shot from among those that I’ll post with the episode. This is the view out the front from the right seat of the Tri-Motor on takeoff on Runway 6. It’s pretty amazing how quickly the airplane gets up. The tail comes up within about 200 feet and it’s airborne in about 500. Not bad for an aircraft that turns 78 this week.

Stay tuned for the audio episode! I’ll try to produce and post it soon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Song Comes Unbidden

Just a regular blog post here. If you've ever written songs or otherwise tried to create art, you know that there's the initial inspiration, then you sit down and suffer through the creation of the song (essay, book, painting, whatever) structure, and then you start to have fun again as you have a mostly-formed song and you get to play withthe fussy bits.

The really lucky and brilliant songwiters out there say that sometimes a song jus tcomes intotheir heads, fyully or mostly formed. Kind of like what happened to Adam Duritz with A Long December.

That happened to me on the drive back to Chicago the week before last. and now it's sitting there brewing and getting better and better. I think I might try to record it sometime this week. It's called 'Til I Can Take Eleanor There. I think it's going to be the first fully complete tune for Songs From the Sheffield. And I think it'll make a great submission for the MacDowell residency.

This just doesn't happen to me. I'm really excited about it. No pictues or other stuff with this post. I need to just go into the studio with a lot of Diet Coke and lock the door behind me.

But I wanted to tell you guys about it.

Oakland County International Airport (KPTK) Open House - Part 2

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

I was on duty all day with the Civil Air Patrol, mostly handing kids into and out of the CAP Cessna 182. It’s a new (303 hours) CAP aircraft with the G1000. I went to the ground school in January for the G1000, but haven’t flown the platform yet. Don’t know when I’m going to get some time to do it, but it would be really cool to fly a little more glass.

CAP members with at least a private certificate can train in this aircraft for $41/hour dry. That’s really outstanding, considering that you’d probably pay well in excess of $180/hour wet for something like this on the line at an FBO.

C/MSgt Penix manning the line. He was one of about 15 cadets that showed up at 10:00 on Saturday, trained all day, camped on the airport grounds Saturday night, and then worked the show all day on Sunday. The cadets are members of my squadron, the Oakland Composite Squadron (GLR-MI-238) ( I’m really proud of the job they did.

Note that C/MSgt Penix has taken off his cover. We wore covers most of the day on the ramp, but took ‘em off whenever we were marshalling aircraft. You don’t want to be the cadet whose name is written in the cover that they pull put of the F-16’s engine.

The Michigan ANG out of Selfridge ANGB sent Maj Matt Hopkins and his F-16 to the open house. Here, some kids get up close and personal with the fighter jet.

Maj Hopkins rotating for takeoff. Check out the exhaust stream behind the jet! The open house is a good opportunity to get really close to the aircraft, especially when they’re moving. The ropes are maybe 50 feet away from the edge of the taxiway and Runway 27L/9R is just a little past that. So you’re maybe 200 feet away from an F-16 on full afterburner.

Maj Hopkins did a couple of passes (one gear-down and one high-speed with a vertical pull) on departure. I got audio of that. We also had a fly-over by a pair of F-16s and an F-15 in trail and all three aircraft did a few low passes.

I hope the publicity for this is a lot better next year. I also hope that they pick some weekend other than the Woodward Dream Cruise weekend. It’s be nice to have more people out on the ramp coming to meet general aviation. I think that the airport community, and particularly the Civil Air Patrol, gave good account of itself and I hope we get bigger crowds next year.

Oakland County International airport (KPTK) Open House - Part 1

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

I spent the day yesterday at the Oakland County International Airport (KPTK) open house. It’s my home airport and I take a great deal of pride in showing it off to the neighbors.

Lower attendance that in years past. The publicity for it was almost nonexistent, which is disappointing, but the airport community itself was out in force and talking up GA to anyone who would listen.

N157AC was on the ramp, which was very cool. It’s nice to walk around on the ramp, point to an airplane, and say “I was upside down in that yesterday!” I really love this aircraft. In fact, I haven’t gotten over to Flight 101 to get checked out to fly their 172s and 152s so that I have a place to rent airplanes. It’s been too much fun doing tailwheel training and aerobatics with Barry Sutton.

Here’s a North American T28B Trogajan owned by a guy from Milford. I can’t get over how stubby the airplane is. Huge engine and apparently great visibility from the cockpit. I’m glad that he opened the cowling because that engine is really impressive.

The airport has a number of lakes around it in the Class D and you hear floatplanes and amphibs calling in on the tower frequency. Sometimes you see an aircraft landing on the lake to the north and it’s weird when you see it from the ramp to the south because the aircraft disappears behind the trees to the north of the airport. But then it pops back up and you remember that it’s an amphib.

Here’s a really cool-looking amphib that was on the ramp. Usually, I search the tail number to figure out what kind of aircraft it is, but I realized this morning that I had no pictures with the tail number fully visible. Still, I think the picture belongs in the post.

A Waco UPF-7 registered to Romeo Sport Flying LLC. This aircraft was giving rides, as were several of the line 172s from Flight 101 and helicopters from the field. Good to get the public up and give them a taste of GA!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Preflight Briefing with Thunderbird 7

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

While I’m working on the music and other elements of the summary episode for the Thunderbirds ride, I thought I’d tease you a little more. As you know, I was the alternate, but got called in to suit up in case the primary rider’s camera crew failed to show up. (You gotta love ace photographer Tim Reed, who was there for me, camera in hand and snapping away. Thanks, Tim!)

After about 45 minutes, I had caught up to the primary rider in the suit-up procedure and I joined him for the preflight briefing with the demo pilot, LtCol Rob Skelton, the Thunderbirds’ Operations Officer. Here’s audio of that briefing.

Ultimately, the primary rider’s camera crew arrived just in time and he flew that day. But the Thunderbirds were kind enough to fly me the next day. I also recorded the preflight briefing with Maj Tony Mulhare, Thunderbird 8, who flew me the next day. I’ll include parts of that briefing with the summary episode.

This briefing with LtCol Skelton has a little better audio quality than the briefing with Maj Mulhare and it makes a pretty good episode in and of itself. No flies on the briefing with Maj Mulhare – it’s just going to require a little more attention in post. I was holding the MP3 recorder for the briefing with 7, whereas I had the MP3 recorder sitting on the table further away from us for the briefing with 8.

As you’d expect from a squadron with the reputation of the Thunderbirds, the briefings were remarkably similar and that speaks very highly of the team’s standardization of procedures. You’ll be able to tell when you hear the excerpts from Maj Mulhare’s briefing in the final episode.

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2008

More Pictures from the Thunderbird Groove Studio Session

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

More on the suburb rocking.

Here’s the acoustic setup. The same two RØDE mics, only set up on a single stand offset at about a 45-degree angle and about 18 inches from the sound hole. That’s an Applause acoustig guitar with a plastic round back. I got it in 1985. It’s a step down from the Ovation guitars of the time, but it really sounds good. It has a really bright sound and I use XL acoustic phosphor bronze strings on it to make it as bright as possible. The strings on it are at least a year old, but I haven’t played this guitar that much during that time, so I got a good sound out of it. Mostly repetitive stuff on the lowest three strings and letting the others ring a little as appropriate.

I was not ready to play for ten minutes straight and was hurting pretty bad for much of the takes. I got about seven minutes in on the first take before having to take a break. But I think we only had to do a couple of punch-ins. I liked what I heard in the control room. I’m sure there are miscues somewhere in that 10 minutes, but I’m optimistic about how it’s going to turn out.

Electric bass. This went pretty well. I think I flubbed a few things, but let’s face it: I’m a guitarist who owns a couple of basses. There’s a difference between that and an actual bassist.

Laying down the power chords on my trusty Carvin DC-127T. I got the money for this guitar by using my mileage checks from inspections of foreclosed real estate when I was a foreclosure property manager for a bank here in southeast Michigan. You could say that I traded apart of a 1989 Ford Tempo for it. Really nice studio guitar. Wish I had more time to practice with it.

The fluorescent lights in the control room caused a lot of hum in both the Washburn bass and the electric guitar. Thus the dark foreground. Tim shut out the lights in the control room and that took care of most or all of the problem. Kreuch took this through the window while standing behind Tim at the console. I don’t like using flash much for photography (although I’m not like the National Geographic guys who never seem to use it and always seem to have blurry shots whenever they’re in low-light situations). Thus, I didn’t show Kreuch how to use the flash. A good thing, too, because that would have goofed up this shot. Kreuch was rock-steady to get this shot, considering that the shutter speed must have been something like 1/4 sec.

Can’t wait to get the music finalized, write the commentary, and get down to recording and editing the episode proper. Stay tuned!

In the Studio Recording Thunderbird Groove

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

I’m rockin’ the suburbs
I’ll take the checks and face the facts
Some producer with computers
Fixes all my sh*tty tracks.

- Ben Folds
Rockin’ the Suburbs

Yeah, I’m a Ben Folds wannabe in many ways. And last night’s activities put a little finer point on it.

I spent four hours at The Soundscape Studio in Royal Oak last night recording the incidental music for the Thunderbirds summary episode. Definitely in the suburbs. It's on Rochester Road near 13 Mile Road in the norther Detroit burbs about 20 minutes south of my house.

This is the first time I’ve ever recorded in someone else’s studio and it was a real treat. I took in my drum kit, two basses, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, and lots of other stuff.

The objective was to come out with backing music that I could use for the Thunderbirds summary episode, in which I’ll give a fully-produced account of the ride. I needed a driving and repetitive theme to back some of the commentary and drive some of the moments.

I started with a guide track that consisted of a basic drum beat at 62 bpm along with my voice counting off groups of measures and also cuing the transitions. I had the guide track going throughout the session so that I could synchronize everything and figure out when I needed to change stuff.

The piece is 10 minutes long. Most of it is pretty much the same repetitive figure in E, but I changed up the drum cadence (snare and high-hat only, straight cadence, and a triplet cadence on the kick drum) and the guitar figures on occasion to create maybe five or six different flavors in the piece. There’s also a chorus (if you can call it that) that uses power chords on electric guitar. That appears twice – Once about five minutes in and again about eight minutes in. That way, I have two climax points that I can use in the episode. The first will probably be the big pull on takeoff and the second one will probably finish out the episode.

Also, I used the Ashbory bass (pictured above) for the fretless, more acoustic sound in the first five minutes and then switched over to a Washburn electric bass beginning with the first chorus.

It’s not going to air as a full ten-minute piece. Rather, I’ll pick the appropriate parts when I get to the editing and dump in maybe 30 seconds here and a couple of minutes there. It didn’t really need to be 10 minutes long. I could have recorded a whole bunch of two-minute variations. But I didn’t want to have to record a whole munch of separate guide tracks and it also lent a cohesive frame of reference to record everything as a single stream.

Parts might suck or not. The most appropriate will go into the episode. Others won’t. I might or might not post the whole thing as an MP3 download just for giggles.

That’s Stuart Logan, one of my partners in the law firm, and Jim Kreucher, my best friend. Stuart is a student of may musical styles, but is especially a maven of 1970s punk. I met Kreuch in 1983 during our junior year of high school. When we build a recording studio in Hillsdale, Michigan (yeah, we built a recording studio in Hillsdale, Michigan – long story), I did a couple of albums of my own in there and Kreuch spent countless hours at the console engineering the stuff. He’s also a good rock vocalist, though he insists that he’s not.

Stuart and Kreuch joined me to schlep stuff in from the car and to generally hang out in the studio.

Tim Smith engineered the session and is doing the mix back at the studio as I write this. He plays drums for Zug Izland and most recently appeared live at the Juggalo Gathering on the main stage with Ice-T, Three Six Mafia, and 2 Live Crew in Cave in Rock, Illinois. He’s a genuine, skilled, and down-to-earth guy who thankfully didn’t laugh at my bringing in way too many instruments, obviously having too much else on my plate to have fully prepared the music, and having to stop and punch in a lot.

Having recorded myself for years and years, it’s really nice to be in a facility with the right equipment and have an engineer who understands how to mic everything. All I had to do was tell him what we were recording next and prepare to play the instrument. Tim immediately miced it out and had me ready to go. If there are any deficiencies in the recording, it’ll be with the performer, not the engineering.

By the way, I’ll have Tim’s mix to use in thinking about how to incorporate the piece into the episode, but I’m also sending the session to Scott Cannizzaro to see what he can (or wants to) do with it. Scott is the studio wizard who worked up the Airspeed theme music a few months ago and did simply amazing things with it. You probably heard the discussion on the episode featuring Scott.

Goofing around on mando. I brought a few other instruments in case we ended up having extra time. We ended up finishing recording with maybe 35 minutes to go, but decided not to try to do another piece. Frankly, I could have done all of the recording at home to an acceptable level (to me anyway), but I really wanted to use acoustic drums for this piece and the only real answer was to get into a studio with someone who had the right equipment and expertise. I can do any of the other fussy bits at home. They won’t be the quality that Tim achieved in terms of engineering, but it was time to knock it off for the evening.

Nice shot of the drum setup. Microphones everywhere. A good old Shure SM57 on the snare, RØDE mics for the ambient overhead stuff, and others to which I didn’t pay attention. I’m pretty pleased with what I heard in the control room when listening back.

I picked up a Pearl Joey Jorison Signature snare drum late last year. It’s all-metal and just cracks every time you hit it. I let the thing ring because I like that sound. I have at least one friend who sticks a maxi-pad or two on his kit to cut the ring, but I think that the metallic ring gives the snare a more business-like, slightly industrial sound. I could beat that snare all day. More 8K hearing loss anyone?

Anyway, the piece is recorded and I should have a preliminary mix this weekend. Scott will get a FedEx with the session DVD sometime next week, and I’ll get to writing. The session was a lot of fun. I could have played better. I just didn’t rehearse enough. But it’s going to be great for the intended purpose. And, after all, it’ll have the benefit of me mixing it into the episode, Tim’s engineering stylings, and possibly Scott’s mad skills in post. Producers with computers fixing all my sh*tty tracks

Contact information for Tim Smith and the studio:

The Soundscape Recording Studio
3323 Rochester Rd. (across from the McDonald's)
Royal Oak, MI, 48073

Monday, August 11, 2008

Airspeed FO in Another CFIT Incident

This is a regular blog post. Please check the other posts if you're looking for show notes or show audio.

Airspeed first officer Nicholas (Cole) Tupper lost a battle with the swing set Sunday afternoon. Three stitches. Capt Force was nominated to take him to the ER. Actually, it was the fastest I've ever been in and out of an ER. Must have been a slow day.

Good suture job (based upon my own very limited experience). He's supposedly clear to get wet and otherwise do all the stuff he's supposed to do at camp this week.

We sent in the NASA event reporting form and don't anticipate any calls from the FSDO. Although we'll be ready if they call.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thunder Over Michigan Airshow

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show audio or show note? Please check out the other posts.

Took the kids to the Yankee Air Museum’s Thunder Over Michigan airshow today. Based at the historic Willow Run Airport a few miles west of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, this is a slightly schizophrenic show that I usually really like.

It tends to be a smaller show that’s heavy on warbirds and particularly on WWII bombers. The coolest thing is that the aircraft are usually parked on the ramp where you can walk right up and (after asking) touch them. The mix of aircraft varies a lot from year to year. If I have a criticism of this year’s show, it was the dearth of P-51s on the ramp. But, in fairness, there were more bombers and I had the opportunity to get in the museum’s C-47 Skytrain and to talk to the chief C-47 pilot about helping out on air crew ops. Turns out that they only use ATPs for flight crew, but I got invited to come to the flight crew's ground school on March or April.

Last year, the show landed the Blue Angels, which changed the entire character and vibe of the show. No ramp walk other than an admittedly cool lineup of B-25 bombers (like more than 20 of them). But it was otherwise a bust as far as I’m concerned because it was 95+ degrees, 90% humidity, no chade, lots of outsiders who had never been to the show in the past, and I had to lug the wagon with the kids in it over a couple of miles of grass.

The Yankee Air Museum’s all-wood WWII main facility burned down several years ago and having a big show with the Blues there was certainly good for raising money toward a new facility. I can’t begrudge the museum that. But it changed the character of the show completely and I left after 90 minutes without even watching the blues. I couldn’t get fluids into the kids fast enough and they were each wilting rapidly.

But this year was a return to the Thunder Over Michigan shows of old. I love to wander around the grounds, dodging from shade to shade under the wings of warbirds. We left the wagon at home this year because Ella is not 3-1/2 and can walk around the grounds very well. And as long as there are a few jets flying (they had F/A-18, F-16, and MiG-17 demos), that fully justifies a Saturday afternoon for me.

The weather was a little weird. About 75 and breezy with high cloud cover most of the day. Lots of vertical development, as you can see here, but no real precip and the ceilings stayed very high. If any of the jet demos had to fly a flatter show than usual, they didn’t say so and I didn’t see any reason to think that they had to. The F-16 got into the clouds a little at the top of his verticval rolls, but he had plenty of room to maneuver before that.

Rotten for photography most of the time. I might need to get a polarizing filter for the 200 mm lens to make the aircraft pop a little more against the clouds. The clouds were pretty cool-looking and I would have loved to catch a feew aircraft in sunlight against the angry-looking clouds. Alas, it was not to be.

Among the highlights was the best F-16 demo I think I’ve ever seen. Maj George “Dog” Clifford of the Viper East demo team really put the Viper through its paces. I think the weather must have been just about perfect for making those Prandtl-Glauert condensation clouds around the leading surfaces and around the airframe. That and I don’t think I’ve seen a Viper drive pull as much in a demo in a long time. There was a point where I thought that the white appearance of the wings along the fuselage was a part of the paint job, so much was Dog pulling and so often were the clouds present. I only figured out what was going on when I zoomed in on a couple of the images using the camera’s LCD screen. Really cool!

I captured audio of most of the demo for later posting on the show as a part of the upcoming “Airspeed Virtual Airshow.” More on that later. And follow me as StephenForce on Twitter for early details.

Here’s Republic P-47D Thunderbolt NX647D Wicked Wabbit. It was a part of a four-ship demo flight at the event. Orange-shirted Yankee Air Museum volunteers marshaled the formation expertly and parked them near the show line. Would have preferred to see them on the ramp and maybe they moved them there after the F-16 demo. Not sure.

Cole’s favorite aircraft of the day? The B-17F “Movie Memphis Belle” that stood in for the real Memphis Belle for the 1990 movie starring Matthew Modine and others. I think he wants to be a waist gunner when he grows up.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Podapalooza 2008

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

Here’s the audio from Podapalooza 2008. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 through Cole's Eyes

This is a regular blog post. Please check the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or show audio.

I set up Cole with my old point-and-shoot digital camera this year and told him to go crazy and shoot whatever he wanted. This he did, shooting more than 400 pictures. Many feature his stuffed Koala bear, Jackie, but others are interesting, insightful, or just lucky, all in good measure.

I downloaded a copy of Andrea Mosaic this afternoon, pointed the program to the directory containing Cole’s pictures, and let the program do its thing. The result is a mosaic of Cole by the iconic AirVenture entry gate with Jackie, made up of pictures that Cole took (or that were taken near him when I needed a basic camera to grab something or I had the telephoto lens on the Nikon and needed a quick wide-angle shot).

Special thanks, by the way, go to the Flight Line Radio guys, who used their Gator to give Cole an assist in getting Jackie down from the roof of one of the forum buildings while I was recording Podapalooza with the panel! Being that Jackie plays such a prominent role in these pictures, I can only imagine how important the stuffed little guy is to Cole. Thanks, Flight Line Radio!

AirVenture - The Drive Home

This is a regular blog post. Links to show notes and show audio appear in the other posts.

We broke camp yesterday, took a walk down the main drag at AirVenture 2008, and then hit the road for home. Just before breaking camp, I got this shot of skywriting over Firebase Airspeed (the green and grey tent, the back of which appears here).

It had not occurred to me that I have been to Oshkosh three times and had not yet gotten any cheese curds. So I picked up some at the Planeview convenience store. Actually, a combo pack of cheddar cheese curds, string cheese, and sausage. Wisconsin in a plastic bag. The only thing missing from the bag was some 100LL. 12 oz. of artery-clogging goodness!

I’m constantly struck by the fact that dumbasses ride motorcycles around in Wisconsin and in other states with no helmets. I hope there’s a statutory exclusion from state Medicaid for morons who become vegetables because they can’t be bothered to wear a brain bucket.

Best vehicle seen on the way home? Easy call. This guy with the Kiss solo album cover series on the back of his Chevy Trailblazer. The Kiss Army is alive and well in Wisconsin!

About nine hours on the road. Cole stayed awake until about a half hour before home. He didn’t start asking about time to destination until about three hours out. Better than some adult passengers, I’ll bet.

10 Minutes at Oshkosh

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

Another one in the series of soundscapes that many ignore (ant that’s fine and dandy), but that so many listeners seem to love. This is 10 minutes of the sounds of a walk from the big arch at the entrance to the airshow down to AeroShell Square. Cole gets a frozen strawberry Chill and we eat it in the shadow of a fighter jet.

That simple, really. Just a walk down the main drag at Oshkosh. Enjoy!

Friday, August 01, 2008

AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 - Day 2 - Part 2

This is a regular blog post, but you can listen to the episode that we recorded last night at Firebase Airspeed at

Spent a lot of time at KidVenture with Cole and got our annual Bell 47G helicopter ride. Great weather for it. And one of the best places at AirVenture to kick up your feet. The scenery beyond them is truly cool!

Here’s the obligatory shot in the chopper. Whereas Cole hat some trepidation about crawling in last year, this year, he just scampered in with no problem. He was also heads-up and eyes-out the whole time and seemed to enjoy the ride a lot. I interviewed one of the volunteer pilots for EAA Radio and the sound quality was a lot better than I expected it to be considering that he was fairly soft-spoken and we had a helicopter landing outside the hangar every two or three minutes as we recorded.

One of the Volunteer helicopter pilots with the show grounds in the background. These guys fly a full of gas (about 1.5 hours) before taking a break. The EAA owns one of the choppers and the other two are leased. No problem with takeoff and landing currency for these guys. Assuming a six-hour flight-duty day, each probably gets something like 60 takeoffs and landings a day. But nobody seems to be counting.

Cole with Jackie the Koala Bear waiting for the helicopter flight.

I had Jason Miller, Rod Rakic, and Kent Shook, as well as others, to Firebase Airspeed last night to play a little guitar, sing a little, and record an episode. Actually, the episode was a little spur-of-the-moment and occurred somewhere between beers. Jason also recorded for his show and was kind enough to pass the phone around and let Rod, Kent, and I hold forth on how AirVenture is going.

Rod Rakic got to plug’s beta a couple of times, which is great. The site is going to go huge when it launches. The community is already 130+ strong, and it’ll grow exponentially soon. I try to contribute often.

I think Jason has arrived at the pinnacle of early-21st-century rock stardom. Where Peter Frampton and Lemmy merely autographed fans’ body parts backstage, Jason transcended celebrity last night by recording the outgoing messages on two fans’ mobile phones. Jason Miller joins NPR’s/Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’s Carl Kasell in the new elite!

Listen to the audio at

Stay tuned!

AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 - Day 2 - Part 1

This is a regular blog post. Please check the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio.

Day 2 of AirVenture Oshkosh draws to a close. It seems that I left my camera battery charger at home (just about the only thing that I didn’t lug to Oshkosh this year), so this might be the last post with pictures for a little while.

In any case, try to identify what’s in the picture above. Give up? It’s the undercarriage of the Goodyear Blimp. It made several passes directly over Firebase Airspeed while we were getting ready to head to the showers to hose down Cole after two days of airshow and campground grit, grime, and JP-8.

Sean Tucker’s just plain amazing. I can’t believe that he’s able to deliver his own commentary while pulling huge gee loads (positive, negative, lateral – you name it). We were abeam the last ribbon cut at his performance yesterday. I need to find a way to get asked to hold the pole for a ribbon cut sometime and record the close-up sound of the pass for the show. It’s probably very brief but very cool.

Cole and Jackie the Koala Bear at the EAA Radio offices. I think Jackie is the most photographed mammal-shaped object at the show. Cole’s averaging more than 150 pictures a day of, near, and with the little guy. I think giving him his own camera to record the event was a good moved. He’s very vested in the show and it’s cool to download his pictures every night while he’s asleep in the chair next to me and get a view of the show through his eyes. I highly recommend this for any kid. And any parent.