Thursday, July 30, 2009

Capt Force Logs 1.0 Jet Time in the Cessna Citation Mustang

I don't have a picture to put on this blog post. Mainly because I was pretty busy while the pictures were being taken and the video shot.

I was at the controls of the Cessna Citation Mustang, a six-seat VLJ. (Yeah!)

Rod Rakic of has done yeoman's work in coordinating media flight opportunities for new-media folks like me. I got the call while en route from Detroit, dropped my stuff at Camp Scholler, and then headed for Appleton to fly.

Certainly there will be a longer and more in-depth post when I get more time, but the basic flight profile was departure from Outagamie County Regional Airport (KATW), fly north toward Iron Mountain, Michigan, maneuver on the way back, and then land back at KATW.

Those who know me know that I'm an approx. 270-hour private pilot, ASEL, AMEL, ASES, IA and I have a type rating (SIC) in the DC-3. Lots of different experiences, but not a lot of time. Stick and rudder skills that are competent, but hard-won through labor as opposed to native skill.

I was a little taken aback to learn that I was going to do most of the flying, but, then again, I'd heard a lot about the ease of operation of this aircraft.

The Mustang is outfitted with a full Garmin G1000 implementation with a large MFD in the middle of the panel. Each pilot has hisor her own 10" PFD in front of him. Having just checked out in the CAP C-182T Nav III, the G1000 was fresh in my mind, even though the implementation was a little different in the Mustang.

We loaded in the flight profile and the idea was to hand-fly the aircraft with reference to the flight director.

I did the takeoff. Full power, keep it in the centerline, and wait for Vr to come up on the airspeed tape. Then a little pull and you're climbing like a bat out of hell. We went initially to 3,ooo. The flight director told me where to put the nose and the wings and the airplane made it easy to do so. I trimmed frequently and she flew with great stability.

I had the opportunity to, for the first time, set the altimeter to 29.92 upon passing FL180. I turned to the folks in back and uttered a "gentlemen, welcome to the Alpha."

The aircraft flew beautifully in cruise. I engaged the autopilot and had the chance to look out the window a little and survey the panel. A familiar view up there in airline territory when I looked out the side window, but wholly unfamiliar and giddy to look out the front window at that altitude. From the left seat. (Another "Yeah!")

Then came the maneuvers. We turned back toward KATW and got a block altitude 14,000 to 16,000. Steep turns left, right, and back left at 45 degrees. I wasn't used to the control forces, so I got a little high and/or low, but held the bank altitude well.

Then came the stalls. It's really amazing how similar the stalls are in most respects to a C-182. The first one was at cruise power or thereabouts straight ahead. First the gear horn. Then the stall horn as the AOA-indicator-driven donut marched up the tape. With a chest full of yoke and the stall horn going off, things got mushy, then the buffet, then the stall. Very smooth and very predictable.

The only difference was that then, as a conditioned piston-single driver, I firewalled the throttles, the engines too awhile to spool up and give me the power to which I'm accustomed. But pitch alone really seemed to take care of the stall.

Then a power-off stall in a 20-degree right turn. Same thing. Predictable entry and good recovery, but again with me firewalling the throttles.

We did another one straight ahead with the throttles at idle the entire time, recovering with pitch only. That was graceful and gave a positive recovery experience.

The landing was smooth. I've recently had the insecurities about landing that any C-172 driver experiences when he transitions to a C-182 (a little more nose-heavy than you're used to and with a little more momentum and a little more sink rate than you're used to). So I had a little trepidation about flying an even larger aircraft - and a jet to boot.

I needn't have worried. I had it at 110 KIAS on short final like the airspeed tape was painted on. Yeah, I did a good job, but the airplane made it easy. Touchdown was just like a C-172 in terms of sight picture (other than being a little higher in the saddle and things moving a little faster) and I greased it on. Lowered the nose to the pavement and turned off. A really positive experience.

The key story here is that a relatively low-time instrument pilot with some multi time who's handy with the G1000 can fly this airplane reasonably well the first time out. And, with factory training and the right attitude, could easily operate this airplane on a regular basis.

And the ultimate judge of my performance? My seven-year-old son, Cole, was in the back and gave me the thumbs-up at the end. I presented him with his own logbook and entered the flight. Sure, it won't count toward a rating, but now he has a tangible reminder of the first time dad flew him.

Thanks to Cessna for a great experience on this flight. Can't wait to edit the video and audio down and get an episode out!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Video of the AeroShell Ride and the Saturday Performance at Battle Creek

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. It's all free!

These are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch online above or download the file from this direct link.

As many of you know, I got a ride with The AeroShell Team at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival this year. Although I’ve posted some frame grabs, I hadn’t been through all of the video.

The video of my ride itself was pretty good, especially considering the fact that it was the first time I’d held the camera and not mounted it.. Even a 17-ounce rig gets pretty heavy at four Gs, especially if you’re holding it out at arm’s length to capture more in the shot.

But the real treat was the video from the performance on Saturday. In an Airspeed first, the AeroShall Team agreed to fly the camera in the No. 2 ship (which, in the AeroShell Team, is the right wing). I mounted the camera that morning, ran out onto the field and turned it on that afternoon right before the flight, and then retrieved it when the team returned.

Holy crap, was the footage exciting! It was an unexpected perspective. A performer’s-eye-view of the show. The formation part was beautiful, but the real surprises were after the first break, where you can see other aircraft mixing it up. This is a perspective that I had not even imagined and I just kind of sat there staring at my computer screen as it unfolded.

I rarely devote more than about 20 seconds to a shot. It keeps things moving along. But there are sequences of almost a minute in this video because the surprises just keep happening. Worth the time and the bandwidth, says I.

It was a gray day and I’ll bet that some sunshine would have made it look positively amazing. But I’m not complaining.

As cool as this is, It’s made me think about the possibility of adding another camera to the rig. Same camera and lens. One pointed out the front or back at the pilot and one camera pointed over the wing. This could get really cool.

As long as nobody decides that they don’t need to fly the producer at some point . . .

Many thanks to Vimeo for having such huge free bandwidth and storage that allows me to post a full 16 minutes (an 183MB file)!

Also thanks to The AeroShell Team for flying me and the cameras.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team

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These are the show notes to a video episode. If you want to listen online, please use the direct link below.

I caught the members of the F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team just before the briefing on Friday at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival for an interview. Lots of good information about the aircraft, the team members’ roles, commissioning tracks in the Air Force, and how you get into one of the seats of the mighty F-15E.

More information about the F-15E Strike Eagle, the demo team, and the US Air Force:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Herding Electrons and Preparing for Oshkosh

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

Audio pre-production for EAA Radio is done! Listen for Capt force’s sonorous voice on EAA Radio at 1210 on your AM dial or streaming at

I spent some time last night working on the initial tracks for Last Pure Thing on the Radio, a new tune that I might or might not release at AirVenture Oshkosk next week. It all depends on how the song comes along this weekend. The song is also a good test bed for learning how to use Pro Tools. I did most of the EAA Radio production using Audacity simply because I’m more familiar with Audacity and needed to bang out the spots to get them to Afterburner Al in time to get them into the rotation.

But Pro Tools is really stinking powerful and I need to spend some time messing with it so I can expand my studio chops. The projects are still going to Scott Cannizzaro for mixing, but it’s really cool to be able to send him something a little more competent. Thus far, I’ve been sending him .wav files recorded analog from my ancient ADAT with an initial clap as a synch signal.

Probably some more studio production through the weekend and then Cole and I leave for OSH in the early morning hours of Wednesday 29 July. I’ll tweet and blog the location of Firebase Airspeed shortly after arrival and try to keep everyone posted about where we’re wandering on the grounds. Definitely going to get out to the seaplane base this year. Can’t believe I’ve blown that off in prior years.

Look for more updates right here!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

KC-135R Video Episode

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. It's all free!

These are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch online above or download the file from this direct link.

Here's the video episode from the June 17 KC-135 flight!

More information about the KC-135R, the 434th ARW, and the 72nd ARS in the following third-party links.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So Much Content, So Little Time!

This is a regular blog post. Show notes and links to show audio and video appear on other posts.

Boy, do I have a lot of content! And precious little time to edit it down into episodes to get out to you guys. But that’s a good problem to have!

Look for the KC-135 video episode soon and then the AeroShell audio episode, the F-15 Demo Team, and other great content. Thanks for your patience and I’ll get this stuff out as soon as possible!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Unleashing Your Inner Mustang

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

I’m a Michigan guy. No flies on other parts of the world, but I love four separate seasons each year and at least two attempts by the weather each winter to kill me. I’m good with that. More than 40 years living here, degrees from three Michigan schools, and the last 15 years living or working in Detroit or its suburbs.

We make cars here. And design them, market them, and – most of all – love them. It’s what we do. We bend metal into shiny, fast icons of America.

My folks dreamed of living on the shore of one of the Great Lakes when they retired, but they live about a mile inland on either side of the Mission Peninsula up in Traverse City. It’s not that they couldn’t get a place on the water. They could. It’s that the local ordinances wouldn’t let them have a pole barn to keep their fleet of Ford Mustangs. Yes, I mean “fleet.” As in more than a half dozen, two of which are national grand champions that they actually drive to the meets across the country.

We’re car people here. If you need any further proof, just try to navigate Woodward Avenue any evening in August. It’s packed full of classic automobiles of every description every night beginning in late July. And the Woodward Dream Cruise itself isn’t technically until the third Saturday in August.

You don’t need me to tell you that the automotive industry – and just about everyone else in the durable goods field – has taken it in the shorts in the last few years. It’s not easy for car people sometimes. But that doesn’t mean that we love our cars any less.

So last week I got word that Ford is doing a promotion for its 2010 Mustang. Team Mustang is giving people the chance to “unleash their Mustang sides.” What would you do if nothing were holding you back? Blow out all of the limits. Suspend everything but the laws of physics. And maybe a few of those, too, just for good measure. Forget who you are or what you are and be what you’ve always wanted to be.

Roger Keeney lost his sight 20 years ago when a piece of farm machinery let loose and whacked him in the head. It hasn’t stopped him from being productive or otherwise living what anyone would call a good life.

But Roger liked to drive. Really liked to drive. And he missed driving.

If you’ve watched the videos above, you know that Ford’s Mustang Team heeded the call. Hey, Ford couldn’t give him back his sight. Nobody can. But, like my folks and me, the folks at Ford are car people. And they understood a little about people who love speed and power and machines that look – and sound – they way they should.

So they took Roger to Surprise, Arizona, where they had arranged a customized space where a blind man could unleash a sports car and experience again that thrill that comes with it. And Roger got to share the experience with several people from the Arizona Center for the Blind.

(The best dreams are shared. Nobody knows that more than me.)

Just as the dream motivates me and motivates the pilots and aviation enthusiasts who follow Airspeed, the folks at Ford seem to get it and are out there fulfilling that same enthusiasm for power, speed, and life.

And the best part of all of this is that Ford’s Mustang Team is giving other people the chance to have a similar experience with what moves them. You can submit your ideas as part of the ’10 Unleashed event. Check out and submit your idea. You might end up having an experience like Roger. Or, better yet, an experience of your own design. Head out to the site and don’t hold back. Put all of the noise and fury into 250 or fewer words and see what happens.

“Hey, did Ford put you up to this?” In a way, yeah. Just like one’s neighbor might lean over the back fence some weekend and “put you up to” something. Because Ford people and people who work for other auto manufacturers are my clients, neighbors, friends, and squadron-mates. We fly airplanes out of Willow Run, where they made bombers. We shoot approaches over the industrial areas of Flint, Saginaw, and Jackson. We live here in Michigan where it all started and where the arterial blood of metal-bending and chrome plating still runs hot. We’re car people. And when somebody gets the big dream, I get on board.

Get over to the website, register, and enter. And, if Ford picks you and it has to do with aviation, will you fly my camera?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Video from Lima Lima T-34 Ride at Gary Airshow

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. It's all free!

These are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch online above or download the file from this direct link.

Here's the video from the Lima Lima ride yesterday at the South Shore Airshow in Gary, Indiana.

Many thanks to the Lima Lima team for this ride with the only civilian six-ship formation aerobatic team in the country. More information at

Friday, July 10, 2009

Frame Grabs from the Six-Ship T-34 Ride with Lima Lima at Gary

This is a regular blog post. If you're looking for show notes or links to show audio, please check out the other posts.

A pretty brief blog post here because I'm on the road, but I wanted to get some frame grabs up from the ride in the back of the T-34 Mentor of second element lead, Ed "Outlaw" Hicks of the Lima Lima Flight Team.

Lima Lima operates the only civilian six-ship formation aerobatic team in the United States. Being in the No. 4 ship is ideal because you're surrounded by airplanes. It just seems like you can't get a wide enough angle lens to really capture what's going on.

Anyway, I need to get to the video editing, but I'll be posting other material soon!

If you're in the area, be sure to check out the Gary South Shore Airshow this weekend!

Frame Grabs of the Other Media Riders from the T-34 Ride

Not a lot of commentary here. Just wanted to get the frame grabs up so that the other media riders could get to the pics sooner rather than later.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Capt Force Joins the Glass Mafia

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

Last night, I wiped the bugs off the CAP Cessna 182T Nav III, buttoned up the plane, and then drove home with that sense of satisfaction that comes after a successful checkride. I had just passed my CAP Form 5 checkout in the aircraft. I’m now qualified to fly the airplane both VFR and IFR for CAP.

(By the way, some of you might not get the “Glass Mafia” reference in the title to this post. It’s hearkens back to the days of the Fighter Mafia, group of U.S. Air Force officers and civilian defense analysts who, in the 1970s, went against the grain and advocated the use of John Boyd’s Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) theory to develop fighter aircraft. We have the Fighter Mafia to thank for the F-15, the F-16, and many other of our favorite aircraft.)

For those not familiar with CAP procedures and/or the aircraft, I offer the following.

The Form 5 and CAP Operations

CAP flight operations require FAA currency and proficiency, plus a little extra special sauce. The ability to fly to FAA standards gets you into the diner on the morning of your checkride. But then there’s Form 5 with which to contend. Form 5 is simply a checklist of skills that CAP expects its pilots to have. They’re similar to the FAA PTS, but some require a little more of the pilot. For steep turns, CAP requires 720s instead of 360s. When possible, many CAP check airmen require engine failure simulations all the way to the ground (usually done at an uncontrolled airport with a runway suited to the task). You get the idea.

If you’re going to fly red, white, and blue airplanes with the CAP insignia, use a “CAPFLIGHT” callsign, fly cadets and AFROTC personnel on orientation flights, search to downed airplanes, and other CAP missions, CAP wants superior skills and wants them demonstrated.

The Form 5 ride is just like an FAA checkride in most respects. You brief, you fly, you debrief, and you get (or don’t get) your signoff. But there are also different kinds of Form 5 rides. The ride yesterday was to qualify me to fly the C-182T Nav III for training and currency and, once I have my Emergency Services card, I’ll be qualified to transport personnel and equipment for CAP missions. Additional training and check flights are required if you want to fly as a mission pilot or in other roles.

The Form 5 is a great way to demonstrate your pilot skills against objective standards. You get to fly well-maintained aircraft and fly with eminently-qualified check airmen. Getting and staying qualified in several CAP aircraft is a great way to keep your edge and get valuable commentary on your flying.

And, if you fail a Form 5 ride, it doesn’t affect your FAA qualifications. You’re still a pilot and can go rent all you want from the FBO. You just need to get through the Form 5 to fly CAP aircraft.

The Aircraft and Avionics

The NavIII variant of the C-182 comes with the Garmin G1000 integrated flight deck and the GFC 700 autopilot. It’s among the most sophisticated avionics packages available in general aviation. Most obvious to one looking at the panel for the first time are the twin 10” LCD displays. The Primary Flight Display (“PFD”) in front of the pilot gives you all of the information you’d expect from the usual six-pack of steam gage instruments and then some. The display on the right, the Multi-Function Display (“MFD”), gives you powerplant, weather, navigation, flight management, and other information .

Isaac Newton and Daniel Bernoulli still have final say about how the airplane flies, but you have a lot of tools available to help manage the airplane and conduct the flight. You give the airplane to the autopilot at 800 feet AGL and don’t take it back until you’re as little as 200 feet AGL and 1/4 mile off the end of the destination runway. Very cool.

None of this is to say that you must use the avionics all the time. But it is to say that you have a lot of tools available to you. It’s easier to stay ahead of an airplane that can fly itself en route and in the approaches better than you can.

I have always said that any kind of flying, and especially instrument flying, is about bandwidth packing. You only have so much bandwidth available. You can only think about so many things at once. The more you internalize processes, commit them to muscle memory, or find ways to automate things, the more bandwidth you have available to concentrate on what’s next.

The C-182T itself is a generally 172-shaped, but has a six-cylinder 235-hp engine in front and a higher cowl as seen from the flight deck, and it’s pretty nose-heavy and likes to come out of the sky quickly when you reduce power, especially when you hang out the barn-door-sized flaps. It’s not uncommon for C-172 drivers (like me) to have trouble handling the sink rate and related issues with the airplane. It’s also not uncommon for pilots coming to the C-182 from the C-172 or similar airplanes to bend the firewalls of C-182s by hitting the nosewheel (not hard to do – That engine up there is heavy!).

The Ride

No surprises on this ride. There never are. The Form 5 criteria are all pretty well laid out and the FAA PTS is always there underlying the whole thing.

Maj Alex Craig (the check airman who also did my instrument add-on in the C-172 in February) had me plan an IFR flight to Bad Axe (KBAX) up in Michigan’s thumb. We launched and I flew to the Pontiac VOR (PSI), the first waypoint, and then turned north toward KITNS, all with the G1000/GFC 700 flying the airplane from 800 AGL on.

We pulled it off autopilot, did some clearing turns, dropped the flaps, and slowed it down to between 50 and 60 KIAS for slow flight. Then a left-turning power-off stall and recovery to cruising altitude.

Another clearing turn and then the power-on stall turning to the right with a full break. A lot of sky in the window, baby! This airplane likes to climb! BE ON YOUR RUDDERS AND BE COORDINATED! The stall, even with a full break, was very benign, largely because we were very well-coordinated through the break and I stepped on the left pedal to right the airplane immediately after the break. We recovered 100 feet above the rotation point, so I feel pretty good about the survivability of a departure stall as long as I was on the rudders (and I usually am).

After that, I gave the aircraft back to the autopilot and continued en route. Three miles from Lapeer (D95), out comes the throttle and off goes the autopilot. We did a simulated engine-out emergency and I rocked the checklist pretty well. Yeah, I planned the flight to pass directly above Lapeer, so I had a pretty good idea of where we were going, but still had (as I usually do) the NRST inset in the lower right-hand corner of the PFD so that I could find the airport quickly and know the distance and CTAF frequency.

I should note that 123.0 (the CTAF for Lapeer) was loaded into the backup for COM1 when I looked up about five minutes before the engine-out, so I had a pretty good idea of where we were going.

I got the airplane down to 50 feet with a slip and lots of flaps. Had it been a real emergency, we would have run off the end, but all personnel would likely have been fine. Alex sent me back around for a short approach, pulling the engine downwind abeam, and I blew yet another power-off by being too high. Checkride in danger . . .

So he gave me one more shot. I hung it out a little longer this time and brought it in nice and soft in the first half of the runway. Whew!

Several short and soft field takeoffs and landings after that at Lapeer. These I nailed. The short and soft landing at the end was a thing of beauty.

Then on with the view-limiting device and proceed to Flint (KFNT) for the approaches. We shot the ILS 27, the RNAV 9, and the VOR 18.

For the ILS, he gave me the all of the avionics and the airplane flew a beautiful ILS approach to minimums. Yeah, I configured it and monitored it like I had designed the system, but the airplane, for its part, flew well.

For the RNAV, Alex took away my autopilot so I had to hand-fly it. The guidance is so good on the RNAV approaches with the G1000 that, as long as you can fly basic attitudes and airspeeds on the gages, it’s a dream. The G1000 even makes a glideslope for you and you just slide doen it to minimums.

For the VOR, Alex pulled the AHRS circuit breaker, which killed my primary instruments and left me with the backup instruments, the GPS course, and the VOR needle to fly. I flew it much better than I had expected to with only one real exception.

G1000 pilots seem to stand alone in CAP and pilots’ lounges everywhere. They’re kind of like the aloof UNIX guys, only without the suspenders and neck beards. They know things that you don’t know. (And, yes, I know things that you don’t know. Kiss my glass.) But, if there’s schism between glass pilots and steam-gage pilots, there’s also schism between those who fly glass with north always up on the displays (“north-up” pilots) and those who fly with the stuff in front of the airplane’s nose at the top of the screen (“track-up” pilots). And the two will never see eye-to-eye.

I’m a track-up guy. Alex is a north-up guy. Alex isn’t disagreeable about his north-up-ness. He’d willingly fly a track-up ride with a track-up pilot. I could have flown the ride track up with no problem and Alex, though benevolently thinking me mildly retarded for doing so, would have humored me.

Have you ever had complete brain farts when you forget how to spell “the.” Or similar moments where you forget your name or where you live? Here I was configuring and flying the avionics like I designed them and even getting compliments from Alex (an avowed G1000 fan who’s crazy good with the system). And I realized that I had completely forgotten how to switch the display over to track-up.

So I flew the ride using north-up for the first time. How hard could it be?

On the VOR approach, under the hood and partial panel with only the mag compass, the VOR needle, and the GPS display on the MFD to guide me laterally, I was watching the needle for fine guidance and the MFD for gross guidance and trending. When you fly a VOR 18 approach with track-up, the airplane flies up the screen, you just turn left or right according to the trend arrow, and the airplane turns in the same direction. Do that north-up and the airplane flied down the screen and everything’s reversed.

I got a good 40 degrees off course to the right before I realized that I was reading the MFD backward. Fortunately, I realized what I was doing, called it out, and did an immediate turn back to the course. I very nearly lost the needle to the left, but we were still several miles out and I had enough room to bring it back. It would have blown the ride if I had let it go to full deflection, so that was critical.

On the way back, I did the steep turns under the hood. Two full turns to the left and two more to the right. If I had problems with the C182 in the landings, we made friends during the airwork, especially the steep turns. It’s a big, stable aircraft and I just rolled in 50-60 degrees of bank and watched her go around with only minor changes in pitch to stay on altitude. Just beautiful. And Alex complimented me on them.

One more landing back at Pontiac and I was inducted into the Glass Mafia. I dropped off Alex at Pentastar and then taxied the aircraft back.

$90 for the airplane and $104 for gas. 2.5 hours in a $250,000+ airplane with a Cessna factory-trained ATP-rated check airman for less than $100/hour wet all in. At the risk of being a nag, if you’re a pilot in the US and you’re not a member of Civil Air Patrol, what’s wrong with you? Seriously!

I’m still basking in the glow of yet another successful Form 5 ride. Yeah, I have stuff to work on. Yeah, it wasn’t perfect, but I demonstrated competence to PTS and CAP standards by objective measures and it feels good.

Many thanks to Maj Alex Craig for the ride. And many thanks to Capt Tim Kramer, who did all of my training in the aircraft.

What’s next? Mission pilot? Time to retreat behind a shot of Jeremiah Weed and a bottle of Leinie’s and identify the next summit to challenge. Smoke on!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Frame Grabs from the AeroShell Team's Performance on Saturday at Battle Creek

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

As I tweeted during the show, the AeroShell Team, in addition to giving me a formation acro ride on Friday, offered to fly the Airspeed camera during its performance on Saturday.

I’ll be turning these into an Airspeed video episode, but wanted to post s few frame grabs as well for everyone. Would have been cooler to ride along and shoot, but one can only hope for so much.

A pretty gray day and most of the photos were awful in terms of lighting. Almost all aren’t usable, so having the video is pretty helpful in telling the story.

It’s always weird positioning a camera that you won’t be able to adjust later in the process. Especially on a taildragger that’s going to be a few degrees nose-down from its standing position once it gets the tailwheel up and flies. I took a guess at it and got the No. 1 and 3 ships (the AeroShell Team reverses the numbering for the wings with 2 on the right and 3 on the left) pretty well, except where 1’s smoke obscures 3. The slot aircraft comes into the shot at a couple of points, which was nice. Not a bad aiming job overall!

The light seemed to be best for the descending side of most of the maneuvers, like in this one. I’m in the picture there somewhere.

This shot was a little unexpected and pretty cool. The AeroShell Team does a squirrel cage maneuver that amounts to staggered loops or barrel rolls. The smoke looks pretty cool from the ground, but it turns out that it looks even cooler from the air. The aircraft had separated from the formation and Mark is maneuvering to rejoin. The camera caught this view of the smoke over the show line.

I mounted the camera in the No. 2 (Mark Henley’s) ship on the ramp at Duncan in the morning. Mark has a ball mount already in the aircraft, but it didn’t work for my mount. A couple of other mounting points proved suboptimal because of proximity to the canopy or the placement of the canopy reinforcements. So I mounted it on the dash pointing to the left.

They then moved the aircraft out to onto Runway 13/31 for staging of the performers. I talked security into letting me out to the staging area to turn the camera on just before the flight and then I recovered the camera after the team came back in. You can see it behind Mark’s head in this shot.

Many thanks to the AeroShell Team for the opportunity to get up close and personal. I also got audio interviews that I’ll be releasing on the show soon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Formation Acro with the AeroShell Team

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

It took some maneuvering (of the logistical kind), but I got up on a flight with the AeroShell Team yesterday.

The show had apparently nixed all non-balloon media rides that required the show to pay for gas. And, being that that includes all non-balloon media rides, it was looking like a dry year at Battle Creek. But not to worry. Capt Force made phone calls and checked in with the FBO and arranged to come out of pocket for 16 gallons of 100LL for the lead T-6.

I launched with Brian Regan at around 4:00. We were going to do a one-ship flight so I could get a sense of that the T-6A’s granddaddy is like to fly. I was a little blue because I was looking forward to being in a four-ship flight, but that’s okay.

But, after a little maneuvering, we got the No. 2 ship, right wing Mark Henley, on the radio. Mark was inbound to arrive at the show and he joined up with us for a couple of maneuvers before heading back to the airport.

I hand-held the camera on this ride and it turned out to be good that I did. I was able to position it to capture the join-up and then Mark on the wing for the maneuvers.

I’m also heading over this morning after the briefing to see if they’ll fly a camera during the actual show today.

I’ll be doing a video episode featuring this material and you can probably expect to see it on WGVU-TV in western Michigan when its documentary on this year’s show comes out.

Off to volunteer with CAP for the day and then it’s back to the Airspeed patio for some more writing and editing tomorrow.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hometown Hero Vince Vaden Gets a Thunderbird Ride

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

Vince Vaden probably didn’t think about what it was like to try to breathe with a refrigerator on his chest unless it was to empathize with a victim of an accident or fire that he might rescue. He probably didn’t think a lot about jet fuel, either, unless it was as part of his hazardous materials and disaster management training.

That’s because Vince is a critical care paramedic and certified firefighter. Most of the time, he’s thinking about other people instead of himself.

But today, Vince got to think about pulling G-loads similar to having a refrigerator on his chest or burning thousands of pounds of JP-8. He got a ride with the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.

Vince was nominated and selected as a Hometown Hero and given the opportunity to go fly a one-hour demo with LtCol Derek Routt, Thunderbird 7.

Vince started out as a first responder by earning his EMT-Basic license. He became a paramedic just two years later. From 1999 to 2004, he also served as a firefighter for LeRoy Township near Battle Creek.

He’s now a critical care paramedic, which is the top of the paramedic ladder. He’s qualified to transport critically ill and injured people between hospitals, frequently as the highest medically-qualified person on the transport mission.

The Thunderbirds’ Hometown Hero program complements the Thunderbirds’ existing media flight program in raising public awareness of the Air Force’s capabilities while also giving back to the individuals who patiently and quietly protect and take care of us all over the country. The program showcases American people who do amazing things in their communities, bust as the airmen of the US Air Force to amazing things in the skies at shows like the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival.

I got to hang out with Vince while he suited up. He was pretty focused on the process as they patched him up, fitted him for the G-suit, and set up his helmet and oxygen mask. His wife and nine-year-old son are delightful and seemed really excited for him.

They were out on the ramp for the arrival of the team and I talked to Vince briefly. He said the kinds of things that I would imagine I said when I was in his boots (perhaps even the very same boots) and seemed pretty preoccupied with realizing the dream.

I had to leave to get to the balloon gathering to see if there was going to be a launch. They scrubbed it, probably for both low ceilings and wind. I had a feeling that they might scrub it, but wanted to get back to see about available media slots and maybe see Dave Emmert, who took me up in 2006.

At about 6:30, Thunderbird 7 roared down Runway 23 and took to the sky. Because of the low cloud layer, they didn’t do the vertical pull at the end of the runway, instead lifting off and making a tight right turn, entering the clouds level and climbing north for the Hersey MOA near Big Rapids.

Congratulations, Vince! It was good to meet you. And it’s good to know that the Thunderbirds have recognized your patient and skillful service. And that you’re an inspiration to first responders and others who serve everywhere.

Like Vince’s nomination letter says: “The number of lives he has saved is measurable, but the number of lives that he has touched and will continue to touch is limitless.”

Hope you enjoyed your flight, man! Smoke on!

Battle Creek 2009 - Day One

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

Day one at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival is complete. Rotten weather generally. High 50s to low 60s and broken to overcast at 3,000 to 5,000 most of the day. Neither balloon launch happened.

But it was still a great day at the Battle Creek show. I hooked up with the WGVU grew and some other acquaintances and worked out some details for a possible media flight or two on Friday.

I somehow qualified for the really cool parking pass that lets you drive down the crowd line on Taxiway B. I’m sure that the average non-pilot driver doesn’t think twice about driving down a taxiway but, for me, it’s pretty weird driving a car down a strip of pavement that I usually navigate in an airplane. Most folks drive on the right side of the yellow line. Not me. I drive right on it. Trying to remember not to hit the clutch to steer left.

Gabby’s is here again. Oh joy of joys, Gabby’s is here again. It’s not summer without a pulled pork sandwich and huge Coke with finely-crushed ice from Gabby’s barbecue. It’s a massive cinder-block barbecue pit with pork, chicken, turkey legs, and all manner of other smoked fare. Have I had better barbecue? Of course, but not much. And when you eat a Gabby’s pulled pork sandwich with extra sauce and a side of slaw and you wash it down with a Coke so cold that it’s actually a transition-state slurry and you do all of this at the Battle Creek airshow . . . Words fail me. And words rarely fail me.

I was again on hand for the Thunderbirds’ arrival. The Wizard of Oz balloons are here this year and one of the sponsors is giving a prize for the best Dorothy costume. I was told in no uncertain terms that L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy was blond and that the brunette Judy Garland Dorothy is anathema. But the judges seem predisposed to the brunette Dorothy. Schism in the Land of Oz!

But all was harmonious when Tony the Tiger, Dorothy, and the Thunderbirds posed for this shot.

I’ve been in contact with the AeroShell team about a media ride tomorrow afternoon. The team is socked in by weather and won’t make it until tomorrow, but the weather is actually pretty clear overhead right now and it’s expected to remain so for tomorrow.

I’d love to put T-6 in my logbook in the same season during which I added T-6A, so I’m homing that either I get stick time or that my demo pilot is a CFI. Stick time seems unlikely because the AeroShell team does formation aerobatics. The media ride is a four-ship formation ride. And they’d be nuts to allow a media rider stick time in formation. But maybe they break out at some point. Regardless these are great aircraft and the pilots excellent stick and rudder guys.

Plus, I can’t let Jack Hodgson have a media ride on his kneeboard that I don’t have. Just kidding, Jack. No, not really.

Looking forward to tomorrow! Now off to Athens and Tim’s couch for some unconsciousness. Blaring Liquid Tension Experiment 2 in the car on the way there and then listening to Peter Mulvey’s Ten Thousand Mornings (an album I’m rediscovering after seeing Peter live at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival in 2004 or so, buying it on CD, and then foolishly giving the CD to the guy whose tickets I used).
Smoke on! It's airshow time in Battle Creek!

Battle Creek 2009 - Arrival

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

Hello, Battle Creek! Rain and general malaise last night on the way here. Again! Must be a theme developing each year.

But a reasonably nice morning. No balloon launch, though. The winds are fine, but ceilings were pretty low at 6:00 when I showed up at the airport. The word had apparently already gone out to the balloonists because nobody was there around briefing time. Normally, if there’s going to be a launch, the place is full of hyper-caffeinated balloon crews with trailers.

A shame because the clouds are moving off to the west and it’s severe clear over the Panera Bread store on Capital Avenue where I’m writing this.

A little sad to realize that the Panera is on the site of the original Bill Knapp’s restaurant, now long gone.

Anyway, it’s arrival day for the Battle Creek Air Show and Balloon Festival. The Thunderbirds arrive at 3:50 and they sic the media on them at 4:15. Looking forward to seeing Maj Mulhare again and meeting the new personnel.

I met Brad from WGVU, tomorrow’s media rider with the Thunderbirds. He’s 60% excited and 40% nervous. Nice guy. A non-pilot, so he has lots of questions. I resisted the urge to feed him a boatload of false information (“Dude, you can see the back of your own brain during the nine-G pull!”) and we’re going to get along fine. I’ve offered to go along and shoot stills during his suit-up, which will be fun.

I suggested that he put together his post-flight speech now and not try to think of anything original while he’s still on information overload. I did suggest something to the following effect:

“Guys, the aircraft is Code 2 at best. Eight over-G’ed the targeting pod. I tried to push, but it was too late. Anyway, who wants to get my tapes? And do you think I want to hold this helmet bag all damned day?”

But, on the theory that not everyone will get the Dos Gringos reference, I bet he’ll think of something else to say.

More as things progress. I’m also looking forward to connecting with the other performers, who are trickling in over the course of the day.

Ah, Battle Creek! How cool to be back!

The show’s PR firm is tweeting information about balloon launches and other information. Follow @bcballoon on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Welcome Squeaky Force; MSU Gets A-10s; and Battle Creek Kicks Off

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

Please greet the newest Airspeed listener. Stephen John Summerfield was born Thursday, June 25. And, yeah, the “Stephen” comes from where you think it comes from. How cool! Youngest listener to be coined (two days old). And he already has a callsign. “Squeaky.” For reasons that become obvious when you meet him.

Cole drew the above picture for me recently. He’s a big Michigan State fan (for no apparent reason - his parents went to Albion, Western Michigan, Wayne State, and U of D) and he also loves the A-10 Thunderbolt II (affectionately known as the “Warthog”). So he merged his loves and came up with this bit of speculative imagery. Might be a draw for AFROTC at State if they had A-10s, I think. Especially if, as Cole has drawn them, they had Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 afterburning turbofan engines.

I leave tonight for the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival. Arrival day tomorrow, practices Friday, and the show Saturday and Sunday. Can’t wait to get there and sport my nine-gee pin!