It's up! The third and final installment of the Inside Airshows series. It's called Tuskegee 3 and it's the story of a nine-month period during which I began ab initio training in TG-7As and then followed the opportunity all the way into the waivered airspace, performing for airshow crowds.
If you know me, you know that I'm a huge airshow fan. Airshows are why I started Airspeed almost eight years and more than 200 episodes ago. But even though you might have stood right next to me at the fence as we cheered for our favorite performers - or even if you're a performer who's taken me up on a media ride - you probably didn't know what was really on my mind. I wanted to do more than just watch. I wanted to climb over that fence and go see for myself what it was like to fly in an airshow.
Prior to that time, I was a private pilot, CAP SAR/DR pilot, and aerobatic competitor at the IAC Primary (most basic) level. Nothing wrong with that mix of general aviation flying but, at the end of the day, it's not airshow flying. Then, through an unlikely set of circumstances, a huge amount of work, and the trust and efforts of many people, I flew show performances as part of a three-ship demo team. This two-hour episode contains the story of that journey, complete with cockpit and other audio, music, and lots of commentary.
Epic stuff? Yes and no. And the end of the day, you could point out that I'm flying USAF Academy surplus motorgliders that suffer bird strikes from behind, that what my team does in the box isn't that flashy or complicated, and that I'm way too into this. And you'd be right. But that's the point of the story. This is what happens when a fan becomes a player.
For airshow fans: This is two hours of answers to the questions that you probably never thought to ask about heat, humidity, peer pressure, standards, desire, effort, sweat, Nomex, avgas, loneliness, quiet, focus, flow, glory, and excitement - all in good measure.
For airshow pilots: This is the story of a guy who admires you so hard it hurts and who understands that perfection is expected and excellence will be accepted. A guy who wanted to demonstrate the most sincere form of flattery by imitating you as best he's able. We each choose our heroes. A very lucky few of us find ourselves suddenly and unexpectedly walking a ramp or sharing a box with those heroes. This is an ode to those heroes. Especially to those who turn out to be as human as any airshow fan, but are all the more heroic because of it.
And for all of the above: This is a story about what every one of us owes to his or her 10-year-old self.
I'm very proud of this episode and of the series. I think that Tuskegee 3 in particular is the best stuff I've ever put in the feed. It took more than a year to fully write, edit, and record it and it includes cockpit audio, briefing audio, character voicing, specially-licensed music, and everything else that I thought it would take to tell this story of what it's like to be a first-time airshow pilot. I hope that you'll listen to it and, if you like it, I hope that you'll pass it along to others.
In the meantime, thanks for letting me fly for you and with you. And for listening when I tell you the stories that you inspire. I'll fix my safeties and I'm glad to be here.