May 31, 2016

Stacy Clark’s How to Be An Air Traffic Controller 101

Stacy rocking his Spanish World Cup Shoes in the tower.

Stacy rocking his Spanish World Cup Shoes in the tower.

By: Stacy Clark, 2001 

Note: Although this was originally written for VFR tower control much of it applies to all the ATC options.

After a particularly busy session one day a trainee asked me, “How do I do it, you make it look so easy?” This was my answer:

Being a controller comes down to those Nike commercials you’ve seen on TV… “Just Do It.” Simply put, you have no choice. The aircraft will keep coming whether or not it’s convenient for you at the time. As such, you need to make a conscious effort to foster those skills that are required for the job. You must learn to multitask. Whether that be writing and talking simultaneously, listening to two or three things at the same time, scanning the runway while thinking of your next move(s), observing what the other controller’s doing and how it fits into your (or their) overall plan, etc. Develop good habits in your strip, pad and board marking, in your scan pattern (pad/board, runway[s], scope, sky), in your basic phraseology and standard procedures. Listen actively. If someone reads something back wrong it is your job to catch it. If another controller misses something and you see it or hear it, it is your job to correct it. Control your frequencies. Talk to whom “you” need to talk to when you need to talk to them. You don’t need to answer each call as they happen. Prioritize. Work from the runway out; without the runway you’ve got squat. Learn your cutoffs, and then learn your outs…your safety valves, so to speak.

We all know that somewhat unjustified phrase “typical civil servant” and the negative connotation it brings forth in our minds. Never work from that angle while controlling. Never say to yourself, “Ah, its good enough, it’s all the same.” Working that way is nothing but laziness, pure and simple. And, it will generally bite you in the backside somewhere down the line. Never be an “Air Traffic Reactor.” You are an “Air Traffic Controller” – control – being the operative word. However, don’t over-control. Doing that is just as bad as not controlling enough. Always lay as much responsibility on the pilot as possible under the individual circumstance; take into account: wind, visibility, sky coverage, weather phenomena, speeds, aircraft performance, altitudes, pilot’s voice, etc. Think of these things as “tools”…because they are! Make your decisions and go with them, if they need changing along the line…do it, and do it then. ATC is a fluid game in practice, not highly rigid and inflexible. The decisions you make must always be the “best” for the overall picture. That is a learned skill that will come with time. As you gain experience, you will be able to see what needs to be done further out.

Though you may quietly have fear within you initially (as a developmental and as a newly rated controller) that will subside in time. NEVER transmit that fear over the radio to the pilots…they can smell it from a hundred miles away. They will begin to question you and your airspace will go sideways in a hurry. Never get angry, if you do, you will become fixated on that particular pilot and your pattern will suffer. Don’t forget the phrase “Remain outside delta airspace and standby.” Use it only as a last resort however. Try and avoid using “360’s” as a way of building space as generally the problem will come right back at you in 359.5 degrees, try suggested headings, 270’s to base/final, pointing the aircraft to a landmark, or to a point, etc. Always try and keep things flowing toward the airport. Use mind trip switches, i.e.: “report 3 miles,” “report xxx.” And then make an effort to call them before they call you. Understand you cannot make a pilot see another aircraft. It is ludicrous to play the “I’m not gonna clear you until you report him in sight” game. Sequence him and clear him…period. Then make sure it works. After a while those things that used to spin you around will become second nature and you will know what to do…because you’ve seen it a hundred times before. Learn from your mistakes and make mental notes to not do “that” again. SIT-DOWN, don’t stand up unless you absolutely need to. If there’s no chair then stand in one place… do not pace. Pacing only makes you “feel” busier than you usually are…it also wears out the carpet. If you “feel” something’s not right, it probably isn’t. Listen to that little voice inside your head…it’s trying to tell you something. Develop those gut feelings, for example, a pilot tells you he has the guy he’s supposed to follow in sight and your gut tells you “He’s seeing the wrong guy,” you’re probably right.

Know the 7110.65 and the AIM…know the exceptions. Know your local procedures and LOA’s cold. Know your approaches. Know your type aircraft and wake turbulence. Know your approach categories and how that fits in with the minimums. Learn and know those things that “seem” like just stuff that you memorize to pass the tests. Know the Departure Procedures and arrival routes/approaches for nearby airports and realize how those things affect “your” facility, and how your facility affects theirs. I strongly recommend getting a flight simulator (Microsoft) and “fly” them, fly the airways, know what headings get you from your airport to airport XYZ. Go flying as much as possible with local pilots. Not only does it build rapport but you’ll also learn volumes. Know your airspace from the pilot’s point of view. Observe from inside the cockpit what they are doing, and when. Understand their procedures and priorities. Know more than your fellow controllers; know more than the pilots. Know the minutiae. What does a Centurion and a Cardinal have in common…? (No wing struts, except for the original Centurion). What does a Cardinal and a Cherokee have in common? (Stabilator). What does a Cherokee and an Ercoupe have in common? (Designed by the same guy). Why is a Citabria called that…? (Spell it backwards…). And so on. Little tidbits like these may seem way beyond the pale, but these little extra bits of knowledge combined with a solid foundation are what make an average controller an excellent one. It’s your choice what type of controller you want to be. It’s in your hands…and so are the pilots and passengers. Good luck.

Share the Passion


What is the allure of aviation? Why is it that you hardly, if ever, will meet a less than crazy-passionate pilot? Have you ever noticed that you can almost always pick out all of the pilots in a group simply by watching to see who looks up when an airplane flies over? These are things I think all aviation enthusiasts have noticed, but have you ever stopped to consider what the rest of the world thinks?

Although I have always been razzed by my family about running out on the deck every time something flew over my parents’ house – I never really realized how outright kooky we can be about airplanes until I moved into my house with 3 friends/housemates. This wouldn’t be much of a social experiment except for the fact that 3 of us are pilots and one of us is not. With myself, Frank (a Sky West First Officer and lover of anything aviation) and Rob (an enthusiastic general aviation pilot) constantly yammering on about planes and engines and flying it is a wonder that poor Bree puts up with us at all. But through this experience I have learned something much more valuable than pilots are just big aviation nerds – we have something to offer those that are not – passion. I hear people all the time say that they hope they can find something in life to be as passionate about as I am about flying – and I say, why not!?!

CFI Ben Freelove with Sean O'Leary after his first solo flight!

Although not everyone may get as excited about metal or fabric taking flight, as pilots we have the ability to share with the world that there is always something to be passionate about and if you love it, do it. Think about the kid who washes airplanes all weekend just to save enough money for an hour flight. Isn’t that the same as the kid who flips burgers every day after school to save enough money to buy their own car? How about giving up everything to live in a hangar just to be able to afford to work in aviation and gain experience and time in and around the aircraft you love to fly? Do you have something that would drive you to do something that drastic? I do – and I did, and I don’t regret a thing.

What do I propose? I propose that we, as pilots, do our best to not only share our love of flying with as many people as possible – but also just share the secret of being passionate about anything that you love. By reaching out to others, and especially kids, we have the chance to share the idea that if you love something and you set your mind to it, you can make it part of your own life. Whether it be airplanes or cooking, science or sports – having the drive and the passion makes all the difference in the world. Without it life is quite bland but with it the heights you can reach are immeasurable.


Meet Jonathan Ott’s 35% Giles G-202!

I recently finished my 35% Wild Hare Giles G-202. It is a v1, 93″ Giles in the red and white scheme. You can tell from the pics that I modified the original color scheme by removing the ‘feathers’ and adding a custom set of graphics. Thanks go out to my friend Chelsea Engberg out in California. Her “Go Inverted!” website was the inspiration for the color scheme. Please check out over the next few months to see what Chelsea is up to, and order some swag when she gets her stuff up and running. I also want to thank Eric at B&E Graphix for his work on the vinyl, they all came out great and his customer service is beyond reproach; and finally, to Mike Borger for shooting the photos. He is a master behind the lens.

Here are the specifics of this airplane:
· ARF Name: 35% Giles G-202
· Wingspan: 93″
· Wing Area: 1560 sq. in.
· Length: 82″
· Flying Weight as tested: Approximately 24 lbs
· Wing Loading: Approximately 35 oz/ft2.
· Motor used: RCGF 100cc flat twin, stock mufflers, 5” carbon fiber spinner
· Prop: Xoar 27×10 Laminated
· Radio: JR 11X DSMX; JR 921 receiver; Fromeco Regulators, TBM Li-Ion batteries, Miracle switch harness, Smart-Fly   Equalizers for dual elevator and rudder servos.
· Channels Used: 6 total; ailerons, elevator, rudder, throttle, choke, ignition kill
· Servos: (6) Power HD 1501MG – (2 each) ailerons, Elevator, rudder, (1 each) throttle and choke
· Manufacturer: Wild Hare R/C

You’ll notice in the pics, that the cowl has ‘eyes,’ but in fact those blisters are to allow clearance for the spark plug caps on that massive 100cc engine. (This airplane was designed around a 75-85cc engine.) I could have gone with a smaller engine, but where’s the fun in that? The blisters add a wicked look to the sleek lines of the Giles and give me the necessary clearance. I’ve noticed a problem though…since it is a new engine, it shakes pretty well, and there is not a lot of support for that big fiberglass cowl, so it has developed a crack on the starboard blister. I plan to remove them both and go up to the next size blister to gain a little more clearance.

One other change that I’m saving my pennies for is new servos. The Power HD 1501MG servos are fine for many giant scale RC applications, but just don’t have the speed and centering I really want for an IMAC plane. My replacement choice is XQ Power 4020 with titanium alloy gears. They are fast, powerful and inexpensive (for a digital titanium servo) and should be a great choice for this plane.

As with all new aircraft, I’ve had some teething pains with this one. First I could not get the engine to run. I would give it a prime by squirting some gas in the carb and it would pop and run for a second or so, but not draw fuel. I pulled the covers off the carb and wetted the diaphragms with some synthetic 2-stroke oil, and when out at the airfield for the first run up, I took the top plate off the carb and gave all the channels a good shot of gas to prime it up real well. After that, it ran like a top! I put about 10 minutes on it, then went to the air…and that’s where the problems started. During straight and level flight, there were no problems. Pull through a loop, and the engine would hesitate and cough, same doing a roll. I landed and popped the canopy so I could see the needle valves on the carb and started making some adjustments. (In hind sight, I should have never touched the needles, as it ran great on the first tank of fuel, but I fiddled with them anyway.) I still had ¾ tank of gas, so I put it in the air again, but it was running worse. I had an uneventful dead stick landing, and started playing with the needles again. I couldn’t get any reliable transition from idle to WOT, and it was being a real brat. I topped off the tank, fired it back up and with a couple delicate twists and turns of the needles I got a good idle, decent transition, and massive top end thrust! It was getting late, and bugs were eating me up, so I called it a night.

I took the airplane apart and started packing things up and decided to drain the tank so I wouldn’t have the gasoline smell in the basement. Low and behold, I couldn’t get the fuel out! Just the sucking sound of air passing through the tank…hmmm…reverse the pump and fuel goes in, but going the other way, nothing comes out. LIGHTBULB!!!! I decided to troubleshoot and fix the problem at the field, again because of the gasoline smell in the house, and guess what I found? Yep, the clunk line had fallen off in the tank. This explained why it ran fine on a full tank, and when I refueled, and in level flight. But sitting on the ground, after a couple minutes of running, the fuel level was below the fuel fitting and it couldn’t drink a drop. Rookie mistake, but it gave me the opportunity to use better fuel fittings and install a larger tank made from a water bottle. It runs great now that it can drink. I just have to reset the needles and maybe work a throttle curve into the radio to make the response linear and all will be good!

Now the best part: FLYING. The couple short hops I had with the airplane proved the fantastic design of the Giles G-202. For a 93”, 24 lb aerobat, it floats like a butterfly. Landings look like walking speed…okay, maybe jogging speed, but control is solid all the way to touchdown. On landing, three-pointers or running tail up, the Giles sets in its groove and does not get snappy at low speed. Contrary to popular opinion the Giles is NOT a snap happy money pit that many believe it is. On the dead stick landing I had, this airplane exhibited no bad habits. One landing with the engine begging for fuel like a kid wanting a cookie got me low, slow and way behind airspeed and available thrust…it wallowed around flirting with the stall, nose high and no power, but never got snappy on me. It just mushed along, like it knew it was only four feet off the ground and not in the aerobatic box prepping for a spin, and plopped down on the stout main gear.

I only had some basic programming in the radio, triple rates on all controls (bevel to bevel on high rates, 75% of that on medium, and 50% on low rate), 30% expo all around and no differential on the ailerons. My 29% Extra 300 requires about 6% differential on the ailerons to keep the rolls axial, but not the Giles. Rolls looked like they were on a string (cliché, I know but it just rolled right around not looking like it was off line or off center.) Loops exhibited no tendency to be snappy neither on the top, nor at the 5/8 mark when speed was up. I didn’t do any intentional stalls or spins, as the engine wasn’t running like it should, so I can’t comment on stall or spin performance.

My travel schedule keeps me from getting to fly as much as I would like. I’m looking forward to making a few improvements on this airframe and getting it back in the air. It is a great performer when opened up, and a baby when slowed down. I think I’m going to like competing with this airplane.

– By Jonathan Ott

Not your grandma’s flight simulator…


Chelsea Flying the Phoenix


So you hear the word centrifuge and what comes to mind? That crazy fair ride from childhood, what did they call it, the Gravitron? Or does it drum up black and white photos in your head of USAF Colonel John Paul Stapp’s face stretched all the way back as he rocketed down rails during his ejection seat testing? If you’re a pilot and search YouTube for interesting aviation videos as much as I do then you’ve probably also witnessed the funny videos of military aviators going through centrifuge training – some successfully and some not so successfully. And yet, even with all of these somewhat unnerving sites and thoughts I have to admit that when I saw that the NASTAR Center was looking for aerobatic pilots to volunteer for a research project using their Phoenix full-fidelity sustained-G flight simulator I jumped at the opportunity!


NASTAR Phoenix Flight Simulator

You might be saying to yourself, what the heck is a full-fidelity sustained-G flight simulator…I know I was! After spending more than a week there “flying” in it each day I can now say that it is a very impressive machine. Imagine a centrifuge that can be manipulated on all axes and that inside lies a cockpit (which is interchangeable) that is the replica of an F-15. Sounds like fun to any pilot, right? Well, for the research we were more like a guinea pig and less like a pilot as we were riding through profiles instead of flying, but the last day once testing was finished up we got to each try our hand at an actual flight – and this included a carrier launch and attempted trap (I know, I know…F15’s don’t land on carriers…we took a little creative leeway with the flight).

With a simulator that can easily do +9 and – (I don’t want to know) all I can say is wow. I will admit I was definitely a skeptic when I arrived – I have played a lot of video flying games an have even gotten the opportunity to fly the T-37 full motion sim as well as the T-6 Texan II’s 270 degree wrap-around simulator but none of them really felt real. As soon as the door was secured closed as I was spun up to idle speed I will fully admit I was 100% immersed in the experience and it definitely felt real! Loops, rolls, the world’s BIGGEST immelman – it was all there – the G’s felt right, the sensations felt right, I was flying an F-15! I’m sure you’re wondering if I successfully trapped and alas I must admit I balked – but it was a nice carrier touch-and-go!

Although this was very fun and exciting I must give one more thought on this – it’s really about training, and this machine is something that I believe holds that power to increase the quality of aviation training both for the military as well as for the airlines by leaps and bounds. By providing sensations that mirror actual flight sensations perfectly the pilots are even more likely to lose themselves in the experience and forget the fact they are in a simulator increasing their learning capabilities as well as inducing more appropriate human reaction to emergency situations. This definitely isn’t your grandma’s flight simulator!


Chelsea’s first REAL Cross-COUNTRY

September 2008

Extra Cross-Country Flying!


Have you ever had one of those moments where you felt like you were looking from the outside in on an experience you were having at that very moment? Like one of those times you can almost hear the soundtrack to your own movie being played in your head because the experience was so surreal? Or maybe you can just see the pages of your autobiography unfolding before you even though the book is decades away from being a complete story. Some may never experience this, some may never know or understand the passion that aviators thrive upon simply because we cannot get enough of wings, sky and the freedom and wonder of flight. Recently I experienced just that, and I can’t wait to experience it again.

I must start by stating the fact that although I have a long way to go in making any type of living at flying, I am working hard to get there and loving every single minute of it. I must also say that every step that I take seems to be even more unbelievable than the last…a dream come true. So of course when Sean D. Tucker asked me if I’d be interested in training to be a ferry pilot in the Extra and that he wanted my first flight to be from Portland, Maine home to King City, California with Ben Freelove as my mentor you can only imagine my excitement. Now, I’ve done some cross countries, but the furthest I’ve flown in a small airplane was from Texas to California with Ben last year, and other than that all my long trips have been in King Airs or Citations. Flying from coast to coast in an Extra 300 was going to be a totally different experience. It would be one for the books.

So Ben and I piled onto a JetBlue A320 early Sunday morning and started the trip east. Monday morning started with phone calls to customs to update them on the Teams arrival (as they were flying in from Halifax, Nova Scotia) and heading to the FBO to wait for them. Eric Tucker was flying the Oracle Challenger, Brian Norris was flying the Extra 300 and Clyde Greene and Collin Davis were in the Seneca. Upon everyone’s arrival Clyde and Collin headed to the terminal to airline home, Brian hopped in the Seneca and Ben and I loaded up the Extra. Eric was already on his way while we were loading the turtle deck with the few things we brought with us. Of course this whole time my nerves were getting the best of me, not because I was concerned that I didn’t know what I was doing but because this was just different. This was new. This was exciting.

Once everyone was packed and gassed we were off. Brian was staying fairly close, within an hour or so of us as he had all the parts in case we needed any maintenance assistance along the way. We were all hoping to reach Piqua, Ohio, home of Hartzell Propellers, by sunset. I have to be honest when I say that although I was taking everything in visually I can’t really tell you a lot of what I saw within the first hour or two of flight…I think it was sensory overload. I spent most of the time figuring out exactly how to work everything, monitoring temperature and pressure gauges and constantly checking on our fuel supply.

The home of Hartzell Propellers


Slowly, though, things started to become a little more second-nature for me in the plane and by the time we reached Piqua that evening I was feeling more comfortable. Of course I would have been more comfortable if I had thought about loosening the seatbelts a bit and breathing…but hey, live and learn. So after fueling the plane and getting her pushed into her hangar for the night we headed for the hotel. Brian was already tucked into his room and had briefed Daniel Jones, another of our crew members, about the next day. We grabbed some food and a beer or two at Z’s, a local sports bar, and then called it a night.

We all woke up bright and early the next morning as Brian wanted to be off the ground at sunrise. Of course we were all a little skeptical after the thunderstorm that had barreled through that night. Lo and behold it was still grey and drizzly when I peeked through the curtains the next morning. After Daniel took on the duty of “team weather briefer” I called Ben and we decided to both go back to sleep while I’m sure Brian was up working diligently, waiting for the ceilings to lift. And lift they did!

We blasted off for what was to be the longest of the days as far as flying was concerned. Ben grew up in Ohio so we made a slight detour to fly over some of his old stomping grounds…although those darn clouds made it impossible at times so soon we were back on our way. Brian was hoping that he and Daniel, who was now Brian’s chauffer in the Seneca, would make Ogden, Utah by that night. Ben and I were hoping for the same thing.

Welcome to KAAA!


So fly we did. And get gas we did. The Extra likes its gas and gets thirsty every 2 hours or so. I think I was most excited to stop at KAAA. Where is KAAA (Logan County Airport) you might ask? It’s tucked into the sleepy little town of Lincoln, IL. And WHY was I excited about stopping here you might be wondering?? Well, if you’ve ever used a GPS in a plane you might figure it out. What is the very first airport that pops up as you start to input an identifier that starts with K (which most do)?? KAAA!!! I know, I know, it’s just because it’s alphabetical but I’ve seen this identifier for years so the opportunity to stop and get gas there was just one more thing I couldn’t pass up.

Easy way to change fuel prices!


Logan County Airport was quiet, as many of our gas stops were. But this airport looked like there were a lot of stories to be heard if one had the time to spend there. It is a small airport set among corn fields with an outdoor aviation museum on part of the ramp. Quonset hut hangars housed old yellow dusters and other planes. And apparently they had some of the cheapest gas in the area. How can one tell, by the duct tape of course! Before we left we decided to pop into the pilot’s lounge to use the restroom. This was like stepping back in time a few decades. Although it was very clean it looked as though no one had been inside for years.

Experiencing little airports, even for short periods, is becoming one of my favorite parts of cross country ferry flights.

Just as we were climbing in the cockpit and ratcheting our belts a gentleman pulled up and walked over. He said he knew the plane and raced over to see if we needed any help. He was very nice and gave us his card, offering to help out anytime we came through again, even to take us to lunch. Apparently he lives under the traffic pattern and said anytime he sees someone new fly in he has become the unofficial airport greeter. After our goodbyes we were off again.

Back in the air with three full tanks (wings and acro tank) of gas Ben was back manning the his Ipod and I soon decided upon Schenck Field Airport in Clarinda, IA (KICL) as our next fuel stop. Again, another airport in the middle of corn fields and we were in and out pretty quickly. Next fuel stop, North Platte Regional or Lee Bird Field in North Platte, NE. Again, fairly quick in and out and then it was time to switch over to XM radio for a while.

Ben and I had an on-going discussion about how rare it is to see traffic while flying long cross country flights. Of course this was other than the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that flew just next to us in the opposite direction the day before while over New York. A minute or so later Ben pointed out traffic way ahead of us at about our one o’clock. We were just trying to figure out if it was coming towards us or going away from us when Brian and Daniel piped up on the discreet radio frequency we use. After a quick discussion of current locations Ben said “I think we see you. We’re at about your seven o’clock.”

Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a Top Gun reference as I asked, “Any of you boys seen an aircraft carrier around here?”

“So much for the ‘Big Sky’ theory,” Brian said.

And with that Ben offered the idea to go pay them a visit. So I pushed the throttle forward and as we got a little closer I stepped on the right rudder and slid in on the 45 and pulled the power back as we closed on them. Soon we were off their left wing. After scaring Daniel with the information that it was me flying and not Ben we were off. They were on their last leg to Ogdon and we had at least one more fuel stop so we wanted to keep moving.

An hour or so later we landed at Laramie Airport in Laramie, WY (KLAR). Time to head into Cowboy Aviation for a fill up.  This was a great little FBO which I was happy to see after discovering that landing even in pretty gusty conditions isn’t too bad in the Extra (especially when you’re landing on a HUGE runway). Even so, I was nervous at what the AWOS (automated weather that we listen to over the radio) reported for winds so I was quite happy to be down with a landing that wasn’t too ugly. By this point Ben and I were getting pretty cold. The Extra is anything but air-tight and even being inside the FBO, which wasn’t that warm I might add, we weren’t close to warm before we climbed back in to our moving office. Ben figured out a great way to keep the cold air out a little more in the front (which is the coldest seat in the plane and where he was). He would fold up the wing walk (the same squishy stuff you can line cupboards and drawers with) and hold it in place as I closed the canopy on it. Perfect!

Mountain Flying


I was slightly nervous about this next leg. Not only was it cold, but the mountains were fast approaching and although we had plenty of time before sunset, the sun was going down and of course there was some weather ahead. Now, it’s not that mountains are bad, but ferrying aerobatic airplanes is often some of the most dangerous flying you can do, and this was only my second long cross country in an Extra and my first over serious mountains.  It is wonderful that we have a Garmin420 GPS as well as a Garmin496 on board. This means that we have 2 moving maps, along with terrain and current weather (all of which I learned to use and love along the way). We had to dodge some rain showers on the way in and went slightly north and then back into Ogden which is very close to busy Class B airspace as well as Hill Air Force Base. Tower was wonderful there; very friend and helpful. We followed the freeway all the way in for a straight in and then taxied to Kemp Air…quiet possibly the nicest FBO I’ve ever seen. As we got out F-16’s screamed across the darkening night sky, heading back to Hill. Even after 8.3 hours in an airplane and our 6th airport of the day and I was still looking up and smiling. I can’t get enough of this.

Once we had the airplane put away we called Daniel to come pick us up. While we waited Ben and I made phone calls to give your overnight location to some people who had been following us across the country online (as Bill Stein was nice enough to let us borrow his Spot which is a personal locator). By taking it with us it sent out periodic signals which then posted to his website so that anyone who knew about it could follow our track. We also had the ability to hit a button that sent a text message out to designated cell phones saying that we’re okay. It also allows you to hit a single button if you need help…a very cool piece of equipment. But, I digress.

Ben’s girlfriend had been watching as we flew along. She already knew we were in Ogden and had taken it upon herself to search for a good restaurant to go to. She rocks. Conveniently the restaurant she recommended was right at the airport, Rickenbacker’s Bistro and Restaurant, so Ben, Daniel and I headed inside for dinner. This place was great! Full bar, good beer and wine and outstanding food. We were also lucky enough to be seated in the warmest spot in the whole place which helped Ben and me to defrost. I would highly recommend this place to anyone who finds themselves in Ogden.

I’m pretty sure we all slept well that night. Ben and I had spent 8.3 flight hours in the airplane that day. It was the first time in quite a while that I fell asleep in a hotel without much effort and even had the air conditioner off.

Garmin rocks!


The next morning was much more relaxed than the day before. It was our last day and it was going to be much shorter since we had pushed so far the day before. We got all packed up and taxied out for take-off. This portion of the flight took a little more work as we had to make sure to stay out of the Class B airspace and then followed I80 between the two Restricted Areas as we cruised over the salt flats on our way to Battle Mountain (KBAM). Again, thank goodness for the 420 and 496!!

Although there wasn’t anything super exciting about the Battle Mountain stop there is one thing that made my day. My landing! Now, mind you, I’m still figuring out how to land this plane which requires a lot less work than the Pitts which means I’m always over-flying it on landing. But, Ben is a great landing coach so it’s been good. But at KBAM Ben was silent on landing. And..lo and behold a beautiful (yet a still a bit fast) wheel landing. Woohoo! Here we filled up and then stretched our legs as we talked to a fellow pilot there with a huge Ag Tractor stationed there for the fire season. What a cool (and HUGE) plane!!

So we needed one more fuel stop before King City. We decided that we would try for Auburn, CA (KAUN) as that is where John and I both learned to fly and where we both work part time as flight instructors now. So that’s where we headed. As we flew high over Reno, NV we looked down at Stead Airport, home of the Reno Air Races, and could actually see time trials going on; it looked like the Unlimiteds. Soon we were over Truckee, and man was this portion of the flight stunning. We followed I80 along, as there are not always a lot of good outs over the Sierras if your engine decides to cough, and enjoyed the scenery as we went. It felt like time was flying, probably because I’ve made this drive so many times and the Extra is moving at warp-speed in relation to a car!

Again I was a little nervous about this, partially because it was home but also because it would be the shortest and narrowest (although not terrible by standards for either – 3700’ x 75’) runway I’d attempted thus far. And, because I was still landing with my hair on fire it was going to take flying much slower in the pattern to stick it. It wasn’t the most beautiful landing but it worked. Of course Ben did point out that the runway’s hill didn’t help much either as I had it and then the runway went down…and away from me…but hey…I’ll take what I got. My Mom were waiting there, camera in hand. We said hello, gassed up, hung out and then it was off to King City.

On our way home.


This time we were flying low enough to not have to bundle up which was nice. Upon arrival into King City Ken Erickson greeted us at the fuel island and it was great to be home. Seamus (Sean O’Leary) was there waiting, too and as always, King City felt like home (like it does every time I arrive there). We put the airplane away and tied up some loose ends. Ben and Seamus invited me to grab lunch but I was waiting for John and our friend, Gary, to arrive in Gary’s DA40 to take me home. About 30 minutes later I was sitting in the right seat of the Diamond already saying goodbye to the Tutima Academy. I was sad that my longest cross country to date was over and that I had gotten all the Extra 300 time I was going to get for awhile. Although it was a long trip I would have loved for it to go on a few more days…call me crazy, but I loved every single second of it. There is nothing better than flying an airplane and seeing America from the sky. There are novels written about this; stories of people flying across the country in a Piper Cub. Well, the Extra is no Cub, but it is still a very unique airplane that I love and am thrilled to have time in. I saw a chapter in my life’s story develop before my eyes this trip, a trip I will never forget.





Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 8

Oshkosh Comes to a Close

Sunday, August 3, 2008


We’d come to the end of the flying for Team Oracle and The Collaborators but that didn’t mean that we were quite finished with our responsibilities. Although we did get to sleep in for a bit and could take our time getting over to the show from the Weeks Hangar, we did have one family coming as Oracle Guests. Once we arrived Sean had some autographs to sign, so I hopped into his car with him and off we went.

Today was different than the other days. Sean was able to relax a bit, as much as he can ever relax.  Although still moving at a million miles a minute, he got to walk around a bit. And of course we got to talk about life and work and I soaked in all the words of wisdom he had to offer.

From sponsor to sponsor and tent to tent we zipped around with exuberant Sean leaving everyone in his wake with a smile. I have so much to learn from Sean and all of my coaches and mentors that it is unbelievable. From flying to business to interacting with current sponsors, potential sponsors and fans, the opportunities are endless.

The show was great, as is expected of Oshkosh, yet there was almost a touch of sadness looming over the entire airport. It was the last day of Oshkosh. Airplanes had begun departing a day or two before and as we drove through the warbird area it looked bare and lonely. Tents began to come down and people were packing their things.

Could it be that it had gone by that fast? Absolutely! They say that time flies when you’re having fun, no pun intended. I guess they’re right!

As we hurried back across the airport towards the hangar after the show, the sky began to get darker and darker. After doing some things we raced back over to the show side to drop off the golf cart and it was a good thing we went when we went. No sooner had Ian hopped in the car that I drove over than the sky opened up and thunder began to clap. It rained pretty much non-stop with thunderstorms rolling through off and on the rest of the night.

We all headed back to the house for an amazing dinner prepared by Kureha, Ben’s girlfriend. And let me tell you, this girl can cook! I’m not just saying that…it was an awesome dinner and a perfect ending to a long hard week of work and fun. After a night of laughter and camaraderie it was time for bed. Then next morning we would all be heading home; different places for each us of, but only for a little while. The airshow schedule will be calling everyone back together  soon enough.

My final thoughts on Oshkosh…it is a MUST for anyone who loves flying or just loves a good time. I could never have imagined that my first Oshkosh experience would be so amazing. From making new friends, seeing old ones to growing as a member of my new flying family, it is something for which I will be forever grateful. It just supports my belief that you should always dream big and never stop working hard for what you want. You never know what might come of it!

Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 7

Oracle Day at Oshkosh

Saturday August 2, 2008

Today was a little different than the rest of the week. The Collaborators were done with their performances at Oshkosh 2008 and this was Sean and Team Oracle’s last performance day. With this came hosting some of Oracle’s employees and customers in what ended up being one of the nicest “chalets” that I have ever seen!

Ian and I both work as hospitality representatives for Team Oracle and our job is to make sure that our guests have an outstanding time the whole day through. From eating to sunscreen, watching the show and meeting the Team, we are there to make sure that they experience the airshow in the most amazing way possible.

Once we set up the catering and gift/sign-in table I snuck around taking a few shots of the setting just to make sure to show people how great this “rig” was. We were told it actually is used most often at racing events, but I definitely say that if you are ever looking for something like this, you should contact this company!

Our guests enjoyed a quiet spot to relax in the truck, air conditioned seating in the tent area and the best seats in the house right on the show line once the planes took to the sky. It was fun for all as always.

Once the show had ended it was time to head back to the Charlie Hillard Building for the Performers’ Party. This was an experience that I am so thankful to have had and something that I will definitely never forget. The evening was filled with good food, good discussions and good people. And to hear the speeches from many different people, some of whom have no idea how influential and influencial I think they are, was truly amazing to me.

Sean also pulled the whole team together to say thank you and to reiterate that we are all a family. Of course being there pretty much a team full of guys I could not let on that my eyes were a bit watery by the end of the whole thing…but it really was a big deal for me. I can’t believe I am doing what I’m doing and flying what I’m flying. All I can say is, dreams do come true.

Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 6

Oshkosh 2008

Friday August 1, 2008


Friday morning  … the Collaborators’ last day to perform this year at Oshkosh. It was a beautiful morning and we were all ready for another great day and a crowd-pleasing performance.

Before the airshow started the guys had lots to do which included Ian and me heading to the Ford Tent to help them out with an autograph session. It is so much fun to see all of the different people who show up for these events. You see everyone from hardcore fans who know everything about each pilot and plane to Oshkosh newbies who saw these guys fly for the first time this year. Kids and ol’ timers, everyone who comes through the line gets a personal one-on-one experience with Ben, Bill, Eric and Sean. It is something that I think sets the team apart, as they take such outstanding care of each and every fan. I can’t even guess how many kids will become pilots just because of the experience they have meeting these guys; they truly are an awe-inspiring bunch.

After the autographs it was time for the guys to get ready to rock. Here are a few pictures from the flight line of getting ready (luckily I can sneak in some shots while I’m working, capturing memories I  I will always treasure.

Before the show ended Ian and I (with John in tow) headed to their hotel to get packets together for our Oracle guests who would be joining us the next day. Once we were finished we headed back to the hangar and grabbed the golf cart and Seamus to go over to the Charlie Hillard Building for a post-wedding party with a large group of their airshow family. Of course there was food being provided for the performers at the hangar so John and Seamus couldn’t wait.  Guys are always hungry.

The party was fun and we had a great time relaxing and enjoying a gorgeous evening on the side of the runway with lots of wonderful friends. It was a great way to close the day and we even got to “sleep in” the next morning before heading back out to the airport for Sean’s last performance at Oshkosh 2008.



Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 3

Oshkosh From the Sky!




I don’t think that most people realize the amount of work that is put into running an airshow let alone OSHKOSH!! This place is amazing. It truly is its own little city, but more than that it is a community of like-minded people (read aviation nuts). So the routine, at least for me has been to get home around 9pm, eat and work until 11pm or so and then go to bed. Then Ben and I get up in the morning at 6am for a jog then get back shower and leave the house with Bill at 7:30am. Go to the airport, start working and then do it all over again.


Chelsea's first Oshkosh photo flight!


Today, though, was a little different. Today we got to the hangar at 8am for a photo flight and lucky me, Eric’s Extra 300 had an empty seat. So, I went flying. This was, of course, not my first flight with the team but my first photo flight which was very interesting. Flying in formation with the Seneca  setting up for some of The Collaborator’s famous shots for a USA Today photographer all the while maintaining the right set up with the sunlight with Oshkosh in the background was pretty darn cool! After that we broke up and ran through some of the team’s figures and portions of the airshow sequence. There’s nothing like a little negative G to start the morning! After that we broke apart and I got to do some flying with Eric. Loops, slow rolls, REALLY slow rolls, tumbles, barrel roles…we did them all and it was great to be up flying here. The text my mother received after I landed was “Dude, I flew at Oshkosh!”

Today was Sean’s solo day so it was nice for the rest of the guys to get a little time off to do other things like add decals to the airplanes.  I did lots of different things as is how it goes at an airshow. I went to Sean’s autograph signing session at the Lycoming Tent which was fun and then we stopped by the Extra display to say hello and check out the new Extra 330SC. All I can say is…DUDE! Very very cool! I hope I can fly one some day.

This evening was the Lycoming Dinner and a party at Ms. Dorrine Hillard’s house which, as always, was a blast! Lots of air show people descended upon the house on the lake to eat, celebrate and enjoy the gathering of so many longtime friends at Oshkosh 2008. It is also Sean O’Leary’s (better known to everyone as Shamus as we cannot have TWO Sean’s on the team) birthday. He is here with the team for his second year for a few months before heading back to his homeland, Ireland. We absolutely love him! So Kevin Coleman and I went to the store and picked up a cake for him and once everyone gathered together after dinner at both places we had a little surprise waiting for him at the Coleman’s house.

Tomorrow we do it again, it’s the Collaborators’ turn tomorrow. As always it should be fun!

Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 2

Oshkosh Prep

July 27, 2008

Sponsor Decals Complete!

So today was my first full day here in Oshkosh, WI. While the day started off quietly and slowly with everyone resting and relaxing for the most part (other than Ben and Eric going for a practice flight which Bill and I TRIED to watch but to no avail due to the trees in our backyard being in the way) it ended up being a busy one. Ben, Bill and myself piled into our car and headed back to the hangar to start putting on decals for The Collaborators latest sponsor, AirshowBuzz.Com.

Now, decals are not quick, they are not simple and they are not simple, but they sure look cool when you’re finished! While we got about half of them finished by 5pm we had to stop because it was time for the boy to go practice. While they were flying I got my first real look at Oshkosh when Ian and I drove out to the end of the runway to watch landings and listen to the radio. All I have to say is…WOW. I’ve seen the videos and the pictures and heard all of the stories, but this is something you just have to see to really understand. It is unreal. Airplanes all over the place, controllers working a million miles a minute, and anything that is flat near the runway becomes a taxiway if needed. It is absolutely impressive and a sight that every aviator should see.

When the Team returned they had an unveiling of the Icon (and amphibious light sport) and the rest of us pushed the planes back into the hangar and I went right on back to the decals. Now it wasn’t long before my phone rang and the sweet southern accent of Kevin Coleman’s was on the other end. Not more than 30 minutes later he was sitting on the floor next to me under the right with of the Edge helping out with the decals.  Boy do we make a team!

When Ben came back he helped finish up the last of the decals and then we christened Go Inverted officially by placing our decals on the first airshow plane, Bill’s Edge 540.

I’m sure people often think that the life of an airshow pilot is nothing but parties and schmoozing, and it can be. But all I can say is coming home with a big bag of Taco Bell isn’t too shabby either…and that’s just what Ben, Bill and I did!

Tomorrow is the first day of the show and I am absolutely excited beyond belief. This place, this airport, this temporary town is magical. It is hands-down the most incredible thing I have ever seen.