Wednesday, August 26, 2015

AOPA's Advocacy "A Team" Will Not Include Av8rdan

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I have always been extremely impressed with AOPA's Government Affairs team, along with their Regional Managers spread out across the USA. When it comes to staying on top of legislative issues facing general aviation, they are the "go to" people, and they've got our backs.
News came in recently that I was a finalist for their open Regional Manager position in the Northwest Mountain region, but was not the person chosen for the job. The man they hired has tremendous legislative affairs experience, and pilots in the Northwest will be well represented going forward.
It is no secret to people who have followed Airplanista from the beginning that I have always wanted to work for AOPA. They are a vital association that does exemplary work preserving our freedom to fly, and without them, the aviation family would be toast.
Through the interview process for the job, it allowed me to reflect a great deal on my own advocacy work, and I spent a lot of time looking back...and looking forward. Like other pilots, I possess the same gene for helping to improve the aviation community, and over the last 15 years, I have found great joy in telling the stories of anyone in GA that gives back more than they receive. Stories of these advocates and volunteers are literally endless, and not a day goes by that I do not stumble upon yet another incredible pilot or aviation enthusiast who is doing some extraordinary.
To see where my advocacy work is today, first you have to go back to the very beginning:
In 2002, I was a member of a small aviation club called Central Valley Aviation Association, based at Fresno (CA) Chandler Downtown Airport. This club had one purpose, and that was to get together once a month, have a brief meeting, and then hop in our planes and go "fly out" to eat somewhere. I thought we could do more, so I created the Welcome Sky Aviation Scholarship Program in the club, which stole the playbook from Robin Hood by asking the wealthier among us to chip in so we could award full-ride private pilot scholarships to the best and brightest 18-24 year-olds we could find. After lots of grass roots fund raising and plenty of arm-twisting, we raised enough cash and "in kind" donations from flight schools to pay for three new pilots to be trained. As far as I can tell, these three bright young pilots are still flying today.
Sure, it was only three pilots. But it was something. I moved away from the Fresno area in 2003, and the program eventually died. It has always been my dream to take it national, because I have proven that if you ask the right number of rich pilots to open their wallets or checkbooks for this very important cause...they will. But lack of time and career responsibilities have prevented me from really pushing this on a national level. Maybe when I retire...
These days, I write for five national aviation magazines, with a focus on telling as many "advocates and volunteer" stories as I can dig up. But I am only one guy, which was why I applied for the AOPA gig. To have the muscle (and yes, the resources) of such a prestigious association behind me, I know I could have done great things on a very large scale. Now, I will not get that chance to change all those lives that I might have touched.
Looking back on my recent advocacy work, I have been seeing clues that suggest some of it might have crept past its expiration date. Audience participation at this year's #Oshbash event at Oskhosh was dismal, about 30% of the previous two events, when it was standing room only. There was lots going on at AirVenture at the same date and time I scheduled #Oshbash, which drew away much of the crowd. But leading up to the event, Twitter buzz was almost non-existent, telling me loudly that people just are not that interested in my #Oshbash events any longer.
Readership on Airplanista has dropped in the past year, due in part to my editorial schedule being filled with so many paying magazine gigs. I am guilty of not keeping the blog fresh, and in the blogosphere, stale equals a loss of relevance. That is all on me.
So, where do I go from here? I could let the missed opportunity at AOPA get me down, or I can re-focus and push onward to the next big thing. As I pondered whether to crawl back under my rock never to be seen or heard from again, or remain straight-and-level in coordinated flight and keep doing what I've always done - writing interesting content about interesting aviation people - the choice was mine...
I guess I was looking for a sign. Which way to turn, what to do? It was then that I watched "Astronaut" Abby Harrison's TEDx Talk asking "What's YOUR Mars?" This 18-year-old brilliant young woman has set her goal to be the first astronaut on Mars, and after watching her talk and visiting her site,, there is zero doubt that if we get to Mars, she could be the first person stepping on the Red Planet. Abby's tagline is "Dream Big, Act Big and Inspire Others." That inspirational message is a now a big sign on my office wall, and she has convinced me that my "Mars" is to keep pushing forward, because when you ascend, you soar, but slip into a vicious, uncontrolled descent and eventually, you crash and burn.
That's the great thing about the advocacy work we all do...the outcome is really random, and you never know what life you will touch...or even change. This one future astronaut's drive and unwavering ambition has captured my attention, and her message screamed at me to keep going on my current trajectory, because just like the way her work inspired me, my work will inspire someone else...that's how this works.
So thanks Abby, you've touched my life, and I will pay that forward.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Goodyear's New Wingfoot One Airship is Not Your Grandfather's 'Blimp'

Outside Wingfoot One as it glides over Wisconsin
To view a photo gallery of this incredible flight, click here.

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

All of us have grown up watching sports on TV, and as far back as we can remember, they would always show a ground shot looking up at the "Goodyear Blimp" as Al Michaels or Howard Cosell would say "...and aerial photography provided today by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company." Sometimes they would add that the "blimp" we were seeing was the Spirit of America or Spirit of Innovation, two of Goodyear's blimp/non-rigid airship fleet. Their ships are iconic, and are woven into the fabric of America.

That was then, and this is now:
Yesterday at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, I was lucky enough to be given a media ride in Goodyear's brand new semi-rigid airship "Wingfoot One," which had only a few hundred hours on the Hobbs. Sleek and beautiful, it still has that new airship smell. And while I might call Wingfoot One an "airship" here, and you might say "there goes the blimp," in fact we are both sort of correct. Goodyear's PR team will not correct media who calls it a blimp even though it is technically a Zeppelin NT Model 101, and James Kosmos, a Senior Pilot with Goodyear, says the terms are basically interchangeable.
Before climbing aboard Wingfoot One, Airplanista sat down with Kosmos to learn more about what he calls "the most high tech airship on the planet." And the differences between Wingfoot One and the older blimp fleet are night and day.

"The old blimps were non-rigid," Kosmos said, "meaning they were a big bag of helium. Wingfoot one has a framework inside making it a semi-rigid dirigible. It is 246' long and holds 300,000 cubic feet of 99% pure helium. It has three Lycoming IO-360 engines, one on each side and one in the tail, with the front engines being able to vector from 0 to 120 degrees allowing us to take off and land vertically or even takeoff backwards depending on obstacles."

Wingfoot One's two rear propellers can use different pitches to achieve different results needed to fly what seems like a giant envelope of helium waiting to float away if you let it. "The rear propellers can be vectored to act as sort of horizontal and vertical stabilizers, which gives us the control we need to maneuver the airship in no wind conditions," Kosmos said. "The ship is all fly-by-wire, with one computer for each engine. We move the pilot side stick up, down, right or left, and the computers convert that input into different propeller pitch and vector information, depending on what mode we are in. Flying characteristics are like nothing a fixed wing pilot has experienced, because you are basically flying a sail. Each side has more surface area than all the sails combined on one of the old Tall Ships."

With a top speed of 73 mph and a typical average cruise of 35 knots, Wingfoot One can stay aloft for 30 hours, as the pilots can get fuel burn down to 10GPH total for all three engines. There also is no crosswind component, as the airship is always landed directly into the wind. And if you think the weight and balance on your Piper or Cessna is complicated, multiply that by 1,000 for Wingfoot One:

To understand this ship's weight and balance envelope, one must first get their PhD in the physics of Helium. You would think by looking at such a massive craft that it could haul up two semi-trucks loaded with elephants, but you'd be way wrong. Kosmos tries again to explain it to me:
"This is the only aircraft I have flown that can get heavier as it flies," he said. "The helium expands and contracts depending on the angle of the sun on the envelope and the difference between the temperature of the helium and the OAT. A cloud can move over and our weight changes, sometimes dramatically...the ship's weight is changing constantly. It can make calculating weights much more challenging. And there are other factors too, like when the ship has been sitting outside in the rain. We have to eyeball the envelope and try to figure out how much water is resting on the top, because that's weight, but when we begin to move forward, that water instantly slides off and in a second, we can be 600 pounds lighter."
Even though Wingfoot One has the latest in glass cockpit technology, it does not have an autopilot. Because you cannot turn off the lifting characteristics of helium, it is flying 24/7...all day every day. Even when attached to its massive Mast Truck, it is flying. And so when the pilots are assigned a football game, it is all hand-flown. That's because when the airship is configured for TV with a forward camera rack and removable computer system inside, each game is flown differently depending on winds and the whims of the broadcast director. Goodyear's first-class, highly-trained pilot crew does what it takes to get the Director the shot, sometimes doing endless laps around a venue, other times hovering at zero knots for hours.

Enough about the ship, let's get on with the ride story...

After a short van ride to the airship, I watched it arrive, but the Crew Chief on the radio with the pilot had some bad news. There was a problem with the aft hydraulic system, and with the slashing hand across the throat sign, the Chief told the crew to shut down and "put it on the mast." This is never a good sign when waiting for the flight of a lifetime.

After all of Goodyear's 15 ground support team hovered around Wingfoot One for an hour, it was determined - after reading through the many thick service manuals aboard - that all was well. They could see that the fluid levels were fine by using binoculars to look up high on the tail and view indicators. It's like everything with airship do not just slide up a ladder and look around. Wingfoot One is ALWAYS blowing around here and there, especially when masted, it is just a big wind sock. So everything is done with technicians fast on their feet, moving with the ship to connect ground equipment or put on and remove ballast to correct for the constantly changing weights.

So, the flight went from NO GO to GO many times, until it was time to board. That itself is rather interesting. Wingfoot One's beautiful new gondola has 10 passenger seats, and the environment closely resembles that of a rather sparse but comfortable regional jet. When one flight lands, two passengers are removed, and two new people are put on. They do this until the new load of humans are aboard, all to maintain a constant weight...there's that word again.

Once buckled in, I met my flight partners, a couple from Anchorage who had won a "blimp ride" at AirVenture two years ago, a mother/son who also won a ride in that same Goodyear raffle, and an Aero News Network video crew. It takes no time for the crew to get aloft, and as I was blasting away with my camera, I did not even know we had left the ground, it was that smooth and graceful. Once in the air, that sort of changed:
Nothing about "flying" an airship is what you'd expect as a passenger familiar with fixed wing flight. Cruising westbound away from KOSH at 32 knots ground speed, the feeling is more like a boat than an airplane. This is a BIG craft, and it feels like it wants to do what it pleases. While the ride is indeed smooth and peaceful, the movements are, well, just weird. One minute you are heading on a straight 270 heading, and then you look down at the farms sliding underneath and we are sort of crabbing somewhere. Maybe it's left, no, now it's to the right. With a trajectory that feels like the pilot is in constant negotiations with the ship as to direction of travel, Wingfoot One just floats along, a little up, now a little down, I want to go here, no, now I want to go there. But the extreme talent of the Goodyear pilots - all young, handsome, courteous and with perfectly-pressed uniforms - is evident. The pilot always wins the negotiations, and they are always in full control. Even when the pilot turns to talk to inquiring reporters, their left hand can be seen moving the side stick, which needs to be moved constantly so it seems.
Our flight was supposed to be maybe 30 minutes, but when Oshkosh's afternoon airshow ran long, the F-22 Raptor flight demonstration was delayed, and we were held by the Airboss six miles west of the airport for an hour! So around and around in circles we went as dairy farms came and went under us. It was surreal, as the view from the gondola is straight down. We also were flying in magic hour light sneaking through a scattered overcast, and the ride was just magical. When we returned to the show grounds, the pilot came in on a left base over the EAA Museum, turned base and final over Pioneer Airport, and coaxed Wingfoot One to again return to the ground pointed straight into a fairly stiff wind.

I was really impressed with everyone on the Goodyear team, it is a respected group that does remarkable work. Think of the pilots as sort of the Blue Angels of airship flying, they just do not get any better than this.

To view a photo gallery of this incredible flight, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Donuts for Fisk: FAA's Finest Calm Under Pressure as Emergency Develops at #OSH15

Thomsen Meeks and his dad, Tom enjoy the view at FAA's Fisk Arrival "tower" during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

It was a perfectly sunny morning at Fisk with an upbeat vibe, until an accident
at the Oshkosh airshow closed the airport to incoming arrivals

Cost of admission: While it is not officially mandated,
apparently the drill is that to visit Fisk and watch
some of FAA's finest controllers work the Conga Line
of arrivals, there MUST be donuts involved.

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

(OSHKOSH, WI) A tragic accident early on day three of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh closed the airport to all arrivals and departures, and it is being reported that the aircraft involved was a Piper Malibu with five people on board. The Oshkosh Northwestern reported four people made it out before the plane caught fire but one person had to be evacuated by helicopter. We want to join the entire aviation family to keep the family of the injured in our thoughts.
When KOSH airport closes during AirVenture, it sets up a massive chain reaction that ripples out for miles, effecting sometimes huge amounts of inbounds in the air heading to this gigantic show. Many of those arrivals fly the VFR "Fisk Arrival" which is a well-known procedure that brings all VFR traffic over a tiny berg west of the show in a nose-to-tail "Conga Line" of all varieties of airplanes. The drill is pretty simple:
You fly at a published altitude and airspeed to "Fisk" which is a temporary FAA "tower" set up to control the very high number of inbounds coming into Oshkosh. To prevent radio chatter, the controllers on the ground make a radio call based on color of plane and other features such as high or low wing, taildragger, biplane, etc. Based on type of airplane, these controllers give you a quick vector in two directions...east to make a left base to RWY 36, or down the railroad tracks to make a right downwind and base to RWY 27, with the inbound pilot instructed only to "rock your wings" as acknowledgement that they understand there assignment. It is an aerial ballet that is well-rehearsed and works very well.
What makes the Fisk arrival work so well is the high quality of the FAA controllers at the "tower," which is nothing more than an office trailer, a radio transmitter, and a giant bank of colored LED lights that flash to let inbounds ID the "tower" from the air. Working Oshkosh each summer is a coveted assignment for these controllers, who bid for the chance to come here and work traffic during the world's largest aviation celebration.
Today I had the opportunity to join my new besties Tom Meeks and his son Thomson for a run out to visit the controllers working Fisk. We first had to swing thru the Pic N Save for donuts, because as I understand it, the "unofficial" requirement to visit is to bring donuts. They were well received, and the five controllers polished off half a dozen pastries not long after we arrived.
To get to "Fisk," you head down a tiny country road, off of another country road. It sits in a non-descript field surrounded by farmhouses and grain. If not for the sea of bright pink FAA ATC shirts, this might be a cellular system work trailer, or a small construction site. You could drive right by and never know of the important work these controllers are doing. But when you stop - carrying donuts - you quickly see just how talented these controllers really are:
We were welcomed (must have been the pastries) and every controller was more than happy to explain what they were doing, and how it all worked. I was instructed to look through a dip in a grove of nearby Maple trees to see a tiny speck with a landing light coming our way. That was one of a continuous line of inbounds these guys were working. This was a slow day because GA parking and camping at the show was already at capacity, and still, there was a new plane ever 30 seconds or so...non-stop. Two controllers ID the airplanes with binoculars, calling out the color and type. The lead controller stands and hovers around, calling out what that airplane needs to do. The last and maybe most important on the team is the radio operator, who relays the instruction via radio to the inbound. The vibe was upbeat, light, lots of joking and laughter, and it was clear these guys loved what they were doing.
Working Fisk is sort of a badge of honor for these controllers, and if you could measure their excitement level on a 10 scale, they were cruising along at a 3. Cool, calm and collected, it did not even ruffle their feathers when an unidentified plane came into view, flying southbound directly towards the inbound Conga Line. They just rolled with it, calling out the traffic,
But five minutes into our visit, the "no big deal" element changed as the crash at the show closed the airport. What that means is that Fisk now had to do something with their line of inbounds, you can't tell airplanes to just pull off to the side of the road. As the lead controller jumped on the phone to coordinate everything, the four other controllers simply started calling out holding instructions. For airplanes outside the City of Ripon, they were sent into a hold over Green Lake, while airplanes between Ripon and Fisk were sent to hold over Rush Lake.
The controllers worked maybe 20 arrivals, shoving them into these two holds, or releasing them out of the area at pilot's request. But what was surreal was the composure of these that needle on the excitement needle never budged. It was just another day at the office - or in this case, a trailer in a grain field - and these guys handled the closure of the airport without so much as one tiny bit of stress. That could be because they come from some of the country's busiest commercial towers, so this is just no big deal.
I have always held FAA's controllers in the highest regard...they do a tremendous job. But today at Fisk, standing five feet away from a crew working an emergency situation without one single drop of sweat made me realize that my respect for FAA's ATC team is well-earned, and truly deserved.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Magic That is EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is Evident on Day Zero

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I usually begin my coverage of this incredible aviation family reunion that is "Oshkosh" when I walk onto the show grounds for the first day of my visit to this beautiful, magical place. It is hard for non-aviators to "get" why we come here, but for those of us lucky to be right here, right now, indescribable joy surrounds us, embraces us, pulls us in and overwhelms us. It is this powerful, almost magnetic attraction that draws us to this otherwise sleepy Upper Midwest city every summer.
When I say this is a magical place, if you've never experienced Oshkosh, you might not understand what that means. But today, as I arrived via the commercial airlines for my 3.5 days of aviation bliss, the "that can only happen at Oshkosh" moments began full throttle. Spoken of singularly, each of these things that happened to me today were fantastic, but consider them collectively and you start to paint a picture of why this is the world's largest aviation celebration. Let me set the stage:
After an rather uneventful eastbound ride in a couple of pressurized tubes full of people who had no idea what Oshkosh is, I finally found myself at O'Hare Airport's gate E1A waiting to board a short 25-minute hop up to Appleton, the closest airport to the show with commercial service. And like every flight to this place in years past, a glance around the gate revealed maybe half the people were wearing some sort of shirt or hat identifying them as aviation people. It's cool to strike up a conversation with any of them, and with each word, the adventure begins. Some are coming to work the show at a booth, others are just coming to go full immersion in airplane wonderland for a few days. At Oshkosh - and even in the airport heading there - it doesn't take much to make new friends. Everyone is giddy, knowing what lies at the other end of this short hop up the west side of Lake Michigan.
The flight northbound towards the show was the usual vectors to avoid the busy KORD airspace, and usually, KATW is approached from the south, and it is easy to see the expanse of the show off the right wing. But this arrival was much, MUCH different:
I was on the wrong side of the plane, so out my left window, I looked down hoping to maybe see the Conga Line of VFR arrivals over Fisk. But to my amazement, under the wing slid Camp Scholler, directly below us! That had to mean that our routing was taking us directly OVER the show, northbound just about over the flight line. We looked to be maybe 8000', well above show traffic. At about the precise point where we would have been right over the B-52 waiting for us on Boeing Plaza, the Embraer 145 pilot (who BTW had a jump seater riding in the flight deck) cranked it fairly hard right out over Lake Winnebago, as if he was doing a "flyby" because HE WAS! The photo in this post - a screen grab from FlightRadar24 - shows the path of our arrival. As soon as we banked right over the show, I pointed down and turned to an AOPA manager sitting across the aisle, who was also pointing straight down. We both mouthed "WE'RE RIGHT OVER THE SHOW!" in silent unison. Truly a magical Oshkosh moment.
After Thomsen Meeks - X-Plane's Social Media manager - and his dad Tom picked me up at KATW, we went direct to Oshkosh's iconic Ardy and Ed's 1950s drive-in restaurant...a required stop for everyone attending this show. And again, magic happened:
Out on the patio, diners at this great place have a perfect view of incoming arrivals to KOSH's runway 27. O.K., not perfect...their big metal umbrellas do a fine job of providing shade, but also blocks out a direct view of the traffic overhead. So like a sort of ballet, whenever anything cool comes over, everyone jumps from their tables and runs out to see what it is. In the minutes it took me to devour a Drive-in Double (burger AND Brat patties), fries and  Black Cow, we saw a P-51 Mustang, maybe three Twin Beeches, a serious old vintage biplane, and one Vari-Eze that sounded like one magneto or maybe his fuel filter was crapping out big time. He made it in despite his rough engine, followed closely by another Vari-Eze that purred by.
What makes this a magical Oshkosh moment is that I was surrounded by a group of really cool people...aviation family I only see this one time a year. Cory Robin had parked his Wilgabeast and was there, and Brandi and David Fill had arrived with Glen Towler from New Zealand, who flew over 11,000 miles to be there.
Oh, but the fun was not over. In between bites and while participating in endless aviation conversation, David Fill told us of his two-year-old daughter Audra's newest word. Now, whenever she sees ANY biplane (yes, she knows the difference, even at two), she points up and shouts "STEARMAN!" So from that point on - and I suspect throughout #OSH15 - any time even a Cessna flew over, some wiseass would point up and yell "STEARMAN!" It was the kind of priceless camaraderie that only can happen here.
Yes, I am energized - this is going to be a magical few days. And I haven't even set foot on the show grounds yet.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Look at the 2015 #Oshbash Guests

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Yes aviation friends, it's just about that time of the year again, when we descend into usually sleepy Oshkosh, Wisconsin to celebrate all that is wonderful about our aviation world. We'll come by the hundreds of thousands from all parts of the globe to eat, drink, shop, gawk and meet back up with our friends and family at aviation's biggest and most important family reunion.
And if this is Oshkosh season, it has to also be #Oshbash season too. I'm really looking forward to making this year's event more social, less structured, and will be sure you have plenty of time to mingle and meet other #avgeeks you've seen on Twitter.

#Oshbash has lined up six very cool guests, and I have written recent Affirmative Attitude columns about most of them. You'll hear them speak about their GA advocacy and volunteerism work, and have a chance to ask some audience questions. Here's a few words on each:
Joseph Vazquez
Major General Joseph "Joe" Vazquez - As National Commander and CEO of Civil Air Patrol, Joe knows a thing or two about pulling in volunteers to help with CAP missions. He knows that the time of CAP's volunteer pilots and non-flying staff is valuable, and he knows how to get the most out of CAP's pilots with standardized training. I'll be asking him about the time commitments to become a CAP pilot, and also how the average pilot can learn from the training and certification they receive as they work towards the right seat of a CAP Cessna 182 Skylane.
Katie Meyer
Katie Meyer, EAA Airventure Volunteer Manager - As we arrive at KOSH, we'll see the work of 5,000 EAA volunteers everywhere we look at AirVenture. It's a huge job each spring and summer to thaw the place out, pull everything back out of storage, and prep the show grounds for a week of going "full-immersion" into airplane heaven. I'll want to know how this massive volunteer team is put together, and how each volunteer's talents are put to specific use as an entire city is built each summer. This should be a great segment, and we are lucky to have Katie for a short time, given the magnitude of her work during show week.

Ryan Pemberton - In the world of aircraft restoration, it does not get any better than Pemberton and Sons Aviation in Spokane, WA. Along with his father, Addison, and a big crew of
Ryan Pemberton
volunteers, the Pembertons are responsible for doing exceptional work to keep these vintage airplanes flying. I'll be asking Ryan about his volunteers and how the shop manages to balance work, life, family while carving out time for restoration work. Pemberton is also a very good photographer, and I will be asking him about backstory of how he set up a shoot with the family 1928 Boeing 40C and a 787 Dreamliner. 
Martha Phillips - In her role as International President of The Ninety Nines, Martha works hard to
Martha Phillips
try and solve the biggest riddle facing we get more women to start flying. It is my opinion that The Ninety Nines is an underutilized asset in this quest to move the female pilot numbers north of six percent, and I'll be asking what the organization will be doing in the future to work towards that goal. She is also generous with her time to support #Oshbash, and was on the GA Power Collective panel last year. When she left that event, she said if I ever wanted help with anything, just name the place and time. Now THAT is an Affirmative Attitude!

Patrick Lofvenholm
- As a volunteer pilot for Pilots N Paws Pet Rescue Service, Patrick will be able to tell us just how important the work is that he and fellow PNP pilots perform. They burn their own gas and devote their free time
Patrick Lofvenholm
to save pets that are more than likely going to be euthanized. If you are a pet lover - especially if you have dogs - you'll want to hear how PNP puts their pilot crew together, and what joy comes from the delivery of each rescued pet.

Mark Spencer, Founder and CEO of FlyQuest - Mark will tell us about the work FlyQuest is doing with their custom "six degrees of freedom" simulator. If you think
Mark Spencer
having a sim is no big deal, you'll want to hear what Spencer and FlyQuest does with theirs. Trust me, it is a cool story. I'll be asking Mark about the present and future of FlyQuest, and I'm sure you'll be entertained and educated when his segment ends.
So as you add events into your EAA AirVenture app (iOS and Android versions available) make sure to go to the "Attractions" screen, click "Meet and Greet" at the bottom of the sections, and then scroll to the end of "Tuesday, July 21st" to find the 2015 Airplanista #Oshbash event way at the bottom. It is 5:30P - 7:30P in the Press Tent - to find it, head to the tower and walk outbound on the 025 radial...big air-conditioned white tent full of #avgeeks...can't miss it. Come early if you want a chair as it is usually SRO.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Non-Aviator's Ultimate "A-to-Z" Guide to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

 (Ed. note: This is a recycled post from 2013, as we like to practice "green" blogging here at Airplanista - dan)

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

As I prepare to depart for #OSH13 in one sleep, I've been thinking a lot about EAA AirVenture...or as most pilots and aviation family calls it, just "Oshkosh." For people who have been lucky enough to attend this annual flying festival, block party and gawkathon, you already know this show is like no other. And, yes, it does make a difference in what you call this mammoth event. "AirVenture" is a huge EAA convention and trade show, while "Oshkosh" is the world's largest, most incredible hangar party anyone could possibly imagine.

But I have many Airplanista readers who are not aviators, and who have no way of fully grasping the magnitude of this event. To give a shout out to these readers who never understand why we pilots become giddy as the end of July approaches each summer, here's the definitive A-to-Z guide to this event. Scan this list and I'll bet you'll find something here that you can relate to, so the spectacularity of Oshkosh will finally begin to sink in. Enjoy...

Oshkosh is...

...Buying 10,000 shares of Apple in 1994 for $2.96 per share and having $4,385.000 today.

...Ordering Bacon with your eggs at the diner and becoming overjoyed with caloric exhileration as the Waitress brings you the "Original Bacon Explosion"...a Pork Bomb Sausage Barbecue BBQ Roll.

...Heading over to the mall to buy some Chanel No. 5 and leaving with not only a gallon jug of No. 5, but also considerable amounts of No. 4, No. 3 and No. 6 too.

...Wanting to get your Ducks in a row and watching as not only your Ducks, but 80% of the Ducks in the United States amass in your front yard, all in perfectly asymmetric lines.

...Taking an Elephant ride in Africa, and laughing uncontrollably as the pachyderm does a wheelie and blasts off into a full-blown run...with you still on its back!

...Going Fishing on Mexico's Sea of Cortez with a good friend and catching enough Cravelle Jack and Triggerfish to literally fill an entire Toyota pickup bed two feet deep with fish. (O.K., cheating here..this actually happened to me in 1986 fishing Punta Colorada with my good friend Dan Hearne).

...Jamming with your Guitar on in a beach while vacationing in Grenada and having Gwen Stefani sit down next to you and start rapping out lyrics.

...Going out to ride your Harley-Davidson to the store for a six-pack of ale and ending up in Sturgis, South Dakota dancing on a table with a girl named Sinammon.

Vernazza, Cinque Terra, Italy. Photo: Dan Pimentel
...Having your spouse surprise you on your birthday with that little vacation home you've always dreamed of, and then finding out the place is in Vernazza, perched on a cliff in the Cinque Terra region of the Italian Rivera.

...Trying not to chuckle when your weird Uncle buys you a "Dude Ranch" vacation for Christmas, only to arrive at the Crazy Mouse Ranch and see that all they have to ride are big, aggressive and unusually sweaty Jackalopes...and you're cool with that.

...You buy a used Dodge "K" car online for $500 and instead they send you a Koenigsegg CCXR Swedish Hypercar worth $2 million USD.

...Becoming kinda famous by doing something notable and ending up on Leno. And the Late Show with David Letterman. And Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And Jimmy Kimmel Live! And the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. And Last Call with Carson Daly. And even Saturday Night Live.

...Going to a wedding and dancing the Macarena over and over, and having completely anonymous people throw large sums of money at you to make you stop.

...Taking the wrong turn off an Interstate in North Carolina and ending up on a NASCAR track when a race is your Dodge Neon...and you WIN!

...Posting an obnoxious video of your cat singing Moves Like Jagger on Youtube, finding out you won the "Best Director of a Short, Overdone Pet Film" category from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association before getting a personal phone call from a major film studio asking you to direct the feature-length version of "Silly Kitty Sings Maroon 5" in 3D.

...Cashing in a lotto ticket you thought was a $5 winner only to find you hit the Powerball grand prize, and having the money to buy a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera, a 560 hp Porsche 911 Turbo S, and a Plymouth Prowler.

...Starting out on a quick quest to buy a QWERTY keyboard before ending up getting totally quaffed on quality Quaaludes and getting a quickie from a queen who teaches Quicken to quipsters.

...sitting down to the piano to play Chopsticks and watching as your hands play Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

...Accepting a dinner invitation to nosh with a "few of the girls" from your sister's Film Study Group, and then finding out those "girls" are Sandra Bullock, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara and Selena Gomez. While eating, you try not to show how relieved you are that Snooki didn't show up.

photo: Tesla Motors
...Feeling good about helping to save the earth by driving a "green" car, and then buying a bright red Tesla Roadster.

...Attempting to ride a rented Unicycle in Cagnes-sur-Mer, and ending up in the peloton of the Le Tour de France...and blowing off all those dudes to capture the Yellow Jersey...even without wearing any spandex.

...You visualize world peace...and it happens.

...Spending the weekend making whoopie, and finding out the person you're with is not turned off at all by you calling "it" whoopie.

...Reading the ingredients label on your cheap frozen dinner and learning it contains xanthogenate, xanthoxylene, xiphiplastra and xylobalsamum, and being smart enough to know what all those things are.

...Going to the marina to ride in your new girlfriend's "boat" only to find it's really a 103' motor yacht. Yeah, maybe she IS a keeper after all.

...Going to the Zoo to see Zebras because the zeitgeist of the times says horse-like creatures with alternating black and white stripes are all the rage with hipsters, only to realize that Zulus have fed the animals zucchini from Zimbabwe, and they are all inside their little Zebra enclosures catching some ZZZZs.

Oshkosh is that. And more. Much more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Strong Women of Aviation: Getting your 'Mommy" rating doesn't have to mean you can't be a Pilot too!

Natalie Hoover and the family Cessna 172 on her way to
Oshkosh in 2014. She thought nothing of making the trip
while being eight months pregnant.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

In another of my "Strong Women of Aviation" interview series, I introduce you to a high-time professional pilot who is clear evidence that for a female, having children does not have to mean your flying dreams stop about the time the diapers start needing to be changed.
The fact that only six percent of active U.S. pilots are female is a mind-bender for the aviation industry, and the reasons this percentage is not higher remains one of aviation's unsolved riddles. One of the things we hear often that might be keeping women from punching their pilot's ticket is that if they want to have kids - and most young women eventually do - it means there will be no time left for flying, and that the terms "mommy" and "pilot" cannot co-exist in our aviation world.
In her interview below, Natalie Hoover will point out that it is in fact possible to be an active pilot and also a parent of young kids. The interview is presented verbatim...and please share this if you know females who have demonstrated a passing interest in learning to fly. These answers are GREAT, and Natalie's experience has to be considered required reading for any young woman who is trying to decide between flying or starting a family. Because as she reports below, you can by all means have them both.

AIRPLANISTA: Please introduce my readers to yourself.

I'm Natalie Hoover and I fly in the Memphis area, out of Memphis International, and Olive Branch Airport, a small airport 5NM to the southeast. I do all things aviation, including flight instructing, corporate flying in a Beechjet 400A, aviation writing, and working as an FAA designated pilot examiner. I have 6,000 hours (4,000 as an instructor) and hold ATP, Gold Seal CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates. I'm assistant chief instructor at Air Venture Flight Center at Olive Branch Airport and the Lead FAA Safety Team Representative for Mississippi. I've also flown for the airlines and done some charter work. I’m the recipient of the Greg Laslo award for aviation writing contributions and also FAAST Rep of the Year 2012 for Mississippi. I currently own a Cessna 172 named Lola, that we lease back to the local flight school.  

AIRPLANISTA: Describe how you became interested in flying, at what age, and who was the person (or persons) that you can say made the biggest impact on you becoming a pilot.

NATALIE HOOVER: I am not one of those people who grew up wanting to be a pilot. My dad was a pilot, in the USAF and later for FedEx. He loved his job and the lifestyle it afforded our family but never tried to push me into aviation. After I completed my undergraduate degree in literature in the spring of 2004, I was all set to go to grad school in the fall for journalism. Out of sheer boredom (and maybe a little curiosity) that summer, I took a flight lesson and then another and another. I never went to grad school….

AIRPLANISTA: As a female, did any of the big aviation groups do anything that brought you into aviation? (Young Eagles ride, WAI conference, Ninety-Nines reaching out to you?).

There was one woman who reached out to me, June Viviano. She was a member of Women in Aviation and also an MD-11 Captain at Fedex. She continued to invite me to meetings and help me get involved in the local activities of WAI. She is one of those people who would do anything for anybody, and I continue to be grateful she took me under her wing. It’s so important to have good mentors in this business. So find someone you look up to and develop a relationship with him or her. Aviation is such a strange little world that has a set of rules all of its own. A trusted mentor can help you navigate and also help you avoid some of the mistakes that the books won’t warn you about.   

AIRPLANISTA: How has becoming a mother of two young children changed the way you schedule flying?

NATALIE HOOVER: I used to say yes to every flying opportunity that came my way. I flew seven days a week for anybody who would let me fly their airplane. I went from zero flying time to my first airline job in just under two years. Once I had that job, I bid the lines with the most flying hours per month. I just wanted to move up to the captain’s seat as fast as possible. Somewhere in there, a very patient man decided he wanted to marry me. That changed everything. For the first time, I started turning down trips just to get a little more time at home. Then I started to wonder why I was even chasing that airline dream so hard in the first place. My heart truly wasn’t in it anymore. I’m not sure if it ever was. Now that I have two kids, I am very selective about which flying jobs I take. I have learned to say no. I only choose the jobs that get me home in time for dinner. Dinner at my house might mean the three-year-old is crying because she doesn’t want to eat her peas and the eight-month-old might be laughing as he throws his peas across the room. But I don’t want to miss one single crazy, magical minute of it.  

AIRPLANISTA: Describe your support system as a mother (husband, parents, neighbors etc.) and explain how these people are essential to giving you the time to pursue aviation.

NATALIE HOOVER: I have been blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband. He works hard at his own job as a residential contractor, but also takes a lot of pride in my accomplishments. Whenever the mail comes with a magazine that has one of my articles in it, he stops everything just to sit down at the kitchen table and read what I wrote. We both have flexible jobs that allow us to pick up the slack at home when the other has a busy week. If he is starting a big project, I will schedule a lighter flying week, and vice versa when I have a lot of flying to do. He will cook and clean and run the kids back and forth. I cannot imagine being able to focus on my career without his support.

AIRPLANISTA: What would you say to young women who want to learn to fly but also want to start a family?

NATALIE HOOVER: You really can have it all, a flying career and a family too. I always thought when I had kids, I would have to hang up my flying hat. But that hasn’t been the case. I’ll admit that being eight months pregnant and still climbing in and out of an airplane will earn you some interested stares, but why should you have to stop doing what you love just because you are also someone’s mom? Aviation has so many varied opportunities. The airlines are probably the most common path, but there are lots of other flying gigs that will allow you the flexibility to be a mom and a pilot. You may have to make some sacrifices and turn down some jobs that don’t line up with your ultimate goals. But in my experience, life has a way of working itself out if you just remember what’s important. I never would have dreamed that the designated examiner deal would happen as soon as it did or that I would be offered a corporate flying job that allows me to be home every night. It may not be as exciting as some flying jobs. I’m not traveling to Europe and staying in posh hotels. But at the end of the day, I get to fly an airplane and have time with my family. Life doesn’t get much better than that. So stick to your priorities and be patient for the right opportunities to come along. 

AIRPLANISTA: How do you find time to write aviation features and any other writing you do?

I have to be intentional with my time. When the kids are napping, I lock myself in a room with my computer and I write. I know that would be a great time to get the laundry done and the house clean, but those things can wait. I think when I’m old and look back on my life, I’ll be proud of that decision. Who cares if the house was spotless? Writing makes me happy. It makes me feel whole. God gave me this one, short life, and I plan on filling it up with things that truly matter. 

AIRPLANISTA: Your oldest child is now three-years-old, has he or she shown an interest in aviation, and do you look forward to introducing your two kids to flying?

NATALIE HOOVER: As much as I would love for my kids to share my passion for aviation, I understand that we were all made differently. They will have their own interests and dreams and I plan on encouraging them to follow their hearts.

AIRPLANISTA: As a DPE, what is the one thing you see constantly that private pilot students do wrong in checkrides?

NATALIE HOOVER: Most applicants are not familiar with the Practical Test Standards. I tell them all when we make the checkride appointment that the exam will come straight from the PTS. There are no surprises! There is this wonderful “cheat sheet” that is freely available to all on the FAA website, so why not take advantage of it? For example, the PTS says that I must ask about all classes of airspace, including weather minimums and equipment requirements. It is a guaranteed checkride question. So why would you walk into the checkride without being able to rattle off those answers? Read the PTS cover to cover and your checkride should go much more smoothly.  

AIRPLANISTA: What is the best advice you can give to young females who have shown an interest in learning to fly?

NATALIE HOOVER: I tell all of my female students that confidence is the most important flying trait they can develop. Confidence passes checkrides. Confidence makes for successful job interviews. Confidence allows you to believe in yourself enough to fly out of a stressful situation in the airplane. Nobody wants to hear that their pilot is less than confident in her ability to handle the airplane. It makes people nervous. For some reason, we ladies tend to possess a high level of self-doubt, more so than our male counterparts. So, if there is something that makes you feel uncomfortable in an airplane, get some extra training or do some more studying until you feel sure of yourself again. Do whatever it takes for you to feel a very healthy level of self-confidence about your flying abilities. Once you have done that, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you aren’t good enough. Remember, if you believe in yourself, others will too.  

AIRPLANISTA: As a part-time corporate pilot, what are some of the scheduling challenges you encounter in regards to balancing work and family?

NATALIE HOOVER: The corporate flying job actually found me; I didn’t go looking for it. Someone I once flew a trip with at the airline recommended me to his friend, the aircraft manager for the corporate job. When the manager approached me, I told him that the job sounded great, but that I may not be the right person to be flying around the CEO or the President of the company because my family comes first. He assured me that he understood my priorities and he has been true to his word. When I turn down a trip because it’s my kid’s birthday or because we don’t have childcare, he never gives me a hard time. I think as long as you are honest about who you are and where you stand up front, people are actually very understanding. 

AIRPLANISTA: This is a freestyle question, go ahead and tell a funny story, soapbox some topic important to you...anything you want to add that I did not ask.

NATALIE HOOVER: On my first day on the job as a charter pilot years ago, the passengers walked up and took one look at me and said, “I didn’t know we had a flight attendant on this flight.” When I told them that I was, in fact, their pilot, they came back with, “Sweetie, are you even old enough to drive a car?” Over the years, I have heard countless comments like those. I truly don’t think they are said with an ill intent or meant to be degrading. Most people just expect to see a man in that pilot seat, and if he has a little grey hair, then that’s even better. To passengers, that means wisdom and experience. I don’t think getting angry or offended is the proper response, nor is it effective. As a young female, I understand that the best thing I can do is earn their trust, one safe flight at a time. Changing public perception is a task I’m certainly up to for several reasons. First, I love flying. It’s a privilege that most people never get the chance to do. So if I have to put up with a little bit of ignorance and outdated notions along the way, it was still worth it. And secondly, I have a three-year-old daughter who may want to fly one day. Hopefully the world of aviation will be a much more accepting place for her because of the women and men who have helped to pave the way.

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Five Magazine Editors Crave Fresh Content - Send me Your Feature Article Ideas Now!

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Those of you who have followed my aviation writing career know it has experienced tremendous growth recently. Even though I began my freelance writing career in 1979, it took until 2014 to break into the big aviation magazines on a regular basis as a feature writer and columnist.
I had a few very nice features years ago in AOPA Pilot Magazine thanks to the support of their Editor, Tom Haines, but it was Jen Dellenbusch - Editor of Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer Magazines - that cut me the break I needed when she picked up my Affirmative Attitude monthly column to run in both of her association's magazines. I have also enjoyed an explosion of interest from AOPA Pilot Magazine, EAA Sport Aviation Magazine, and HAI's Rotor Magazine. All are running my features now...and as a result, I am slammed with deadlines.
This is where YOU come in.
I am actively soliciting story ideas from anyone with an aviation story to tell. Maybe it's a great vintage airplane that you have restored, one a spectacular history, or the guy at the airport that just happens to be Boeing's 747 test pilot. Could be that rich guy on your field who just cashed in his billion-dollar corporate 401K and is now financing flight training for 100 local teens. There are endless aviation feature stories swirling all around every aviator, and I need you to send me anything you think would be great content for any of the magazines I write for these days.
No idea is too far out. Just hit the giant EMAIL ME YOUR STORY IDEAS link at the top of this post and tell me your idea. I may be able to find a home for it, or know of a way to angle it so one of the magazines can use it in print and on their website. With five magazines listening to my pitches - plus my popular Airplanista blog - I have a constant need to "feed the machine" as I call it. It only takes a minute to email me with an idea, and I will reply promptly with my opinion of what I may be able to do with it to gain that story some national magazine ink. If it has no chance of making it out of the "pitch phase" I will tell you honestly.
If you want to share this post with anyone, simply copy the URL below or use the share buttons below. I hope to hear your ideas soon. I cannot guarantee that one of the magazines will accept it for print or if I will choose to pitch it to them, but I promise to listen to your story idea and give it careful consideration.
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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is this the summer you finally make it to Oshkosh? If yes, do it right!

Use the "My Itinerary" feature of
to plan each day of your Oshkosh visit.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

About this time each year, many thousands of people in the aviation family start thinking about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and say "this is the year" they will finally make their first visit to this incredible celebration of aviation. For some reason, life, work or a plethora of other reasons has always made the trek to the shores of Lake Winnebago impossible.
But not 2015, because finally, this year will be different, you say. If one of the things that has prevented you from going is the complexity of such a large multi-day event, rest assured you can go to Oshkosh on any day of the show and see and do things that will blow you away. In fact, there is so much to do at the "world's largest aviation celebration" that it is actually possible to go for the entire week and not see everything.
So, in my attempt to help you jump down off the fence, buy your tickets and plan travel to KOSH, here are some random thoughts about what you will experience while there. These are just a taste of what's waiting for you, and by all means, if this post gets you psyched to attend, visit and start clicking away. Their great scheduling tools allow you to pick the days you will be on the show grounds to display all that is happening before filtering down to the stuff you absolutely must see. Add those things to the "My Itinerary" tool after you log in or create an account. It's a great way to methodically plan your visit to the show.
There are a few things though you will not find on this official schedule, and it's these events and activities that I'll focus on in this post. And, this is aimed squarely at Airplanistas who have never been to Oshkosh, because if you have, some of this will seem Old Hat.
Come for more than one day: If one day is all you can get to come to Oshkosh, then just do that and you will have a ball. But I recommend three days minimum. It'll take you most of the first day just to get your bearings. Make sure to pick up the EAA maps that are everywhere on the grounds, you will be lost in a sea of airplanes without it. If you do two days, take some time at night to reflect on your first day, look at the map, read the excellent AirVenture Today newspaper, and try to plan your next day. On that second day, you'll have a much better chance of finding the things that really matter to you. And that third day is when you begin to feel like an Oshkosh long-timer as you will have the lay of the show down and can get around quickly to see more great things.

Use the Trams: Your first task upon entering the show grounds on Day One is to find that EAA map and learn the Tram routes. They basically run North-South from the North 40 gate to the far south end of the Ultralights area...and there are stops everywhere along these routes. Find out what the Tram stops look like and where those Trams go, so when you are way WAY out in Vintage drooling on the row after row of Beech Staggarwings and realize the Warbirds in Review presentation for the P-38s is about to start down in the Warbirds area, you can quickly and efficiently hop the Tram system. As a donated John Deere tractor driven by a very friendly Oshkosh-area local navigates the crowded lanes, you can beat the heat and save your feet. Usually give yourself 30 minutes from one end of the show to the other via a Tram.

Make it to Ardy and Ed's for a burger: O.K., this tip is not technically at AirVenture, but after you take it, you will agree this is a required stop for your visit. Find some way to this classic 1950s Drive-in for burgers, fries and Root Beer that is literally stuck in time. Cute young female carhops on Roller Skates will take your order carside, or consume a Drive-in Double (burger AND Bratwurst patties...yum) on the patio. What is incredible about this place is its location...directly under the final approach to runway 27 at KOSH. So as you eat this legendary food surrounded by aviation family members all having a blast, a nose-to-tail Conga line of inbounds to two-seven slides by overhead. You'll see anything from a mess of Cessna 172s and Piper Cherokees, to Cubs, bizjets, endless experimentals, warbirds, it is truly limitless. You will learn to eat with your head pointed straight up gawking at airplanes, but it just makes the food slide down that much easier.

Visit Camp Scholler at night: To the south and west of the show grounds, acres of camping areas come alive at night. To the people camped here, this is why they socialize with friends they may only see one time a year at Oshkosh. Even if you do not know anyone, just walk up to most any group standing around a campfire, introduce yourself, and start talking airplanes. If you are carrying beer, it always makes you welcome just about anywhere in Scholler. On every row will be organized groups like the always-singing South Africans, the technologically-advance Avgeeks, and plenty of local EAA chapters partying and enjoying the kind of camaraderie you will not find anywhere else.

Bring lots of digital film: Unless you are a pro shooter, you do not own enough memory cards for your digital camera. Buy extra, you will need it, because it is completely possible to fill up several SD cards a day photographing so many gorgeous airplanes. I recommend 64GB SD cards, it takes work to fill them up, and they have lots of room for video...and you WILL take video.

Pack water and update your phone's weather apps: For guys like me from Oregon, the heat and humidity of Wisconsin in summer is unbearable. So carry a decent-sized water bottle for each member of your party, and refill often at the many H20 filling stations around the grounds. And keep that weather app handy, because the weather at Oshkosh can be brutal and unpredictable. It can go from choking hot to massive thunderstorms in an hour. So carry a good app with NEXRAD radar, and look at the regional map each hour. You will see anything developing, and if it's headed towards the show, start thinking about ways to take cover.
There are just a few ideas for things to make your first Oshkosh more enjoyable. As the show gets closer, I will post a few more, so add your email to the SUBSCRIBE field near top right of this page to receive updates from Airplanista in your email inbox. We never solicit you or give away your address, it is only used when new content is posted.

Monday, June 08, 2015

#Oshbash 2015: One Way for #Avgeeks to Meet Up at AirVenture

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Each day brings the #avgeek world one day closer to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and for those of us who plan our next trip to the aviation family reunion on the shores of Lake Winnebago, we start planning that trip as we leave the grounds each year.

Many of my readers know this blog hosts a social media "meetup" event at Oshkosh each year called #Oshbash, and this year on Tuesday, July 21st, we #avgeeks will again take over the EAA Press Tent for another two hours of fun, friends and frivolity, indulging in a bit of "face time" in real time. It's a chance for those on aviation social media to meet each other and enjoy the kind of camaraderie that erupts when the room is full of aviators that love technology and social media as much as they do flying.

In my never-ending quest to provide a bit of entertainment at #Oshbash, this year I am presenting Affirmative Attitude Live!...a "live" version of my column that appears monthly in Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer magazines. What is Affirmative Attitude Live? Glad you asked... 
An "Affirmative Attitude" is what drives GA's incredible volunteers and advocates. You've read about them in my magazine column, now see them LIVE at EAA Airventure Oshkosh. The column honors the extraordinary people in the aviation family that are making a difference in our GA world. These are regular people pushing their personal envelope to reach higher and accomplish more. Each has a backstory to tell, and all are eager to honor the GA volunteers in their organizations that make their work possible. Now come to #Oshbash and meet these movers/shakers to see what motivates them and learn ways you can channel your passion for aviation into giving back to our flying community.
This year's #Oshbash is sponsored by Cessna Flyer Association and Piper Flyer Association, who are getting behind the event to show support for aviation social media and the people who use it. Their magazine's editor, Jen Dellenbusch, has promised a very special surprise for those audience members who are present in the Press Tent at the conclusion of the event.

The format will be more social and laid back than in previous years, with myself doing short but informative interviews on stage with some of the people and organizations I have written about in Affirmative Attitude. So far, the guest list includes: 
• Major General Joe Vazquez, National Commander and CEO, Civil Air Patrol, who will talk about what it takes to coordinate 60,000 volunteers and a fleet of 550 airplanes,
• Katie Meyer, EAA Airventure Volunteer Manager - who will give us insight into the massive annual effort that is EAA's volunteer community.

• Ryan Pemberton, Pemberton and Sons Aviation, Spokane, WA, who will discuss the fine art of keeping vintage airplanes flying and the Pemberton volunteer team,

• Martha Phillips, International President, The Ninety Nines on how the organization she leads is reaching out to the next generation of female pilots around the world, 
• Pilots N Paws Pet Rescue Service (Speaker TBA) on how this important organization manages a nationwide network of volunteer pilots. 
• Mark Spencer, Founder and CEO of FlyQuest, an organization that uses a custom-built 6-DOF simulator to introduce the public to flying.
If you are planning to be on the show grounds on Tuesday, July 21, come to the Press Tent at 5:30 PM and see what this #Oshbash fun is all about. Be advised that #Oshbash is always SRO, so if you desire a chair, get there early as the venue only seats about 85-90 people.

Airplanista gives special thanks to EAA's Communications Director Dick Knapinski for arranging the venue and providing logistics support, and to Dave Allen and the crew of Other People's Airplanes for the live streaming video support, and Julie Celeste, Managing Partner of Celeste/Daniels Advertising & Design for public relations and web development support.

If you have a question about #Oshbash, email host Dan Pimentel here, or hit him up on Twitter as @Av8rdan.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

AirVenture or Oshkosh? Different Names for the Same Awesome Aviation Event

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

By any name, the world's largest aviation celebration held in late summer on the shores of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin is the absolute definition of perfection for any Airplanista. It's everything we could possibly dream of, and then a LOT more.
Yes, of course I am talking about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the "official" name of EAA's annual convention. But in conversation, very few people use that entire title, with many calling it "AirVenture" while the old schoolers demand it be called "Oshkosh."
Truth is, both are correct...that is, when you know the difference between the two names. While the following is my own interpretation of this topic and is in no way endorsed by EAA, I think these definitions will go a long way towards clearing up the way people exchange "AirVenture" for "Oshkosh" and vice-versa.
When you are referring to the EAA annual convention, the trade show, the forums, presentations or workshops, Kidventure or the Innovations Center, it is correct to call it "AirVenture" because AirVenture is the event that is located in Oshkosh.

So, a correct use would be "We make the XYZ 3000 Light Sport airplane, and I am going to debut the new ship in Oshkosh at Airventure." Of course, in the aviation world, anyone will know you are referring to Oshkosh when you say AirVenture.

While the non-flying will reply "oh, the place where they make those cute little overalls," when you tell them you are going to spend a week in Oshkosh, pilots and the aviation family have an entirely different meaning for the word. "Oshkosh" is a city in Wisconsin, yes, but it is a state-of-mind for aviators, a happening, the Woodstock of the aviation world. Some even go so far as saying "Oshkosh" during show week is hallowed ground, and having been there numerous times - each better than the one before it - I find it hard to dispute that claim.

"Oshkosh" is the word to use when talking about the aviation family reunion that surrounds AirVenture. It is the celebration, the parties, the family quality time, the Beer Bashes and Oshbashes, all the things that makes this show so great.
People attend AirVenture, the trade show and convention to enjoy Oshkosh, the airshow. The explosion of camaraderie that happens with 500,000 #avgeeks end up in one place at one time happens at Oshkosh. I personally look forward to my next Oshkosh usually when I leave the grounds each year. That's because there simply is nothing that even comes close for pilots and wannabes to gather, tell stories, eat Brats, drink a few Leinie's and do the kind of spectacular hangar flying that can only happen as a B-29 and two B-17s slide by overhead at 4,000AGL, escorted by 16 P-51s.
So there you have it, my interpretation of the way different people use different names for the same event. You are hereby clear to call AirVenture "Oshkosh", or call Oshkosh "AirVenture," it really does not matter. What matters is that you make plans today to attend this incredible event. is a great place to start your planning.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Strong Women of Aviation: You've got to go for it when 'spunkiness' is in your name

MayCay Beeler's motto these days - based on her
challenging schedule, is "Get cape. Wear cape. Fly!!!!"
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

In this installment of my continuing series, I'm introducing you to another female pilot who defines what it means to be an active aviator. Author, pilot, CFI and TV host/personality MayCay Beeler has spent her entire aviation career knowing what she wants and then going after it.
Beeler is not unlike some of the other female aviators I write about, in this space and also in the five magazines currently publishing my features. When asked why I seem to focus more on female aviators, I like to say it's simply because so much aviation media coverage is about men, and I am just trying to claim my part of the "softer, gentler" niche. And besides, it might be a Mars/Venus thing, but nearly all the women I know in aviation and business possess amazing skills to balance too many plates on too many sticks and keep them all spinning simultaneously.
Based at KGSO (Piedmont Triad Int’l Airport- Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point) NC, Beeler juggles five freelance jobs, appears on TV weekly, and flies most days. She's flown 30 different aircraft including a Liberty XL-2, Cessna 172s, Cessna 150, a Piper Arrow, Tecnam Eaglet LSA and experimental Questair Venture kitplane (where she holds world records, see below).
As a CFI/CFII/ATP, she instructs at Triad Aviation Academy (KGSO) and for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Air Support Unit. She's a TV Host/Personality for WFMY News 2 (CBS-TV) in Greensboro, NC, hosting Aviation Update segments, and is a regular TV Host for recurring weekly TV Cooking segments for Food Lion Grocery. Other "on-demand" TV work includes a gig for AOPA, serving as “One Week Ready to Solo” anchor at Sun n Fun ‘15. As an award-winning author, she wrote a true crime book about an infamous cartel pilot/cocaine smuggler; and she's a sales team member of the AEAC (Aero Electric Aircraft Corp) Sun Flyer - the first practical solar electric trainer airplane. Yes, this is one very busy lady.
What follows is my interview with Beeler...enjoy:

Airplanista: Let's start with your unusual but also beautiful first name.
MayCay Beeler: MayCay is a nickname for my formal name Mary Catherine (named after my grandmothers). My Dad gave me this nickname as a youngster, citing my spunkiness. Mary Catherine was too conservative. MayCay fit me much better and it stuck!

Airplanista: As a television weather anchor, did you ever use your aviation weather knowledge on air?
MayCay Beeler: Yes, I did. I am no longer in that role. I anchored the weather for TV News in the early 2000’s for my local network affiliates ABC-TV station and briefly for NBC-TV. Viewers got a kick out of my saying “niner” when I mentioned pressure.

Airplanista: Do you feel that analyzing weather from an aviation perspective gives you a competitive advantage over other weather anchors in your market?
MayCay Beeler: Yes, simply because I understand it from an up close and personal perspective - having lived it in the air on a regular basis. Frankly, every TV weather person/meteorologist has access to the same weather sources and forecasts. Anyone can pull that data, create the graphics and recite the numbers on TV. But to personally experience the weather as a pilot, and have an intimate understanding of fronts and pressure systems by flying IN them, that gave me an edge the viewers enjoyed, especially when I would use graphics and take them on a “weather flight”.

Beeler set several FAI records with ex-husband Rich Gritter
in the Questair Venture experimental airplane.
Airplanista: Tell us about the world aviation records you've set in your Questair Venture aircraft.
MayCay Beeler: I met the test pilot for Questair when I produced a national story about the “fastest egg in the East” for the TV show “PM MAGAZINE” I was hosting. I was already an instrument-rated pilot at the time, and eventually set world records in the Venture and did a TV show about it. My record breaking flights included FAI Class C-1B time to climb to 3,000 meters, speed over a 3 KM and 15/25 KM course, closed circuit 100km, 500km and 1,000km speed without payload, and speed over a recognized course Winston-Salem to Kitty Hawk, 358.82 mph. In 1991, I flew my time-to-climb to 3,000 meters record flight just one month after giving birth.

Airplanista: Is flying a family affair? Do you have parents, siblings, husband, partner or kids that participate in aviation? How did you get interested in flying?
MayCay Beeler: Past boyfriends and husbands were pilots. My son flew with me while I was pregnant with him - he earned an honorary CFI certificate in utero! No kidding! I was eight months pregnant during that grueling CFI check ride. The FAA examiner felt my son deserved an honorary temporary certificate after "we" passed with flying colors. Still have it framed! After I divorced, I met my soul mate while researching a true crime documentary - he is now deceased. He was an infamous pilot with a colorful history! Read his biography for more (Buccaneer- info included later)! It will blow you away. Can’t make this stuff up!
My son has flown with me all his life. Having a flight instructor for a Mom ensured he soloed on his 16th Birthday, and earned his Private Pilot Certificate on his 17th. He is a better pilot than I will ever be. Exceptional. In his genes! He is being awarded his BS Degree in Aerospace Engineering with honors from NC State U this May. He is a world-champion RC aircraft pilot! We have our most enjoyable mother-son moments when we fly together. Have been on many flying adventures together including our trip to Norman’s Cay, Bahamas where we produced the documentary “Return to Norman’s Cay”.  

Airplanista: As creator of The Diva Flight Experience, explain what this program is and what the goals of the program are, both current and future. Also give me contact info so I can publish the URL or anything else you want to have published.
MayCay Beeler: See

Airplanista: In your opinion, what is the root cause keeping most women from flying now, and how did you personally overcome any of these same obstacles to pursue your successful aviation career?
MayCay Beeler: This is tough. As natural caregivers, we tend to put others first. It's hard to juggle it all. I have struggled with it. As moms, we put our kids first. The moms that successfully juggle kids and career are super gifted; I have the utmost respect for them. It was hard for me. When you see how fast your kids grow up, you know how priceless it is to be with them and nurture them while they need you. It’s a tug - career and/or family. It's an individual angst many of us struggle with. No right or wrong. I believe the role of caregiver - be it looking out for our kids, spouses, partners, aging parents, whatever, inhibits a lot of women from flying because they are too busy and/or feel guilty or obligated to put others first. Plus, they don’t know they CAN fly! As a traditional boy's club, flying professionally is something most women never even consider! They don’t know it's an option. It is! We must encourage them and let them know it can be done!  

Airplanista: What is the one thing both male and female pilots can do right now to increase the female pilot population?
MayCay Beeler: Take a gal flying!  Cheer her on! Share the magic aloft. Spread your contagious enthusiasm! Let her know anything is possible, and any dream is attainable if she is willing to work for it!

Airplanista: Has being a pilot opened any doors in your career or allowed you to pursue stories that many other journalists overlooked?
MayCay Beeler: Oh yes! It was my role as a pilot that bonded me to an infamous prison inmate/cartel pilot who had never told his story. When I first contacted pilot Jack Carlton Reed in prison for research on a true crime documentary I was producing, I never imagined I would become this infamous inmate's biographer and last confidante. The acquaintance led to my book "Buccaneer - The Provocative Odyssey of Jack Reed - Adventurer, Drug Smuggler, and Pilot Extraordinaire." His story had never been given to any other journalist. In doing research for our book, which was a collaborative effort at the end of his life, I would stumble upon a piece of information that would change everything. This book is the stunning account of Reed’s provocative life with a twist of fate that will make you believe in miracles. The book is available on Amazon and booksellers worldwide.

Airplanista: Describe a perfect day flying.
MayCay Beeler: Just me and my flying machine, the sassy Liberty XL2, living Richard Bach’s beautiful quote: “The highest art form of all is a human being in control of himself and his airplane in  flight…urging the Spirit of the machine to match his own.” I am ONE with the plane. Never have I felt so graceful!

Airplanista: Freestyle question, your chance to soap box anything or tell my readers something about MayCay Beeler that they do not know now.
MayCay Beeler: I had barely turned 16 when I first went to work on a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for two summers. It was my love of horses that lured me there! I love to ride, and later transferred that passion to planes. I was one with the horse; I am now one with the plane. It’s all about freedom. My soul is in the sky. It is here I feel most alive.
I tell others to “Go for it”! Fly while you can while the fire is in your belly! Share this magic with others. Life is so short! Fear not, everything you need is already inside you. I encourage my flight students to live my favorite quote:

“Come to the edge,” Life said.
 They said: “We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge.” Life said.
 They came.
 It pushed them…and they flew.   –  Guillaume Apollinaire

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Aviation 'Brand Stylist' Ian Hoyt Presents #SnF15 Exhibitors Digital Marketing Survival Guide

Editor's note: This is a great piece that all exhibitors at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-in should read. It is full of very good information to help you understand just how important it is to use today's crazy good social media tools to capture some of buzz for your business at this big show. Guest Blogger Ian Hoyt is a private pilot and admits to being "addicted to all things aviation." When he's not busy sharing his passion for aviation, he can be found building his full-service creative branding and advertising agency. The following is verbatim from his blog, used with permission - dan

By Ian Hoyt,
Airplanista Guest Blogger

It’s SUN ‘n FUN time!

Yeah you heard me right. It’s that time in April every year when all of the aviation lovers around the world congregate to watch airplanes fly, rehash aviation memories with old friends over some beer, and meander around looking at all of the new and exciting things to come out of aviation during this year.

But, SUN ‘n FUN in Lakeland, Florida from April 21 – 26 is much more than just an airshow to all of the aviation brands that plan on exhibiting their awesome products this upcoming week.

Yes, this is the best time for brands to capture, grow, and engage with the aviation community, those who love gadgets and new things. These aviation lovers seem to naturally come out of the woodwork on social media and even in person as the week nears. This survival guide that I have laid out below is focused to help those brands that are exhibiting their products at SUN ‘n FUN this year. Is your brand cutting costs this year and staying at home? Have no fear, your brand can certainly use these strategies to piggyback off of this event from your headquarters too.

So let’s get right into it.

Social media has been around for a long time, and likely your brand has used it to some degree during previous SUN ‘n FUN events. I am going to guess you felt like you weren’t sure if it was being as effective for your company as you figured it could be.

No fears, it’s not that hard and here are the tips to put someone on your team (or contractor) to work this week:

First establish your goals

I personally don’t give a crap about how many followers, likes, and all of those garbage arbitrary numbers you have, and you shouldn’t either. I care about three things, customer loyalty, interaction, and sales conversions.

Organic traffic and sales conversions are hard to monitor. However, we can monitor this by simply offering discounts, tracking with analytics and special links like Google Shortlinks, freebies, or other incentives that can be the criteria for marking a sale at SUN ‘n FUN as a social media generated acquisition. If you are selling online, have them submit a coupon code. Not looking to give ANYTHING away this week? That’s fine, have your sales team ask your customers how they heard about you. Keep these numbers every day of the event and see how your social media efforts are turning out.

Focus on a platform, and make that platform Twitter.

Twitter is the only true social media platform. It allows you to interact and be discovered the same way as everyone else. Unlike Facebook, you can call the shots on this platform. When I managed a social media account for an aviation retailer last year at SUN ‘n FUN, I found the most use came from spending time on Twitter. Sure, if you have a large audience on Facebook and other networks it will behoove you to keep content rolling on there. However, I would recommend focusing 70% of your social media efforts on Twitter this week.

If you don’t LIVE Periscope stream this week, you are MISSING OUT!

Within the last month we have seen a huge opportunity sprout up. The social media platform is called Periscope which is owned by Twitter and is focused on instant live video streaming.

What does that mean? Well, it means that this week as you are giving a tour of your new aircraft model, headset, or other awesome product, you should be live streaming it for the whole aviation community on Twitter to watch and be a part of. In fact, you should be live streaming as much as you can! Why would you turn down an opportunity to show your fans exactly what your brand is doing during the week. (behind the scenes and all).

Scared? Too bad, I command you to do it! Here is a video to get you up-to-speed on how to use Periscope this week!

Over-Tweet, this week it is socially acceptable.

How many industries have times during the year when they can just send out tweet and post after another without their consumers getting annoyed? Very few.

Luckily aviation is such a passionate industry that everyone knows it is SUN ‘n FUN time. This means not only do they not mind seeing your brand tweet all day long, they actually want you to. This is great because it means you have an open forum to serve content to users multiple times a day and thus increasing your exposure at a critical week in the aviation year. If you are at SUN ‘n FUN, and you are tweeting about it, these two aspects instantly combine and add another layer of social proof to your brand by your consumers.

Set up a digital command center

Services like Hootsuite and TweetDeck will get you through this week. You can set up a command center dashboard to have a constant live feed of everyone who is talking about SUN ‘n FUN (#snf15). If your social media manager is smart, they will cross reference this and follow other tags pertaining to aviation and meld the two together to have the most potential for finding conversations to jump into. This is important because during live events like this you can’t miss a beat when the beat drops. Have someone who is dedicated at looking after your brand on social media for the week, don’t miss out on this opportunity to be a part of as many conversations as possible with potential customers.

The “Preflight” and “Cool down” philosophy

Hopefully you are reading this early enough to implement this strategy.

Always remember, this event is a key part of each participant’s year. I even have trouble sleeping a week in advance because I am so excited. This time before the arrival of the event should be spent showing your followers the setup process, your flights to Lakeland, etc…This is what people want to see like I mentioned earlier the more conversation the better. Be genuine and personable, that's all people want.

Perfect execution goes to Redbird FlightSims.

As you can see, this is what we call the “Preflight” portion of your strategy. Capitalize on everyone’s excitement for the event.

In contrast, on the 26th when everyone is leaving the event and sad to see it move under the horizon until next year, this is when we enter the “Cooldown” portion of your strategy.

This is when everyone will gladly be happy to see your brand continue the conversation past the event. Share inside jokes that only event goers would get, spend time showing the tear down and goodbye hugs, share some quick videos of the homeward flights back to your headquarters.

Don’t forget to tag all of this with #SnF15, everyone will still be watching this hashtag like a hawk.

**Bonus Tip**
Be one of the first to mention your intentions for next year’s event and be a leader for next years conversation by using: #SnF16
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, and if you implement these strategies you will be on your way to a better social media life at #SnF15.

Is all of this social media talk still going way over your head? It’s okay, I understand it can be difficult. If you are nervous that you may “mess” up, my team and I will be on the ready and having fun down in Lakeland, Florida for SUN ‘n FUN this upcoming week. If your aviation brand finds that creative design and social media marketing is in short supply for the week, reach out and we will be happy to help!
Some brands &aviators to keep an eye on this week on Twitter:

Sun‘n Fun - @SunnFunFlyIn
Larry Overstreet

Jason Schappert - @mzeroa
Lakeland Linder Regional Airport - @FlyLakeland

Fly With Jepp - @FlyWithJepp
Me - @IanHoyt
Redbird Flight Sim - @Redbird_Flight
Avidyne Corporation - @avidyne1
Dave Shallbetter - @SnFRadioDave
MyGoFlight - @mygoflight

More to be added during the week…


I am an aviation branding and advertising consultant, you can find where this article first appeared on my website Reach out to me on Twitter @IanHoyt, let's meet up at SUN ‘n FUN! Happy Landings everyone.