Behind The Scenes With The 300mph Jet-Powered School Bus

Indy Boys Jet-Powered School Bus

Earlier this year, we had the fantastic opportunity to go out to the runway with Paul and Therese Stender of Indy Boys Inc. at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival. You might recognize their names, but you certainly would recognize the vehicle; the world famous “School Time” jet-powered school bus!

Indy Boys Jet-Powered School BusIndy Boys Jet-Powered School Bus

There is actually very little school bus left in “School Time”; the cabin has bucket racing seats for just the driver and three lucky passengers, all with five-point safety harnesses and surrounded by a beefy roll cage. The area behind the seats is really just a shell covering for the massive J79 engine along with tanks for fuel and smoke oil. The entire assembly sits below the window line, leaving a lot of free space. At the back sit two parachute canisters for slowing the beast after the high speed run.

The bus does not have a traditional engine any more, so it needs to be towed until it’s time to start the jet up. Thus, the first part of the performance (after donning the mandatory Nomex racing suits) is to hook up the airshow-provided pickup truck and pull the bus out towards the runway. We were actually with Paul and Therese for two performances that day, and each had its own timing cue for them to meet.

Indy Boys Jet-Powered School Bus

The first performance saw Paul matched up with aerobatic pilots Rob Holland and Jack Knutson at the conclusion of their Firebirds routine. We staged just short of the 500-foot aerobatic show line, which meant plenty of buzz passes from the aircraft. Right on cue, Paul fired up the bus and cruised out to the runway, billowing smoke and flame to announce his presence. Rob and Jack had great fun buzzing both the bus and us, standing at the side of the runway. They flew just a few feet off the ground, right past the bus and through its smoke. Rob in particular made it a point to angle right for us when he could. For his part, Paul kept blowing huge fireballs from the bus and kicking the afterburner in just long enough to get a loud BOOM. After several minutes of this taunting, Paul lined the bus up and Therese took control, keeping an eye on Jack as he swung out wide. This was the big finale. Jack dove in on the runway, then flipped upside down. As he pulled even with Paul, Therese gave the signal and the bus rocketed away in full afterburner, looking to catch up to and pass the airplane. Meanwhile, Rob had positioned himself at the other end of the runway and was speeding head on towards them both! The three vehicles all met at show center as we hustled to jump in the chase car and speed down the runway. Not one to let an opportunity pass him by, Rob dove in behind the pickup, zipping overhead to give us one last haircut. As we pulled alongside the bus, now shut off but still hot, it was a quick operation to disconnect the parachutes and reattach the tow strap for the journey back to the parking spot.

Paul performed again later that afternoon, this time with Skip Stewart and Kyle Franklin in an act sometimes referred to as “The Immortals”. This performance is more choreographed than the earlier one, and the start cue was a stop watch. The flying and driving was very similar, but ground pyrotechnics were added to the mix. Large explosions went off every time Kyle and Skip crossed. The big finale was again a race/game of chicken combo, but the goal was to have a 3-way cross at show center directly in front of the wall of fire. The timing had to be perfect, so the pressure was on Therese to get the signal right. Kyle dove in from behind, Therese dropped her arm, Paul lit the afterburner, and away they went. Skip was already headed right for them from the far end of the runway. From our seats on the runway it sure looked like they nailed it!

We have to thank Paul and Therese for the opportunity to film with them, and also the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival for making it possible!

Did Vulcan XH558 Perform Unauthorized Barrel Rolls Before Retirement?

Avro Vulcan XH558 - Eric Coeckelberghs
Photo Courtesy of Vulcan to the Sky Trust

If there’s one warbird that has captivated the aviation community over the past few years, it’s been XH558: the last flying Avro Vulcan. XH558 has been flying since 2007 after retiring from service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1984. On October 28th of this year, the Vulcan made a farewell to flight at Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield Airport outside Doncaster, England. With a short flight and a final taxi, XH558 became the last Vulcan to fly and will be put on display and occasionally run up and taxied at the airport.

However, the Vulcan has raised some trouble with England’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with what appears to be a pair of barrel rolls during one of it’s last flights. The BBC has published footage by BDP Aviation that appears to show XH558 executing two separate barrel rolls while flying over Grantham, Lincolnshire on October 4th. The CAA had tightened restrictions on maneuvers during aerial displays following the August 22nd crash of a Hawker Hunter T7, G-BXFI, in Shoreham that resulted in 11 fatalities.

According to the BBC article, a CAA spokesperson has said the Vulcan “may have performed a roll maneuver”. Adding: “This did not occur during an air display. Although not normally allowed under its current permissions to fly, a roll is a benign maneuver and the Vulcan’s maintenance support organisation has confirmed that the aircraft is safe to fly.”

When done correctly, a barrel roll maneuver is flown at a constant 1G, meaning the aircraft never ‘feels’ that it is inverted. Famous examples of this include the Boeing 707 airliner that was rolled on a test flight, and Bob Hoover pouring water into a glass while rolling.

The investigation by the CAA is underway, and the Vulcan to the Sky Trust that operates XH558 has yet to comment.

Yankee Air Museum Reclaims Rosie The Riveter World Record

posted in: Miscellaneous, Museums | 0
Rosie the Riveter World Record - Yankee Air Museum
Source – Yankee Air Museum Facebook Page

The Yankee Air Museum has reclaimed the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Rosie the Riveters this weekend. A total of 2,096 women and girls dressed up as the famous WWII icon, wearing her signature blue coveralls with a red and white polka-dotted bandana. The group included 44 women who actually worked in the factories during the war. The museum originally took the record with a gathering of 776 Rosies in 2014, but it was later trumped by a gathering of 1,084 Rosies in Richmond, CA.

The Yankee Air Museum, host of the well known Thunder Over Michigan airshow, recently saved a portion of the historic Willow Run bomber plant from demolition after a large Save the Bomber Plant campaign. The organization is now continuing to raise funds to renovate the structure in order to move in before transitioning its identity from the Yankee Air Museum to the National Museum of Aviation and Technology at Historic Willow Run.

Chuck Aaron Retiring from Airshows

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Chuck Aaron

Chuck “Malibu” Aaron, famous pilot of the Red Bull Helicopter will retire at the end of the 2015 airshow season. Aaron announced his retirement Sunday in an Instagram post. Aaron is the only helicopter pilot in the United States certified to perform aerobatics in a helicopter. In 2009, he won the Art Scholl Showmanship Award, given by the International Council of Airshows. He is the first helicopter pilot to be honored with such an award.

His last show will be at the Red Bull Air Race in Las Vegas in Mid October. His last airshow, not including the Red Bull Air Races was the Camarillo Airshow in Camarillo, CA in August.

Congratulations Chuck!

Watch our video of Chuck’s performance at the 2014 Oshkosh Airshow below:

Ricky Matthews

Step Into History With This Rare Footage Of A Spectacular 1945 Airshow

What do you get when you mix the jubilation of ending the Second World War and an Army Air Forces (AAF) with captured enemy aircraft and technology? One of the coolest airshows a warbird buff could possibly imagine! Check out this footage of the Freeman Field Airshow held in September of 1945, 70 years ago.

Some of the highlights you’ll see in this incredible footage are a flying Junkers Ju 290 A-4 (which was a frequent performer at airshows at the field), a mass formation of B-25 Mitchells, low and fast passes by P-47 Thunderbolts, and a fantastic static lineup with a Ju-88, Me-163, V-1 and V-2, and even a Fairchild C-82 Packet on display. Certainly this was one of the coolest shows one could catch in the 20th Century, but how did it come to be and whatever happened to those aircraft?

The end of the war effort meant that it was time to start collecting and shipping home the captured enemy vehicles and materials. An effort was made to evaluate these captured technologies in the form of Operation Lusty, of which General of the US Army Air Forces Henry “Hap” Arnold ordered one of each type of enemy aircraft operated preserved. When the aircraft were shipped to the US, they were split between the US Navy and Army Air Forces. The AAF began storing their captured aircraft at Wright Field until there was no longer space left for the remaining examples. The surplus aircraft were sent to Freeman Field near Seymour, Indiana as it had ample space for the remaining aircraft.

From June of 1945 to December of 1946, Freeman Field was the new Foreign Aircraft Evaluation Center for the AAF where Axis aircraft were evaluated, cataloged, and stored in preparation for the planned AAF museum. When the field was closed, most of the aircraft had been sent away for disposal. The larger aircraft were sent to Davis-Monthan Field (now Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) and the fighters to the Special Depot III, Park Ridge (now O’Hare International Airport). Sadly, a small number of aircraft were destroyed at the field prior to shutdown. There are a small number of survivors of Operation Lusty like the Arado Ar 234, Dornier Do 335, and Heinkel He 219, which are now apart of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Though today we may never see the same scale of variety and examples of rare aircraft on display again at modern airshows, we can’t give up too much hope, as there are several groups that are tracing the burial pits of those destroyed aircraft at Freeman Field in search of what might be inside them. Regardless, this footage is truly remarkable to watch again and again.

Pilot Escapes As “Precious Metal” Reno Racer Heavily Damaged In Ground Fire – May Be Total Loss

posted in: Miscellaneous, Warbirds | 11
Precious Metal Damaged in Fire
Photo courtesy of the Precious Metal Air Racing Fan Page

While on a fuel stop on the morning of September 8th, the Reno Air Racer “Precious Metal”, a heavily modified P-51 Mustang, was heavily damaged in a ground fire. The pilot escaped without injury but the aircraft is being described as a total loss. A post by the Precious Metal Air Racing Fan Page reads:

Dear Race Fans,
It’s with a heavy heart I am forced to announce the end of Precious Metal’s air racing career. She sustained heavy damage in a ground fire at a fuel stop this afternoon.
The aircraft was running fine and I was taxying out of the chocks after fueling up, a gentleman came running and signaled me to shut down. I had no idea I was on fire until he alerted me as it was under the airplane. By the time I came to a stop the flames were reaching the cockpit on the left side and I abandoned ship. There was no time to attempt fighting the fire as we feared an imminent explosion with 190 gallons of fuel onboard.
The fire department showed up after about 12 minutes and took 20 minutes to put the flames out with foam. But the damage was done. The aircraft is intact, but sustained heavy damage.
Thank you for all the support over the years, you are the best fans.
Thom Richard

Richard was en-route to this year’s Reno Air Races, scheduled for Sept. 16-20, when the incident occurred. Richard is the team leader of Team Precious Metal. The aircraft was the only Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered P-51 and is based at the Kissimmee Air Museum in central Florida.

These dramatic photos posted to Facebook show the firefighting efforts and aftermath.

Precious Metal Damaged in Fire

Precious Metal Damaged in FirePrecious Metal Damaged in Fire

Precious Metal Damaged in Fire

Behind The Scenes At EAA AirVenture With DTG Pyrotechnics

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap, Miscellaneous | 1

USMC AV-8B Harrier II Twilight Demonstration - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Some air shows around the country feature a night show in their lineup. We all go for the afterburners and lit-up aircraft streaking across the dark sky, but what show would be complete without a fireworks closer? Those beautiful works of fiery aerial artistry make for a nightly spectacle worth waiting for (and some awesome photo opportunities too!). For this year’s EAA AirVenture, the cool crew of DTG Pyrotechnics were in charge of the firework shows throughout the event and they invited us out with them for a peek at how they pull off their dazzling displays.

For the Saturday night show, I met up with the team at their staging area on the east side of the airport. Inside the hangar, the team was busy making final preparations for the show ahead. There the leader of this cool outfit, Dion Diehl, huddled everyone together to go over last minute checks and planning. Afterwards, Jason Strazishar gave me a tour of the multiple semis in their convoy, and what an impressive sight it was. Each truck towed a flatbed rigged with dozens of batteries all containing carefully placed and organized mortars, cakes, and other aerials.

DTG Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 DTG Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Now, there’s a certain way to execute a stellar fireworks display. At the base of it all, each firework consists of a shell, or an aerial item that is fired into the sky. However, not all fireworks are designed the same; certain types produce certain effects. For example, a mortar is a paper or plastic tube containing a shell with a long fuse. The shell has a lift charge on the bottom that helps propel it into the air. Cakes are an item that has a single fuse which is used to light several tubes in sequence. The set piece is a ground item consisting of many colored lances that is used to draw a picture.

DTG Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 DTG Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Regardless of the type, each item needs a source of ignition for their fuses before they can be launched into the sky. Enter the “squib”, or electric match. The 1-in long, 1/4-in wide device consists of a small nickel-chromium wire with a pyrogen coating. An electrical current causes the nickel-chromium wire to heat up, igniting the pyrogen and starting the fuse. Each squib is hooked up to a very thin and very long wire that runs to a hub that is then connected to the control terminal. It is there that the real magic is worked.

DTG Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Dion had spent dozens of hours coding the show to flow exactly how he wanted it. From his program, he could set certain shots to launch together and independently with incredible precision. This also allows for each shell to be monitored for connection to the control terminal to ensure all are ready to go and no wires or connections are cut. Each squib carries an ID that can be controlled and organized within DTG’s performance timeline. So imagine, if you will, the amount of shells one can fit to a single battery aboard a large flatbed trailer and multiply that a few times. That’s a lot to setup and organize in coding alone. But when it’s all said and done, and done properly, the display is truly a spectacle to behold.

With a final look-over and check by the team, the convoy was ready to roll out. There was a gap in the AirVenture performance schedule to allow the team to set up for the night show. The team moved out and began setting up their trailers in the grass on either side of taxiway A2 along runway 18-36. They shared the field with the Tora! Tora! Tora! pyro team who were in charge of the wall of fire that would conclude the night show. At show center on A2 was the trailer carrying the set piece. Once everything was in place, the team began to quickly run the thousands of feet of wire between each trailer together, and prepared to run it all across the runway to the control terminal once the flying had concluded.

USMC AV-8B Harrier II Twilight Demonstration - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 F-100 Super Sabre Air Force Warbird Jet AirVenture Oshkosh
USAF F-4 Phantom II Twilight Demonstration - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015F-100 Super Sabre Twilight Performance - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Once the flying resumed, it was again time to wait. Luckily, it is not hard to wait when you have the best seat in the house for twilight demonstrations of the USMC AV-8B Harrier, F-100 Super Sabre, and USAF F-4 Phantom II along with the various night time aerobatic performances. But after the sun had set and the last aircraft was safely on the ground, it was back to work with only a little time to get it ready.

USMC AV-8B Harrier II Twilight Demonstration - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015USMC AV-8B Harrier II Twilight Demonstration - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

It was a rush to get everything organized, people in place, the terminal connected, and to start the show. Though, when it kicked off, it kicked off with a bang. Particularly with a series of what are referred to as “pants-fillers,” or explosives that are meant to create a loud, attention-getting bang. And for those not prepared for their detonation, well, the name implies the result. When things started up, I booked it from the trailer on A2 down the taxiway to the semis and caught the show from the other side as best I could. There’s something to be said for the factor of proximity and its affect on the entertainment of the show. Being further back for Wednesday night’s show allowed me to capture nearly the whole arc of the aerial display, while being closer in made photos far more challenging but sent the enjoyment factor through the roof.

DTG Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 DTG Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

When the wall of fire finale went off, I packed up my equipment and went back out onto the taxiway. There were small fires where pyrotechnics and once been that were being tended to, debris of every kind littered along the whole length of the taxiway, and plenty of smiles after another successful show. While my work had ended for the night, the crew of DTG still had plenty left to do as far as cleaning and packing up.

With a nice farewell, a lonely stroll across the runway back to the crowd line, and a moment of silent sentiment shared with a solitary F-4, I concluded my AirVenture experience and my time with DTG Pyrotechnics. The DTG team are a proficient and professional team with plenty of skill and chum to share. I look forward to crossing paths with them again and hope to see their dazzling displays again at future AirVentures.

P-38 Lightning and Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Thank you to Jason Strazishar for contacting us with this grand opportunity, and to Dion and the rest of the DTG crew allowing me to come experience how a professional pyrotechnic show is done. You can connect with the DTG team by liking their Facebook page.

Golden Knight Injured In Chicago Collision Dies

posted in: Airshows, Miscellaneous, Popular Posts | 1
US Army Golden Knight Corey Hood - Dayton Airshow 2015
Sgt. First Class Corey Hood looks out the door while performing in Dayton earlier this year

The US Army Golden Knight that was injured in a mid air collision with a US Navy Leap Frog during the Chicago Air and Water Show this weekend has died of his injuries. He has been identified as 32-year-old Sgt. First Class Corey Hood. Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Sgt. Hood had served in the Army for more than 10 years and earned several medals during that time. He was an Airborne Forward Observer and served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming a member of the Golden Knights’ Black demonstration team. Sgt. Hood was one of the Golden Knights present when AirshowStuff’s Patrick Barron rode with the team earlier this year at the Dayton Airshow.

Sgt. First Class Corey Hood - Dayton Airshow 2015

The two parachute teams were performing together at the airshow, and the two jumpers apparently collided while splitting apart in a bomb burst maneuver. The Leap Frog suffered a broken leg and was treated by medics upon landing. Witnesses report that Sgt. Hood appeared to be under canopy but unconscious as he neared the ground. He clipped a building before falling to the sidewalk below. The Golden Knights canceled their remaining performances this weekend and initiated a safety stand down to review the incident.

Our thoughts are with Sgt. Hood’s family and friends, especially his team members.

Pilot OK After Spitfire Crashes At Biggin Hill After Losing Power On Takeoff

posted in: Miscellaneous, Warbirds | 0
Crashed Spitfire - Twitter/@khurramfarooq
Twitter/@khurramfarooq

Reports from the UK are saying a Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk. IXc has crashed shortly after losing power on takeoff from Biggin Hill. The aircraft (MK912) was piloted by former RAF test pilot Dan Griffiths for a routine test flight preparing for the upcoming Battle of Britain commemoration display. The Spitfire experienced a loss of power shortly after takeoff and Griffiths made a forced landing. The aircraft came to rest inside the airport grounds along Main Road suffering significant damage. Griffiths is reported to be in the hospital with a shoulder injury.

The Spitfire belongs to Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, who plan to repair the aircraft. MK912 was one of 31 airworthy Spitfires left in the UK today, of which nine are currently owned by Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar. The Battle of Britain commemoration will continue as planned for September 18 of this year.

https://twitter.com/TelegraphNews/status/627515282571919360

[Updated] Pilot Killed In Aircraft Crash At UK’s Oulton Park Carfest

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Gnat Display Team/Darren Harbar

UPDATE: The pilot, identified as Kevin Whyman, has been confirmed as killed in the crash. In a statement on the Gnat Display Team’s Facebook:

The Heritage Aircraft Trust, operator of the Gnat Display Team is very sad to announce the loss of one of its display pilots, Kevin Whyman, at an airshow for CarFest at Oulton Park today.

Heritage Aircraft Trust will be working with the Civil Aviation Authority and the Air Accidents Investigation Board to determine the cause of the accident.

Kevin was a Royal Air Force trained fast jet pilot whose enthusiasm for flying the Folland Gnat was infectious. He will be greatly missed by his family, the Team and many friends.

Kevin leaves a wife and young daughter. Please respect the privacy of family members and of the Team at this most difficult time.

Reports say a Gnat jet has crashed at the Oulton Park Carfest at Cheshire Race Track in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The crash occurred shortly after 2pm local time in a wooded area near the Carfest event.

The plane believed to be involved is part of the Gnat Display Team, part of the Heritage Aircraft Trust based at North Weald Airfield. The team flies 3 jets in their performance. The Gnat is a swept wing supersonic jet trainer that in the past has been used by the Royal Air Force as a trainer jet and by the Red Arrows Display Team.

Witnesses report seeing an air ambulance leaving the scene. There was no initial report on the pilot’s condition.

Several pictures and reports were posted on Twitter after the incident:

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