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.

Airplane that Led the D-Day Invasion Appears at Oshkosh

posted in: Warbirds | 0

IMG_6720webish

If you’re heading to Oshkosh, look for a part of history on the airfield! Aircraft number 42-92847, nicknamed “That’s All, Brother,” will be on display all week in Boeing PLaza. The aircraft is the C-47 that led Mission Albany. The aircraft group that it flew with was a formation of 432 aircraft which launched just after midnight on D-Day will be on site for the public to view.

The aircraft was acquired by Basler Turbo Conversions LLC of Oshkosh,WI in 2008. Not knowing the history of the aircraft, Basler had planned to convert it into a modern BT-67 turboprop, changing the appearance of the aircraft by lengthening its fuselage, replacing the original engines with modern engines and gutting the cockpit, replacing it with new equipment.

In it’s current state, “That’s All Brother” looks like an AC-47 Gunship, a role it never served.

“At 2233 hours, our first airplane, with the name “That’s All, Brother” begins its roll down the runway. It is thus America’s lead plane of the spearhead of the greatest military invasion in the history of man.” W.L. George Collins, “Into Fields of Fire”
“At 2233 hours, our first airplane, with the name “That’s All, Brother” begins its roll down the runway. It is thus America’s lead plane of the spearhead of the greatest military invasion in the history of man.” W.L. George Collins, “Into Fields of Fire”

The Commemorative Air Force and Basler Turbo Conversions are searching for funding to help restore the aircraft through a Kickstarter campaign. Reward levels are available for those who donate.

The CAF plans to fly it in the future, even overseas in Europe to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day if they raise enough money. Their full plan states:

-Faithfully restore the aircraft to represent its exact configuration on D-Day. This will include exterior paint and the installation of original seats, avionics, radio and radar equipment.
Maintain the aircraft in airworthy condition as a piece of living history, attending major national commemoration events, airshows, flyovers and the like.
-Develop a touring educational program that emphasizes the values of the Greatest Generation: courage, self-sacrifice, perseverance, initiative, and the price of freedom. The program will be influenced by the success of the CAF’s Red Tail Squadron program RISE ABOVE. Using a P-51C Mustang and traveling movie theater, this takes the inspirational story of the Tuskegee Airmen to 40 cities each year, reaching about 50,000 people annually.
-Fly to Europe in the summer of 2019 to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the last opportunity for living veterans to attend a major commemoration event.

As of July 20th, the Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $328,736 for the cause as of July 20th. CAF and Basler Turbo Conversions have until August 31, 2015 to raise the money necessary to rescue the airplane.

EAA Announces F-35 Lightning II And F-100 Super Sabre Appearances At AirVenture 2015

posted in: Airshows, Military, Warbirds | 0

F-35 Lightning II/JSF

The excitement for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 continues to build! On top of recent additions, EAA announced today that AirVenture will feature both a USAF F-35A Lightning II (aka the JSF) and an F-100 Super Sabre! This will be the first visit to AirVenture for both aircraft types. In fact, this will be the first F-35 appearance at any US civilian airshow!

The F-35 is just entering service, but the various versions of it have been making a few appearances at airshows, beginning with a fly-past of the 2011 Joint Services Open House at Joint Base Andrews. No word yet on whether this aircraft will perform during the show or not, but there have been several F-35 ‘mini demos’ performed in the last year or so, so it is a possibility.

The F-100 is owned by Dean Cutshall and is based in Fort Wayne, IN. This rare warbird has made only periodic airshow appearances in recent years and is a major draw where ever it goes. According to the press release, the aircraft will fly in at least some of the warbird segments, so be ready for the trademark BOOM of the afterburner!