My Weekend of Daringly Great DNA Wonderment:
Magnificent Maneuvering at the Air Capitol of the World!
By, Tracey Steele, wingwalker
Lions, Tigers & Bears: Oh, Well! Shivers, Quivers & Super Heroic Aerobatics: OH, MY! What a lavishly lucky & bodaciously blessed lady I am!
Though it has been a few months, I am still on Cloud 9,000 after I attended the Wichita Flight Festival in September, I’m still thinking about it.
I have enjoyed many Chicago Air & Water Shows, with a horizon-to-horizon vista from my comfy rooftop on Chicago’s Gold Coast, but the Wichita Flight Festival was my very first time to be on the ground and actually immersed in an airshow. I was privileged to embrace the experience from the ramp side of the velvet ropes with the thrilling airshow performer Rich Perkins!
There may be an overall vibe of seen-one-seen-them-all when it comes to airshows, especially when you’ve been spoiled by Chicago’s top-notch aerial production on Chicago’s picturesque lakefront.
I had made a promise to my Galactic Guy, Rich Perkins, to attend his next Airshow. A promise is a promise, especially to Rich, so…well, I had to get there, and there I got! Like a bolt of lightning in a Chicago thunderstorm, I booked flights, coordinated the pickup and transport, packed, set up kitty care, prepped and zoomed from O’Hare to the Kansas City International Airport, arriving the next morning!
Keith Edney, Rich’s Crew Chief, Mechanic and Right Hand Man, picked me up at the airport. He is such an extremely delightful and skilled aircraft aficionado. I asked him 50 questions and he provided me the World of Aviation at the Wichita Flight Festival with 50+ answers. He is a wonderful person! Rich trusts him. And Rich’s trust is everything.
Keith is a knowledgeable, dedicated Crew Chief for the L-39 Firecat Jet, and a custodian of care for Rich. (Rich calls him his “Babysitter.”) He was hospitable, respectful and helpful with the other performers and crews as well, an ambassador to airshow attendees, and exquisitely kind to me.
I was a tickled neon sky-blue Airshow Fan with a Pit Pass to the Front Line and Hot Ramp, and my own personal guide to the invigorating sights, sounds and smells of airshows. I was a halcyonic Happy Camper!
I Love Intelligent People! I Love Creativity! I Love Ingenuity! I Love the Sky! I Love those who thrive within the Sky as a Playground! The following intelligent, creative, ingenious, Sky-Loving Crews & Aerobatic Pilots made the lineup of the Wichita Flight Festival:
• RICH PERKINS & FIRECAT http://firecatjet.com/
• TORA! TORA! TORA! http://www.toratoratora.com/home.html
• ROGER BUIS & OTTO THE HELICOPTER http://www.otto-airshow.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Main.Otto
• PAUL & THERESE STENDER: JET SCHOOL BUS & SNOOPY DOG HOUSE http://www.indyboysinc.com/v2/index.html
• KENT PIETSCH http://www.kentpietschairshows.com/gallery.html
• DAN BUCHANAN, HANG GLIDER http://www.danbuchananairshows.com/index.html
• JASON NEWBURG, VIPER AIRSHOWS http://www.viperairshows.com/
• TEXAN II, MIKE “GAMESHOW” RAMBO http://www.youtube.com/user/gameshow97/videos
• STATIC DISPLAY: ANDY HARDY’S STEARMAN (There were lots of statics, but somehow, I gravitate toward the Stearman. Wonder why…) http://hardyaviationins.com/
• WICHITA FLIGHT FESTIVAL http://www.wichitaflightfestival.com/
Check out the kaleidoscope of sights and sounds on their websites. They Dare Greatly and are Daringly Great Superheroes! They are Limitless, and the best part is that They Know It in the most Pass Aviation Onward, Upward & Forward way!
I interacted with them for an all too quick 48 hours, but all of my senses were ablaze with Joy, Admiration, Electricity and Honor! I was welcomed with ease. I knew Rich had already shared with some of the performers who I was, and what I do (I WingWalk!), but I think that their ever-present kindness is just the way they are. It is unbelievable that they do what they do, and yet exhibit so little ego. They were ultra-accepting of me, and excited to hear about my budding WingWalking career.
I know they enjoyed my positivity—they are all extremely positive–and my multiple outfit presto-changos kept the betting men checking the odds on how many times I would show up in different outfits. For my part, I purely enjoyed the camaraderie and being a part of such a magnificent group of aviators, even if only for a weekend. Whatever the equation is, it was fun, and it brought their daringly great creative imaginations, to life. I wish I could bottle the enjoyment and extend it to all. It is the gift of a lifetime, infusing aviation in all ages.
With my Firecat Pit Pass, I was bestowed the honor to be a lot closer to each aircraft and each performer. The Hot Ramp–the cordoned off area for the performers, their aircraft and crews—was mine to roam.
I was speechless!
As I tripped the light fantastic within my skin, aircraft-after-aircraft were celebrating the Sky!
My neck was sublimely sore for a minimum of 5 days after I departed Wichita…
I arrived in time to watch Rich as he was in prep-mode for his performance. I prefer to give others LOTS of breathing room when they are preparing for their performance. I, as a training WingWalker, know that silence and symmetry of prep-mode bodes well for soul-drenching Bliss! This latitude need not be hours within a cone of silence; it may just be minutes, but all performers cherish that sacred time just before their performance. Quiet Time. A run-thru of what you personally expect yourself to coolly, calmly and dynamically accomplish. If Rich has Fantastically Fierce F-U-N, then every attendee has Fiercely Fantastical F-U-N! I know Rich well, and I knew that vociferous pep talks are not needed on the hot ramp prior to his performance. What he needed was time to focus.
I watched other performers while Rich prepared his jet and his mind for his time in front of the fans. I was not cool, nor calm, nor collected. I was GIDDY! Every single one, and I reiterate, every single one of the performances I viewed, ASTONISHED ME!
HOW DID HE DO THAT? was my repeated refrain. What a Glorious Broken Record! And after my refrain the 00.00 egoed Pilot/Crew standing next to me would explain the maneuver in non-pilot terms.
As you see the performers’ maneuvers, the response is only heartbeats. Heartbeats due to the Skill & Physics of their inventiveness within the sky. Emblazoned heartbeats because I honestly and truly wanted to be atop their Wings through every maneuver. They bring to life the belief that Doing what you Dream is a blessing to behold, a present to embrace, and a gift to share.
Being here ranks ultra-high on my list of Top Energized Hours of My Life!
To see, and then to touch the aircraft, and to see these guys who basically bring their imaginations to life for the Thrill of Others, was Epically Excellent and Excellently Epic.
· To watch Jason Newburg and the Pitts Viper roll at 360 degrees per second and then tumble. Fantastic!
· To swoon as Tora! Tora! Tora! exalted the skies with their ferocious formations and impressive pyrotechnics proved a reverence to history and a pride in the precision of perfection. Tremendous!
· To watch the excellence of Roger Buis bring his helicopter to life as Otto, totally for the wonderment of kids. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
· To be blown away by the smoke and thunder of Paul Stender’s Jet Powered School Bus and Dog House. Power with a sense of fun. Ferocious!
· To be awestruck the Kent Pietsch’s aeronautical skills in his very low powered Interstate Cadet. Aerobatics on 90 horsepower. And landing on top of a moving vehicle! Amazing!
· To be humbled by Dan Buchannan, who is wheelchair bound when on the ground, but is unfettered in the air. His motivation moves mountains as he soars above them. Inspirational is the only word for him. Dynamic!
· To revel in the vim, vigor, vitality and vibrancy of flying is to rejoice in Mike “Gameshow” Rambo vibrancy. From his cockpit he creates a universe of OMG Bliss. Every nuance of aerobatics is broadened by his tantric techniques. A true Air Comptroller! Supreme!
I just wanted to be on each wing, riding with all of them! Just to hold my own atop the wings while they dreamed, Awake & Alive. It was as if Earth had become a springboard, and I was Jumping for Joy!
Organizer Bernadette Bradshaw was everywhere providing outstanding care! Airboss Ralph Royce brilliantly kept the airshow running smoothly. The Airdales, a professional ground crew, kept the ground operations running seamlessly. I cannot fathom how many hours they collectively worked, obsessed, thought, ruminated, and dreamed of the success they, along with their volunteers, created!
Let’s not forget the Awesome Announcer, Matt Jolley. What a Wealth of Information wrapped in a package of Ease, Appreciation of the Expertise of the performers, and Dedication to the fans. He honors the performers, and as I was delightfully aware, they honor him. He brings the show alive for the Fans. He is the verbal track which seamlessly connects each viewer with an audio that has wings!
I wanted each viewer to be aware of Rich’s individualized and unique achievements, but listening to Matt’s narration, I learned even more about Rich Perkins as a lifelong achiever and a do-er. I cheered in the background to Matt Jolley’s introduction for Rich. How could I not?
Keith and I proceeded to the Announcer’s Stand to be in radio contact with Rich. Then, the Milky Way Galaxy’s Most Phenomenal Pilot took off for the skies. (OK, Rich, I know you are a Superhero Gentleman and the Cat’s Meow, but honestly, you never ever hinted your true identity: The Lion’s Roar!)
I was Headsprung! I am Headsprung!
I thought I knew Rich’s dreams, yet he dreamed Bigger and Bolder than I imagined. Such perfect verticals, ruler straight lines, parabolic trajectories! He absolutely ruled the skies! Up & Up, with the L-39 Firecat’s orange and yellow flashing against the blue. The paint scheme he created brightened the sky so seamlessly, the sky looked barren without it. He was a Marvel! Every single movement was his own. No hydraulic assists, no computers, no tricks, no illusions. HE SOARED! For the first time in my life I was jealous of someone. And that someone was Rich Perkins! To travel sooo high. To be sooo savvy. To know one’s self and one’s aircraft so well. It is the secret of Grace, Brilliance and Knowledge. Rich showed it all to me that day in his flying. I was so proud of him!
If I become a pilot, it will be a big part because my belief in Rich’s beliefs. At this moment in time, all I want to do is WingWalk, but Rich is going to teach me how to Fly and Land as a safeguard. I know it will feel Sensational to guide an aircraft, but I won’t be content with straight and level flight after watching Rich, and watching my new friends autograph the sky!
Saturday night after the day of enchantment, my mind refused to sleep, my heart refused to slow. I was fully awake and Quivering with Astonishment!
I have very rarely quivered with excitement, and this experience took me by storm. If I was in less than spectacular health, I might have wondered what was going on with my nervous system. But, you must know, watching and knowing these maestros enhances brain activity and transforms leaps of abandonment into the rhythms of Bliss. Quivering upon witnessing something so grand was, is, and shall forever be a Reminder of the Vibrancy that Aviation is. Each performer leaves an imprint of their Joy upon those that view, and for me it was Quivering Joy! Viewing their magnitudes never ever decrease the Dream-Abilities in others. Their realities create Dream abilities. And Dream Abilities are the purest form of inspiration!!
I did not blink Saturday night. Sleep strayed from my grasp, and I kept rewinding aileron rolls, stalls, wingovers, hammerheads, Immelmanns, and aircraft tracing the skies. Skyrockets in flight and the passions of flight. Quivering was amazing and it did not feel foreign; it felt like I had secured my entry into this rarified and radiant slice of heaven. My mind and body were awake and no longer dreaming of doing. I would be doing, my entirety embraced and celebrated that awareness. I wanted those skies. The feeling of belonging was lovely, and my quivers simply and without error, reinforced my direct focus on WingWalking.
Attending the Sunday morning Performer’s Briefing was spiritual! To sit there, with the joining of the minds was a “pinch me” experience. Smiles to me were inclusive; I was not a trespasser. I had not interloped into territory guarded against sycophants and unawares. I was with Rich, I was an up-and-comer, and I was welcome.
I listened with every cell of my body—and I felt the encouragement that each performer felt for each other. This was not a race. This was not a competition. This was a huddle of super stellar Skyballers. Safety First was the mandate projected and protected by Ralph Royce the Airboss. His words echoed that each pilot’s job is to land the plane safely after a safe performance.
Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, in all its glory and wonder. It was not only a walk on the wild side; it was a walk inside a Skyscape Dreamland.
Those Amazing Architects of Aerobatics and their Flying Machines: Even their Daydreams have Daydreams of Missions, Sorties and Aerobatics. I thank them for their progressive dreams, pursuits of passion, kindness, instruction, knowledge, high-flying pleasures and their love of Aviation! I thank them for their Ballsy Brain Power & Empowered Ballsiness!
Just as I won’t be content without WingWalking a jet, I totally understand why it is not at all about adrenaline. (That’s for the ones who do it once, twice or three times.) It’s about the beat of one’s heart, the meaning to each pepped step and the wings of the soul!
It is in their DNA, my DNA, Rich’s Keith’s, Dan’s, Ralph’s, Bernadette’s, Jason’s, Paul’s Theresa’s, Kent’s, Mike’s, Andy’s, Roger’s and all those of Tora! Tora! Tora!
And Otto’s oil kit!
DNA: Do Now & Always!
What occurs in airshows is that Awe takes front and center because every sensory organ rides with each and every performer: Thank You All—all the performers, crews and organizers, and coordinators and volunteers. May you sleep soundly knowing that You elevate the lives of Others!
And so much more!
After his performance, as Rich and I walked the last hours of the airshow on Sunday, our final good-bye was to Andy Hardy’s impeccably gorgeous Stearman. As we approached, a young girl was posing between the landing gear, under the lovely wood prop. It rings true: she’s either going to fly it, wing it, or be an astronaut! She was ultra at ease and such a radiant cutie. She personified the young child in all of us with awe in her eyes and Do-Ability in her actions.
Like I said, it’s in our Daring Greatly DNA.
By, Tracey Steele, wingwalker