Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Season

Hi everyone! I know I have A LOT of blogging to catch up on from last season and I promise to do some of it soon.. we continued the year to fly shows in Alaska, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Japan and as you know El Salvador! I have a lot of fun stories and photos to post when I get a spare few days this winter :)

To give a heads up on the potential schedule for 2011 here is a quick preview... Honduras, South Korea, Japan, Spain, Italy, Belgium, US and Canada!!

and the acts will include the usual in the Edge, Tinstix will be continued!!!! Wingsuit and Aerobatics has received a lot of interest and will hopefully be taken internationally this year and of course the new team up with Carol Pilon in her beautiful Stearman for the only all women's wingwalking routine!! Throw on your cowboy hats because it's a wild west theme that will blow you away ;) Rex picked up a new powered paraglider to tow our 1,000 sq ft flag behind too for those shows with fog and low clouds that keep the skydivers away!

Check back soon for more and HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Comox & Snowbirds

After a LONG wait for my engine and prop to come home after an exceptional overhaul and paint job at Ameritech in Redding it was time to fly off the 15 hours.... below 2000 feet and full power.... where better to go than Comox, BC to watch the Snowbirds final practice? Michael Town put in a tough couple of days getting the Edge back together and by early Thrusday afternoon she was ready to go!

I chose to fly up the west cost all the way to Vancouver island to where the Snowbirds were finishing their 3 weeks of training... check out my track from SPOT MESSENGER here:

My Flight Path

I had a later start than expected after my 4am wake up but the flight worked out perfectly! I went all the way up the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.... I cut inland to clear customs and cross the water to Vancouver Island!! The coastal hills were so green and the sunset over the mountains in Canada was breath-taking.... here are a few pics from my journey...

I stayed the night in Nanaimo, BC where I cleared customs.... very easy by the way... just a phone call to CANPASS after filing a flight plan and your EAPIS....JUST DON'T FORGET EAPIS!! I continued my journey from there up the coast to a little airpark just West of Nanaimo called Courtenay.... it was stunning!!! This airpark is full of float planes and sail boats and very cool bush planes that you would expect to see north of the border... I had a sporty landing trying to avoid the beautiful Ravins, Bald Eagles and Harings as I touched down between the trees and rolled out between Beavers, cubs on floats, sail boats and hangars... Check out the view from above:

I had a very cool parking spot too, check out my neighbor!! An extended cab Beaver!! Steam gauges and all :)

And now the fun begins.... yes the flight below 2K along the ocean and past beautiful mountains into Canada was fun... but me and 20 guys with fun jets.... even better!! I walked the few blocks to the hotel where everyone was staying and had some dinner and a few drinks with the gang.... Canadians are all so nice.... funny accents and all 'Eh?' haha. The next morning was to be their final 'Beach Show' where the public was invited to watch... I had the opportunity to stand front and center with Eric Willrich and Dan Rossi (the boys in red) to listen in to the radios! Needless to say you could tell that they had all been practicing every day for 3 weeks because everything was beautiful, crisp and nicely presented... the crowd loved it! The morning and afternoon were chilly with a bit of rain and clouds but as they would call it... we had a perfect 'Snowbird hole' at show time! I met the Snowbird's 'number 1 fan' Gordo who made the 'snowbird cut-outs' in the first picture of this blog and did a great job of introducing the team over the Mic to the crowd! The birds have a few new tricks up their sleeve for 2010 that I'm sure everyone will enjoy and I can't wait to see them again later this year in Janesville and a handful of other locations!! Oh and I'm pretty sure that Marc doesn't usually wear the 'very cool' stache in this pic hehe :)

And of course I can't forget to mention the last night pub outing.... I believe they called this the 'stale beer pub' though my beer wasn't stale at all haha. To get there we walked past the airpark where my Edge sat and I had the opportunity to show the entire team, including their General my Edge!! Happy looks quite happy sitting in it and I'm pretty sure that if I gave him the key he would have been flying in an instant :) It was a great time and a very cool opportunity to take part in their last evening celebrations and toasts and see what happens 'behind the scenes' of a jet team....

And now we are getting to the final leg of my journey!! After a good nights sleep I packed my bags and walked back to the airpark where the Edge waited for me.... looking at my watch thinking I'm running on perfect time I should have remember what my Grandma always says.... 'time to spare...go by air' and I was about to prove that true! The card reader on the fuel machine wouldn't read my card so I sat there trying...and trying... and trying.... no one was working because it was a Sunday (note to self....traveling on Sunday's through small towns is not the best idea if you are in a hurry)... finally a very nice man and his wife came over and offered to buy my fuel for me and I could send them a check later... what did I say, Canadians are so friendly!! As I was fueling the plane I saw 2 very cute little girls on the walking path looking over the path and seeing as someone had just done a nice thing for me I thought that I could do a nice thing for them so I invited them and their parents over to check out the Edge! The little girls took turns sitting in the plane and trying the controls and trying on my headset and I think that we might just have a few more women aviators on our hands in another 15 years! They even waited to watch me take off.... I love that part of aviation!

Once on my way I waved goodbye to Canada as I crossed the water and landed in Boeing Field to pass through customs...also a pain free process... looking at my watch again I thought that I was doing alright if I didn't run into too many more delays....

That being said my fuel pressure started acting up on me and jumping all over the chart so I landed as a precaution to check things out.... delay number 2!! After a bit of searching a sweet old man helped me to find a mechanic to take a look at things.... the fuel lines all seemed fine and nothing was leaking so it must have just been the gauge.... but everything happens for a reason I think and that kind mechanic just happened to have a troop of cub scouts out at the airport for a field trip that day! Good deeds should never go without another in return so I happily gave a tour of the Edge and let the scouts check out the cockpit one at a time and try on the headset..... who could resist those smiles??? Here they are :)

Next fuel stop in California..... I landed only to discover that no one was working and had to back track 10 miles to another airpark....where again.... no one was to be found..... luckily after about 45 min I was able to track down someone fueling a small airliner and they were able to fill me up. What did I say before? 'Time to spare...go by air...never time to be in a hurry!' I was able to make it home before sunset and the last leg went very smooth and the lighting on the coast and through the hills was magnificent.... Once back in Tracy I found that they had re-painted the parking lot in the few days I was gone and I was left with my very own parking spot hahaha, sorry guys!! Thinking that my journey was over I started the drive back....only to make a wrong turn and my 1.5 hr drive turned into a 3.5 good thing I was in the car by then!! It was in all an amazing trip and entirely worth every second of the journey :) After all... life is about the journey... isn't it? Safe flying to everyone and let the summer begin!!

Coming up next.... Airshow in Japan!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ilopango Airshow in El Salvador

A few weeks ago I got a call form Skip Stewart asking if I'd like to perform in a show in El Salvador...the first thing I had to do was google map where on earth that was! After some quick maintenance on the Edge to brush away the winter dust I took my first weather window out of Northern California, left our 12 feet of fresh snow behind and headed for the desert. I stopped in Arizona to visit friends and get a few practice flights and skydives in..and of course I had to take a walk to visit my property and my one cactus!

The next stop was Brownsville, Texas. Skip returned from a Fed EX work trip at 1 AM in Memphis and flew down to meet me the same day. We worked out the paperwork (we thought) and left the following morning for both of our first time crossing the Mexico border in private aircraft.

We quickly learned that while traveling through Mexico you can't be in a hurry...

3 hours for customs, 2 hours for fuel stops, file your flight plans, everyone with a stamp is a god, don't give them bills with pen marks or folded corners and most importantly...carry a lot of one dollar bills, they don't have change! It was a good thing that we traveled in a pair because small problems in the States are big problems in Mexico such as....

"we don't take visa"
"the volume on my radio won't turn up enough"
"the air in my tire is low..."
"we don't have change"

Several very important words we learned were...

Where is the bathroom?
More Red Wine please.
Solude (cheers)
We need crowd control.
...and don't take pictures of the guys with guns without asking first!

Stop is Terminado not Finito, hahaha. This would have come in handy when on the way home an airport attendant in Mexico was putting air in my tire and didn't stop when I asked...luckily Skip was carrying an extra tube!!!

Skip taught me 2 valuable lessons while we were traveling...never pass up a chance to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom!

Our journey took us down the East coast of Mexico, across the mountains and down the western coast of Guatemala and into El Salvador. Descending into El Salvador was incredible...we went from dry cool air up high and descended into what felt like a warm pool of water...we were in the tropics! Our last hour of flight took us between pluming volcanoes and over high crater lakes...this was a land like I've never seen before!

Upon arrival in Ilopango Skip and I were greeted first by our friend and fellow airshow pilot Greg Koontz. Greg has been flying this show for over 10 years and has gotten to know his way around pretty well. Several of the airshow officials greeted us with a bouquet of GORGEOUS tropical flowers!! I only wish I could have brought them home with me.

The people of El Salvador were incredibly welcoming and treated us like rock stars during our entire stay! We had a guy from Seattle as our helper while we were there named Craig...who we mistakenly called Greg for the first 2 days. He was too polite to correct us..without him I'm not sure what we would have done!

El Salvador time was once again, don't be in a hurry. They treated us to delicious meals each evening and I'm sure would have kept us out being entertained 24 hours a day if we didn't need to sleep! Our first dinner was up on a volcano where the owner of the restaurant personally served us.

The following day it was time to fly! Skip and I practiced our solos, Tinstix and the wingsuit skydive with him circling me. Greg was stuck waiting to find an airplane to fly...they had several lined up for him and finally the day before the show they allowed him to use a decathalon.

Leading up to show day I felt like we went back to the old barn storming days when a pilot would fly over the city to attract attention then land in a nearby field to give rides and aerobatic performances...we took a "parade" over San Salvador with nearly 20 aircraft following one after the other in order to call attention to the people and remind them where to be the next day!

Come show day we are all ready to go with plenty of water and sunblock...maybe not quite enough sun block!!

We had a few issues with crowd control and not being able to get to the fuel pumps so they had to park us on the taxi way and find fuel cans and hoses in order to transport the fuel to us....eventually it all came together and the show was a great success.

Skip and I had a blast flying Tinstix together and as usual his solo wowed everyone! Greg Koontz flew his comedy routine and his acro routine and showed us all what a Decathalon really can do! And of course I can't forget to mention the hardest working people at the show, Rich's Incredible Pyro...those guys are amazing!! And a special highlight to the day was the B1 formation fly-bye!

Check out a photo from one of our photo passes with some of Rich's Pyro! The are in they field working all day long, even long after we've all put the planes away and kicked back for a cold cervesa!

I had the unique oportunity if landing amongst the crowd from my wingsuit skydive where I was surrounded by people to the point that guards had to create a circle around me holding hands to push the people away...then they rushed me out of there on a dirt bike!! I felt like Brittany Spears, haha.

We had a special treat when the President of El Salvador came to view the show and personally requested to meet us! That was officially my first time ever meeting the president of a country and his family. His wife and child were lovely and thanked me for representing the women of their country...then he asked us to do a personal fly over for them! I love El Salvador!!

An well...I guess every great adventure has to come to an end at some point. After our 2 days of flying we had a great going away ceremony where they presented us with trophies for flying the show and made us feel so welcome in their country!

All that I can say is I can't wait to go back again!

Our trip home went relatively well...despite the not so great weather on the East coast of Mexico...Skip and I got stuck over night and decided to go out to dinner at a nice thatched roof restaurant where they hang bulls from the wine bottles...literally!

But we weren't quite brave enough to try the "cockroach to the garlic"....

Back in Brownsville we were EXTREMELY happy to have made it back to the States...that is until they told us that our manifest wasn't in their files and we were each going to owe them a $5,000. fine! (Remember in the beginning when I said that "we thought" we filed our paperwork??) Anyway, after several hours of searching, Skip found a copy of the manifest that we filed and saved us both handing over our pay-checks!! We ended up having to sit in weather for a few days, Skip was able to jump seat home and passed the time watching Avatar 3D and window shopping at the mall across the street...by the way, have you SEEN the super cool new 3D glasses???

What an adventure...and we even met Santa Claus!! Did you know he's from Iceland??

CYA next time :)

Melissa Pemberton