All Aviation, All Week, All Fun!

 

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When you work in aviation, sometimes you can get lost in it… Then there are the other times when you break from your day-to-day routine and have one of those really cool, very rare experiences, where everything happens so fast! The past week I’ve felt like I was on a roller coaster of aviation opportunities! There are 52 weeks in the year and I have to clarify that not every week in the life of an aviation enthusiast, working in airport management is this cool, but every now and then…

In reality we could make it an action-packed week and a half, because on the previous Wednesday, we held a great event at EWB, known as, “An Evening at the Airport.” We opened the doors to the public and the support form the airport community, local elected officials and others from the local community was incredible. The event was very well attended and highlighted the value of the airport for the community, thanks to the recently released MassDOT Aeronautics statewide economic impact study. Look for more on this in a post coming in June on “The Value of an Airport”… Then on the previous Friday, I made the drive up from New Bedford up to Mansfield and went flying with fellow ReviewBeforeFlight-er Jim Quinn for his flight review. Which, for the record, he aced…

On Monday it was a fun day in the office. Our afternoon was spent in meetings, but not just any meetings, these were meetings about future developments at the airport. Any time you get to spend time looking into the future and seeing progress made towards new developments and new infrastructure it is truly a motivational experience!

Tuesday was an early morning, getting on the road by 7:30am to head up to the Massachusetts Statehouse (kind of funny they call it a statehouse since Massachusetts is a Commonwealth as opposed to a state, but that’s another story…). On this day I was representing the New Bedford Regional Airport at the Massachusetts Airport Management Association (MAMA) “On The Hill Day” event. I’m proud to report that we received a great deal of feedback that the table for EWB was by far the best airport table! We got to speak to a number of legislative staff members, representatives and other like-minded aviation professionals.

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The new Secretary of Transportation for Massachusetts, Stephanie Pollack stopped by to make some comments about the importance of investing in aviation, which was great to hear. Todd Freidenburg, the Executive Manager for the New England Regional also made some comments and came by to mention to me that he flew into EWB on a recent flight lesson (he is an ATC guy by trade and earning a pilot’s license as a hobby) and he thought the airport was in great shape and said he had a wonderful experience!

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The waterfall equipped indoor fish pond in the lobby at the Natural Heritage facility, complete with 4 different species of trout!

Following the “On The Hill Day” festivities it was off to a meeting with Natural Heritage to discuss future development at EWB and the impact of protect species on our development ideas. The meeting was positive and showed great cooperation between groups with different interested, but sharing a common desire to work together!

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No rest for the weary as Wednesday afternoon I was off to Retricx Aviation’s facility at Hanscom Field for the 2nd annual Aviation Day by the Massachusetts Business Aviation Association. This was a wonderful event, definitely highlighting the positives of aviation! With a variety of exhibitors and a great variety of aircraft on display it was a great event. From valet parking to being able to try out the executive seats on a wide range of corporate jets, it was a fun night! Of course, I made a point to check out the lavatory on each aircraft, I mean if you’re going to spend millions on a corporate jet you should at least get a nice place to go to the restroom…

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The highlight of the night for me had nothing to do with aviation though. As my good friend from college, Craig Mutz who has been a Retricx employee for some time now was giving me a tour of the facility we ran into quite the character on the spiral staircase in the FBO. When the one-and-only Bobby Orr, stopped my friend to discuss an upcoming trip to Canada, I was “slack jaw” at who I was in the presence of… Shortly after starting his explanation of the Canada trip he stopped himself, looked at me, promptly apologized for ignoring me and introduced himself as “Bobby”. All I could do was shake his hand and say, “It’s an honor, sir.” Bobby then continued his conversation with my friend while I watched in awe as I was in the presence of true greatness. Later in the night Bobby was nice enough to autograph a copy of his book for me. On the ride home that night I had to call my parents to explain that I had just met the greatest hockey player ever, someone who my father and his brothers grew up watching as kids!

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Back to the event… It was a great experience to check out so many great aircraft: Embreaer Legacy, Global Express 6000, Gulfstream G550, Falcon 7X, Citation X+, King Air 350 and a Cessna Grand Caravan EX. The exhibitors included charter providers like Shoreline Aviation, fixed base operators, corporate flight departments and much, much more… I had the opportunity to promote New Bedford Regional Airport in the business aviation community and got to meet a lot of great people in the industry, and saw a few faces I had not seen for a few years.

Thursday was set to be a regular day and it was… After lunch, I was so engrossed in my work that when I looked up and noticed it about almost 7pm I was shocked it got so late, so quick. After concluding what I was working on at that point, I packed up for the night and headed out. When I got to my pickup truck I noticed the sun setting behind the Cape Air aircraft on the ramp. So I grabbed my camera from the back seat of my truck an headed out onto the ramp to get some pictures.

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It was a bit of a surprised when my phone rang as I was walking around the ramp. It was Kevin, one of the controllers up in the tower. He said he wanted to let me know there was a Gulfstream on a 4-mile final since I was out there with my camera. I quickly got back to my electric golf cart and drove a little closer for a good picture… It was well worth being at the airport past 745pm to watch the Gulfstream 500 land and make a quick turn back out…

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On Friday the excitement kept on coming… This time with an international flair! A little of the back story…

Last year, my final flight as a CFI at KING Aviation-Mansfield was a rental checkout for a great guy, John who was visiting with friends from the United Kingdom. He was a member of the Bristol Aero Club. While I was packing up at KING, I got to know the other members of the group… Paul, Philip and Deb. All great people and with social media, I have been able to keep in touch with them. From time to time I see a large group of views from the UK and I’m sure it is a result of my friends with the Bristol Aero Club.

Philip actually used Mitch’s restaurant reviews here on ReviewBeforeFlight to help prepare their itinerary for this year’s visit. Each year members of the club spend a week on vacation here in the United States. They find a flight school somewhere in the country, get checked out and utilize their UK pilot privileges to explore the area. During their first visit the British pilots are required to visit an FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) to complete some paperwork, but from what I’m told it is very easy!

The group enjoyed their experience renting from KING Aviation-Mansfield last year so much that they elected to do the same again this year. In the past they have visited various locations across the country, but when you find a gem, you stick with it! I, of course, invited the group this year to fly down to New Bedford to visit. I offered free hats, EWB stickers and a tower tour to help persuade them.

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The group had been flying the paint off the two Cessna 172’s they rented. They flew as far south at Atlantic City, New Jersey and as far north as Bar Harbor Maine. Along the way the group flew the “Hudson Corridor” (more accurately the Hudson Exclusion Area) visited numerous small airfields including some featured here on ReviewBeforeFlight including Dutchess County and Sky Acres.

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Early Friday morning, I sent Philip a quick message on Facebook and a quick reply followed that the group would stop by EWB first thing on their adventure for the day. Around 10am I heard a familiar voice, British accent and all. Following a ‘squeaker’ of a landing, I walked out to greet the British pilots. The second airplane followed a few minutes later with a couple more of my British pilot friends.

After reconnecting with Philip and Deb and meeting David and David, I invited the Brits for a short tour. Philip got a kick out of the rocking chairs in the terminal and everyone was very impressed to learn that the first twin-engine helicopter flew at New Bedford in the 1950’s. Then it was up to the control tower cab, where Kaleb was nice enough to give the group a tower tour and introduce them to airspace and flying from the controller side of things in America. The consensus from the conversations was that it is much easier to fly visually in the US than the UK. The group really enjoyed their time in the tower cab.

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After descending from the tower, I presented each of the pilots with a New Bedford Regional Airport baseball cap to wear proudly back home as well as a bunch of EWB stickers! Following some pictures in front of the terminal, Erick (EWB Airport Manager) and I wished our British friends safe travels and watched them taxi out to begin another adventure. After leaving EWB the crew visited Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island!

I had to get a picture with the Brits, all sporting their new New Bedford Regional Airport hats!

I had to get a picture with the Brits before they took off… They were all sporting their new New Bedford Regional Airport hats!

After the group left, I said to Erick, “You know that was really cool, it’s amazing how aviation brings us together with other people from around the world like that.” Regular readers of ReviewBeforeFlight will remember my recent post about how an airplane links my old high school friend, Ryan and I across the country. Similarly, flying connects me to the great, adventurous members of the Bristol Aero Club.

Erick agreed and noted that he thought it was very cool. Then it was off to our regularly scheduled business of the day… Before the Brits arrived the field was very quite but as they were leaving things really picked up and with jets doing approaches, flight training aircraft beating up the pattern and a variety of other transient traffic EWB was hopping for the rest of the day!

Saturday, keeping with the theme of the week, was another great aviation day! Early in the week the weather didn’t look great but as it turned out, the weather was perfect for the planned EAA Young Eagles event at EWB. I was pleasantly surprised at how cool it was when I opened my deck door on Saturday morning… I opted for jeans as opposed to shorts, which people who know me well will find surprising, but it was the perfect temperature. There were some high-dark clouds, but it was shaping up to be a great day for “intro” flights.

A passing sun shower sprinkled down as I pulled into the airport parking lot just before 8am, but it passed very quickly. It had been quite a while since the last Young Eagles rally at EWB, so no one really had a good handle on how many first-time flyers we’d see, but I was cautiously optimistic… The general conscious was it’d be a good day if we got 75 and great if we saw 100.

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When the doors opened at 9am, there was literally a line out the door! It was incredible. We had 8 aircraft, which is a great illustration of the generosity of local pilots! The real “thanks” goes to all of the volunteers, and specifically the pilots. These great people donated their time and their aircraft, which is not a cheap proposition! The other great part of this was the showing of complete cooperation within the airport community as many of the based businesses and groups were represented.

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I had the great opportunity to serve as ground crew, escorting children and parents to and from the aircraft. Getting to see the tempered enthusiasm and nervousness before the flights, contrasted by the sheer excitement and passion after the flights!

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I also got to spend some time with Josh Souza, a photographer/videographer from New Bedford Guide (if you want to know what’s happening in New Bedford, they are your one-stop source of information). In an effort to get some good footage I took him out on the airfield to get footage of the aircraft arriving and departing from a couple of vantage points not accessible to the general public.

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As the day went on the number of children that got to experience flight climbed steadily and consistently outpaced expectations. By the end of the event we reached about 130 kids that got to go flying, for free, thanks to our great volunteer pilots! I got into flying because as a very young kid when my father would take me to local airports to watch airplanes takeoff and land and that always stuck with me. Hopefully a few of the kids that got to fly because of the Young Eagles event at EWB will go on to be pilots in the future too!

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My original plans for the weekend were to head out to Westover Air Revere Base for the weekend to visit the Great New England Air Show, but I figured that spending International Learn to Fly Day at EWB to support the Young Eagles and then going to the air show on Sunday would be the best of both worlds, and make for an action-packed weekend! After the Young Eagles rally wrapped up, I headed home, packed up and then hit the road for the drive out to western Massachusetts. A good friend of mine, who I used to work with at Mansfield (1B9), Austin Harding, is a C-5 Galaxy mechanic on the base, so I coorindinated with him to arrange  a little “behind the scenes” look at the operation!

With a forecast for sunny and 88 degrees I knew it would be a hot one at the air show this year… On the way to the Starbuck in the morning (where I typed most of the Young Eagles portion of this post) I stopped to grab some bottles of water, snacks and a bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen! The gates for the show opened at 8:30am so my plan was to be at Starbucks and watch the traffic on the main road, once it started to pick up, I packed up and started to head over to get a good parking spot…

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One thing I will say is that Westover Air Reserve Base did a great job putting the message out there that you’d experience traffic, a lot of traffic coming to/from the show… We’re they right! By the time I parked and got through security, it was after 11am, so of course I waited in line some more for water and a cheeseburger. Always good to get those things out of the way early! Staying hydrated was definitely a necessity as the temperature rose north of 90 as the day rolled on…

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In short, the 2015 Great New England Air Show was by far the best air show I have ever attended, EVER! The static displays included a wide variety of aircraft types: F-15, F-16, C-130, KC-135, B-1, B-52, C-17 and of course some C-5’s, including two based at KCEF (Westover Air Reserve Base). For the UAV fans there was also a Reaper on display! Of course there were a great deal of other aircraft on display, in addition to a variety of vendors. With a flight line about a mile long, the viewing opportunities were numerous.

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The flying routines included all of the fan favorites Sean Tucker (my favorite, ever since he landed at 1B9 many years ago and we drank Tab sodas together on the ramp), Rob Holland (who I also got to meet at 1B9), the Geico Skytypers and the US Army Golden Knights parachute team. Plus a C-5 demo, a CF-18 demo, an incredible F-22 demo (including the Heritage Flight alongside a P-51 Mustang), the Canadian Snowbirds and of course, the Blue Angels!

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This was the first time I got to see an F-22 in action and, “wow!” What a capable aircraft, truly incredible! The Snowbirds also put on a fantastic routine, they really stole the show. Plus their production value with commentary and music was spot-on! The Blue Angels served as the grand finale and as you’d expect, they performed their ever-evolving routine was unmatched accuracy!

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For the past week and a half, it’s really been an all-aviation, all-the-time experience and I wouldn’t want it any other way! Like I said at the outset of this post, working in aviation isn’t always like this, but every now and then you get to experience some incredible things!

-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9

 

 

 

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