Category Archives: DFW Area Aviation

Apollo 13 recounts NASA’s “successful failure”

“Fred, no more jokes,” were Captain’s James Lovell’s first words to his Lunar Module Pilot, Fred Haise, after hearing an explosion while aboard Apollo 13.

For the weeks leading up to the flight, Haise had been firing a repress valve to get a scare out of Captain Lovell and Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert. Firing the valve during training created a loud bang sound and always got a laugh from Haise.

“Suddenly on the flight, I hear the same thing,” Captain Lovell said. “When I looked up, [Fred’s] eyes were real wide, and I could tell from his expression that he had no idea what was going on.”

The Apollo 13 craft launched on April 11, 1970 on its journey to the Moon, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days after takeoff.

Nearly 50 years later, Captain Lovell and Haise recounted the mission that has since been classified as a “successful failure” at the Frontiers of Flight Museum’s Exploration Space 2017 Gala, where both astronauts were presented the George E. Haddaway Award.

Presented each year by the Frontiers of Flight Museum, the award honors individuals who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the realm of flight and can include pilots, aircrew members, corporate or political leaders, engineers, educators, or writers.

“I’m glad that Fred and I received this together, because Apollo 13 was a team effort, not any individual but a team effort to make sure we got that spacecraft back in one piece,” Lovell said.

Haddaway was involved in the north Texas aviation scene in the 1930s through the mid-70s as a pilot and aviation journalist, publishing the aviation magazine “Southwest Aviation”.

Past winners of the award include General James “Jimmy” Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and Wiley Post.

Mark Davis, host of 660AM’s The Answer, moderated a discussion between Lovell and Haise following the awards ceremony, where both astronauts spoke about their experience on the mission.


Ken Mattingly was originally intended to be the Command Module Pilot on the flight, but only three days before launch at the insistence of the flight surgeon, John “Jack” Swigert was moved to the main crew.

“Jack helped develop some of the malfunction procedures for the command module,” Lovell said. “If we wanted someone else on board, he was the guy to have.”

Several days into their mission, however, Jack recorded the first incident on Apollo 13.

“Jack suddenly looked at us and said, ‘You know, I didn’t file my income taxes. I’m in deep trouble,’” Lovell said. “He told mission control and finally they called back and said, ‘Well we talked to the President and he said since you’re out of the country, we’ll give you a pass.’”

Not long afterwards, the crew heard a loud bang.

“It kind of echoed, because we were sitting in metal hulls,” Haise said. “It sounded like somebody hitting a sledgehammer on the side of a big tin can you’re in.”

That explosion crippled the Service Module and led to uncharted territory for NASA, which for the first few minutes after the explosion was not certain what was happening.

“The first thing that mission control thought about was all this could not happen at one time, because we build things with redundancy,” Lovell said. “The original thought was it’s gotta be a communications problem. The information coming down from the spacecraft was really caused by a solar flare. Of course in the spacecraft, we knew what was going on. It took a little while for the ground to finally realize this is not just a communications problem, it’s a real one.”

The crew then had to rely on the lunar module, a device meant only to operate for two days. The crew, however, was at least four days away from getting back to earth. Captain Lovell asked Haise to do a consumable check, a checklist of everything they had remaining on the ship.

“I felt we were really in good shape excepting I forgot about the lithium cartridges,” Haise said. “They are the things that cleanse the air of carbon dioxide, which builds up as you’re breathing out. In a submarine, you have to figure out a way to scrub it. I didn’t think about it but we didn’t have enough of those cartridges.”

NASA engineers on the ground had to quickly solve the problem and relay instructions.

“They actually tested that with human subjects in a chamber before it got shipped up to us,” Haise said.


Upon reentry into earth’s atmosphere, the crew was concerned their heat shield was damaged. If the heat shield didn’t function properly, the hull would burn up.

“There was nothing we could do if the heat shield was damaged,” Lovell said. “All of the other questions we’d gone over one by one, but the damaged heat shield, there was nothing that we could do. We just prepared to come in.”

For roughly three minutes entering the atmosphere, a ball of fire surrounded the hull and kept a signal from going out from the capsule and Houston’s signal from coming in.

“Jack and Fred and I looked at each other and said ‘Don’t call [Houston] because this might make a good movie,’” Lovell said.

The craft was recovered by the USS Iwo Jima six days after launch. Lovell says that although the flight was a failure, it could not have happened at a better time. 

“If you recall from Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, success looked so easy,” Lovell said. “The news was getting to be stale. The launch of Apollo 13 was registered on the weather page of the New York Times, because people weren’t interested anymore. Then suddenly, there was a resurgence of interest in space flight.”


In recent decades the trend among space exploration has turned toward international cooperation. The International Space Station (ISS) launched its first component into orbit in 1998. The station is a joint project among five space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (European Space Agency), and CSA (Canada). Ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The American portion of the ISS is funded until 2024.

“It’s worked out pretty good from a management standpoint,” Haise said. “I hope people will now get more of a picture of not the U.S. Space Program but the Earth Space Program, to have that unity and that funding support from a multitude of countries, to really make it happen. Right now without a drastic change in what this country’s willing to fund, it’s not going to get there very fast.”

NASA was established in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the percentage of the federal budget allocated toward NASA has been steadily falling since the 1966 Apollo program, when the U.S. saw the federal budget briefly fund the program at 4.41 percent. Now the number sits at just under 0.5 percent.

“NASA’s hopefully going to get back into the exploration business and continue to build things that can move us further out,” Haise said. “Right now underway they have a capsule, a little bit bigger than the Apollo capsule that can carry a few more people, and they’re building a big booster. They can go out to the moon, but they really don’t have all of the ingredients to land on the moon or certainly not to go to Mars at this point.”

“It takes a lot of money, and it actually has to be a national policy and a national priority to do something like Buzz preaches to go to Mars or if you went back to the moon even and set up a base,” Lovell said, who believes we have barely scratched the surface of the moon.

“We should direct our technology for going back up to the moon, learning more about it and developing the infrastructure to be very comfortable about doing regular flights back and forth without really having the risks we fought when we did it on Apollo. We then take that and build it up to eventually go to Mars.

“We know more about Mars today than Neil Armstrong knew about the moon when he landed on it,” he said. “Mars is there, and someday, somebody is going to go there. It’s like the highest mountain to climb, somebody is going to do it, and it might as well be the United States.”

Lockheed Martin presents check to Veterans Fund

With an F-35 as the backdrop, Lockheed Martin presented the United Way of Tarrant County’s Veterans Fund with a $315,000 donation as part of the Lockheed Martin’s Armed Forces Bowl.

Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Vice President and General Manager, awarded the check and shared his enthusiasm about organizations working together to help veterans.

“Lockheed’s saying is we never forget who we’re working for; that’s really about the veterans, the men and women who use the equipment we produce to help keep us safe around the world,” Babione said. “United Way has a very similar focus, particularly this veteran’s fund.”

The United Way of Tarrant County established a veterans fund in 2013 through a grant from Lockheed Martin and support by additional community members. Lockheed Martin has donated to the fund since its inception. This is the first year the public is able to contribute to the campaign.

TD Smyers, United Way of Tarrant County Executive Vice President, accepted the check.

“The whole point is the community taking care of the community,” Smyers said. “We want people to know about it. We want to take Lockheed’s lead and bring more people on board. They’ve reached out to other companies to encourage them to join in and be a part of this.”

The funds will go toward providing community-based services needed by military members transitioning back into civilian life in Tarrant County, including coaching veterans back into the workplace, providing family counseling, PTS counseling, and treatment for traumatic brain injury.

“We take agencies we work with that have veteran programs specifically,” Smyers said. “It runs the gambit of the needs of not only the veteran, but the veteran’s family, or the veteran’s caregivers.”

Smyers, a 30-year veteran himself, talked about the difficulties many face transitioning back into civilian life.

“Veterans have come from a really austere working environment, sometimes under fire and under combat conditions,” Smyers said. “They’re returning to a much more peaceful existence.

“We’ve actually hired a military services rep who’s available to them. They call 211 and ask for the military rep. It’s [the military rep’s] role to help them navigate the waters and find exactly what they need.”

The event took place on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at Fort Worth’s General Worth Square as a crowd of visitors, including a number of veterans and Lockheed employees, waited in line to take their photos inside the plane’s cockpit.

Jeff Bailey, a firefighter who does training with the aircraft, was happy to finally show his daughters what he has been working on.

“My family gets to finally see what we make out of Lockheed and what I help protect,” Bailey said. “They’re finally getting to understand more why I’m gone 24 hours at a time.”

During the check celebration, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price thanked both United Way and Lockheed Martin for their contributions to the community.

“Currently, we have 10,000 plus employees at Lockheed Martin helping deliver the best product to our men and women who serve and keep us free,” Price said. “When you hear those planes overhead, they’re coming from Lockheed Martin. It’s the sound of freedom, is what we like to say in Fort Worth.”

iFLY hosts “All Abilities Night” for disabled athletes and veterans

Athletes, military personnel and civilians took to the skies at All Abilities Night held at iFLY Fort Worth on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

iFLY, an indoor skydiving facility, hosted athletes from The Adaptive Training Foundation (ATF), a Dallas-based organization that helps patients with severe injuries train to become athletes and to become active again. Over a dozen military veterans and civilians with amputations and other disabilities suited up, stepped into a giant wind tunnel, and with the help of the iFLY instructors, soared into the air.

iFLY Fort Worth opened its doors on Oct. 7. General manager Jeremy Little said the company wanted to show these athletes that anyone can fly, regardless of disability.

“We were able to offer them an opportunity to come out and learn that the sky is everybody’s world,” Little said. “There are truly no limits to anybody. We can fly everybody from ages 3 to 103.”

Little added that Fort Worth was also the first stop on ATF’s “Texas Tour.” ATF took athletes to iFLY locations in Austin and San Antonio over the next few days.

Trevor Gibbs is the operations manager of iFLY in Loudoun, Virginia and was one of the instructors for the evening. He said All Abilities Night serves two purposes: to train the iFLY staff on how to help flyers with disabilities, and to show those flyers that they do not have to be limited by their disabilities.

“It’s an amazing night to showcase what it is that we do, inviting literally anyone in and showing them that you may feel grounded in your wheelchair, but when you’re up and flying, you’re the same as everybody else,” Gibbs said.

iFLY also welcomed Alistair Hodgson as their special guest for the evening. Hodgson lost both his legs while serving as a British paratrooper, and he took up skydiving with iFLY as part of his recovery. He and his wife Pixie went on to competitive skydiving and became seven-time British Freestyle Champions, as well as silver and bronze medal recipients in the 2010 and 2012 world championships, respectively. Hodgson said he was thrilled at the opportunity to fly with the athletes of ATF and to fly people who have overcome the same challenges he has.

“As disabled or handicapped people, I think sometimes people try to look out for us a little too much,” Hodgson said. “We have to use our imaginations and try new things and discover our limits, discover our own boundaries rather than those boundaries that other people set for us.”

The Adaptive Training Foundation works with its patients to develop a personalized 9-week plan to reach their athletic goals. The goals can vary from running in a marathon to learning how to walk straight again. Melissa McKay, operations manager for ATF, said this was the first time ATF has been involved with All Abilities Night, and added that the night served as an “equalizer” for the athletes, especially those who are wheelchair-bound.

“A lot of what we do at ATF is to push these individuals, our athletes, past the boundaries they think they can go or have been told that they can go,” McKay said. “Skydiving just falls right into that.”

Saramae Hollandsworth, an athlete with ATF, lost both of her legs from the knees down as a result of a severe infection that put her in a coma for two weeks. She said the experience was very freeing and really pushed her as an athlete.

“I’ve always, before losing my legs and since, been afraid of jumping out of an airplane. I didn’t think that was something I would ever aspire to,” Hollandsworth said. “This was a safe version of it, or a less frightening version of it.” Hollandsworth hopes to one day run in the Paralympics.

Jeremy Little said iFLY replicates the feeling of free falling, and even if you physically cannot jump from a plane or are too sacred to try, anyone can fly in the wind tunnels.

“If you’ve ever had the fear of jumping out of a plane, you don’t have to worry about it anymore,” Little said. “You can come to iFLY, we’ll gradually work you into the tunnel, and you can go through the simulated feel of free falling.”

Lakota warrior Eagle Elk honored in iconic image

For decades, descendants of the fierce Lakota warrior Eagle Elk shared stories of his bravery in battles and prowess in hunting. Yet family members worried Eagle Elk’s legacy would someday be forgotten. No longer.

An image of the iconic Lakota warrior is now portrayed in “The Spirit of the Lakota,” a painting commissioned by Airbus Helicopters Inc. to capture the spirit of the UH-72A Lakota helicopter and the heritageof the Native American tribe for which it is named.

“We are so proud of Eagle Elk,” said Robert Eagle Elk, the warrior’s grandson, at the recent unveiling of the artwork at Airbus Helicopters Inc.’s headquarters in Grand Prairie. “We always told ourselves his time would come, and now it has. I believe he is with us in spirit.”

Created by Dallas artist David Gail Smith, the piece features a towering image of the Lakota warrior Eagle Elk, as well as the rugged and versatile Lakota military helicopter in flight. The painting portrays Eagle Elk as being part of the open sky and mountains, watching over Earth.

This process began in March 2016, when AHI began a search for an artist to create a piece honoring both the UH-72ALakota helicopter, which the company produces for the U.S. Army, and the Lakota people. Company leaders found Smith, a retired Army and Coast Guard helicopter pilot who is now studying art at Southern Methodist University.

Intrigued by the subject, Smith said the assignment married his past as a helicopter pilot with his future as an artist, as well as a longtime interest in Native American culture.

To research the subject, Smith read numerous books about Sioux and Lakota tribes, reached out to Native American experts and spent a day in Grand Prairie viewing and snapping photos of Lakota helicopters. He used Gouache paint, an opaque watercolor, to create the piece.

“I have great respect for Native American culture and heritage, so it was important that anything I create be respectful,” Smith said. “This was an incredible opportunity to revisit my past as a helicopter pilot and tie it to my future as an artist. I was grateful for this opportunity.”

Leaders at Airbus Helicopters Inc. consulted with the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribal Council to ensure the painting was culturally accurate and respectful. Tribal council leaders referred the company to the family of Eagle Elk.

Family members were so pleased with Smith’s painting they drove from South Dakota to Texas to meet the artist and attend the recent unveiling. Attendees included Robert Eagle Elk and Charleen Eagle Elk, the warrior’s grandson and great-granddaughter, respectively.

Sebastien Delmaire, Vice President of Business and Strategy for Airbus Helicopters Inc., said the company set out to create a symbol that would capture the historic legacy of the people who inspired the name of the helicopter.

“We wanted to honor the legacy and memory of Eagle Elk and the Lakota tribe while celebrating the future of the Lakota helicopter,” Delmaire said. “This project has connected people, families, and nations to one another, and we are proud of our Lakota association.”

At the unveiling ceremony, descendants recited the oral story of Eagle Elk, who fought in the Fetterman Battle of 1866 and the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 and was a close ally of the famed Lakota leader Crazy Horse. Family members offered a Native American prayer, sang a song about Lakota life and presented Smith and AHI executives with tribal flags, sage, and other gifts.

Quoting a tribal leader, Charleen Eagle Elk, the warrior’s great granddaughter, said, “Behold this day, for it is yours to make.”

“You have made us very proud to be Lakota people,” she added. “We thank you.


SOURCE Airbus Helicopters Inc.

Guide dog puppies begin basic training in Texas

Amy Smith was both nervous and excited as she walked in front of a crowd of well wishers and veteran guide dogs to accept Tomei, an 8-week old yellow Labrador puppy, as part of the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) puppy delivery event at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday, Jan. 12.

Amy is one of six members of the Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers, the most recently established of GDB’s five puppy clubs in DFW. Members from all of the Dallas clubs and their guide dogs welcomed the new puppies, which were flown in from a GDB campus on the West Coast, to be raised for 15 to 17 months before being flown back for further training.

“We’re flying in puppies about every month, and we’re flying out dogs,” said Sandi Alsworth, a Community Field Representative for Texas. “We actually have two dogs leaving to go to formal training on the 21st. They’re both flying to our Oregon campus.”


Guide Dogs for the Blind serves blind or low vision individuals throughout the United States and Canada. The organization, now the second largest school in the world of its kind, has been raising dogs since 1942 and has two main campuses, one in San Rafael, Calif. and a second in Boring, Ore.

Alsworth, who has been volunteering with the program for 15 years, takes on a number of responsibilities for the non-profit including looking after the group leaders and trainers, evaluating the dogs three to four times a year, and being on call for any type of emergency.

“I’m making sure that [the puppies] are attaining levels we need them to attain while they’re here and making sure they’re viable animals for our program,” Alsworth said. “If they’re having difficulties or if they’re having challenges, I give them special protocols to work with.”

Preparations for the raisers began months before the puppies were flown in and included a combination of classes, events, and hands-on dog-sitting.

“We’ve had a lot of different meetings that we’ve gone to,” Smith said, a former zookeeper at the Dallas zoo. “We had a three hour class for Puppy 101 where we got to learn a lot of the basic care and training. Since our club is new, groups like the Fort Worth group and Dallas group lent us some of their dogs that were in training, so we could practice with them. We’ve also puppy sat for some other dogs that are currently in training. There are lots of different ways of getting experience.”

After the initial classes and application, a home study took place to make sure the puppy’s new home was a suitable environment. If someone is not in a position to raise a puppy, GDB accepts volunteers for a number of other roles.

“We have a lot of people that can’t raise a puppy on their own and they’ve become puppy sitters for us,” Alsworth said. “We train everybody from the get go. We have local leaders and the guide dogs have staff support who are evaluating the dogs and assisting in the training.”

GDB functions entirely through volunteers and donations. The program does not charge blind or visually impaired individuals for their newly trained dog upon completion of the formal program.

“I liked that there’s no charge for the person that [the dog goes] to work with,” Smith said. “For a lot of companies or different groups, it can be upwards of $4,500 to get a fully trained service dog, but Guide Dogs for the Blind does not charge at all.”

GDB has been breeding dogs for over 75 years. Dogs are evaluated primarily on temperament and confidence. GDB uses only Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and a mix of both breeds know as Golden Labradors.

“We’re trying to breed for a calm, relaxed temperament, but a dog that’s confident enough to do the work,” Alsworth said. “They are going to be managed by a blind person, so this is a dog that’s not resistant to people handling them or touching them or manipulating them.”

Golden Retrievers are generally trained differently than their Labrador counterparts.

“It’s been cool to watch how different Goldens and Labs are,” Sophie Herran, a Golden Retriever raiser said. “[Golden Retrievers] are much more of a challenge. They’re more distracted, more sensitive, but they’re also very socially aware.”


Becky Clark, a former professional dog trainer, is the leader of the Fort Worth group, a club that has eight dogs currently being trained.

Clark’s dog Sinead is on breeder watch, where she will be evaluated as a potential guide dog breeder. If chosen, she will move into a custodian home near one of the two main campuses. If not, she will be spayed and placed into formal training college, the period after the initial 15 to 17 months of basic training. Formal training generally lasts 12 to 16 weeks. Dogs that do not make it through this final stage are sent into another service such as working as medical alert dogs. Raisers generally receive another puppy only weeks after their last dog is sent into formal training.

“The hardest part is giving him back,” Clark said. “A piece of your heart goes with him. But then when they become a guide or a medical alert dog or whatever it is that they’ll be, it makes your heart swell even more because you’re so proud of them.”

Wing walking, wedding highlight stunt team’s exciting schedule

Many newlyweds hop a plane just after tying the knot, jet down to some exotic destination and spend their honeymoon lying on a golden beach for several days before returning to the daily grind and beginning their lives together.

For Ashley Key and Greg Shelton, who married in September, the honeymoon was but a brief pause before Key returned to hopping onto Shelton’s plane to perform the aerobatic stunt of wing walking. It has been a side gig they have done together for the last two years, and something Shelton, who has performed in air shows since 1990, has flawlessly executed with Key and his previous wing walkers over the past 13 years.

The newly-married stunt team displayed their skills while flying over the Bell Helicopter Alliance Airshow in Fort Worth, October 15-16. However, a walk on the wing of a flying plane is not something Key would have imagined herself doing in a million years when she first met Shelton nearly five years ago. She possessed a love for planes since flying model airplanes with her father in her youth, but being the star of an aerobatics act was the furthest thing from her mind.

“I was not interested back then, no way,” recalled Key, who plans to use her maiden name for shows before changing it after another performance season. “I never really woke up and said, ‘You know, I really want to be a wing walker.’ It just sort of happened, just by nature of my relationship with Greg. But I never thought I wanted to do it.

“He said he needed to find a new one and I said, ‘Well, I could try it and see if I can do it.’ At that time we had been dating for a couple of years. I thought I could try it, and it would just give me the opportunity to share that part of his life with him. We did ground school on the ground. He showed me kind of everything to do, and then we went up and practiced it. That’s kind of how I got started.”

Now, walking the wing is like a walk in the park for Key. Harnessed in on Shelton’s 450 Super Stearman biplane, Key waves to audiences below as Shelton weaves and maneuvers, whether she’s standing upright on the wing or dangling upside down while the plane is inverted.

So what has allowed a person who had no desire to be a part of air show stunts to become so proficient in the art of wing walking?

“Well … me,” Shelton said with a laugh. “No, just practice. That’s all it takes.

“Most anybody can get up and do it if it’s something they want to do. It just takes a little practice with their handwork and footwork. If you have the mindset to do it, then you can do it. When I met her, I had a wing walker, and I knew she wouldn’t do that back then. In fact I think she told me several times, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ But I think she realized I was having too much fun without her.”

It took about four practice sessions of flying on the wing before Key was comfortable, and the duo was good enough to perform at a show. With time and multiple trips to air shows, Key continued to improve and things became second-nature.

The flying team from the Tulsa, Okla., area performs in approximately 15 to 20 shows a year, traveling across the country and to other parts of the world as well. But despite the many hours Key has logged on the wing of Shelton’s plane, she continues to feel that twinge of nerves and realizes the importance of safety and caution while performing.

“I never get rid of the fear factor, because if you ever get rid of that part of it, you can get complacent. I think that that’s when an accident might happen,” she said. “I do [the performance] the same every time. I know what I’m doing. I’m confident in what I’m doing. So really I’m not scared, per say, but I always have the fear of it. It’s a very serious business, but it’s a lot of fun.

“For the most part, I just think of it as a blessing that I’m able to do it, especially for my husband. He’s the only one I would trust to [wing walk for].”

Shelton, who also performs solo stunts in his FM-2 Wildcat, had another wing walker, named Ashley, who performed with him for 10 years before retiring from aerobatics to start a family. (Key jokes you have to be named Ashley to wing walk for Shelton). The long-time stunt pilot said he and Key’s new relationship as husband and wife brings a whole new dynamic to their professional career, joking that now he can get even with her with unexpected maneuvers if she upsets him.

Touring the U.S. and going to other countries such as the Dominican Republic and El Salvador is one aspect of stunt flying that Shelton enjoys.

“It’s always an adventure, it’s always something new,” he said. “I’m always going to different places. When you go to the third world countries, they’re a lot more enthusiastic about any of the aerobatic air show acts. They just haven’t seen it. Just seeing an airplane up close is not an everyday thing for them.

“When we’re down in the Dominican Republic, I think we’ve had almost 2 million people at [one] show watching. The city’s kind of on the side of a mountain, and they just park their cars in the middle of the street or the highway and leave them sitting. It becomes a massive traffic jam because nobody’s in their car. It’s just a whole different world, really. They warn us not to let them know in public who we are, because you might get mobbed and may get injured just from the [enthusiasm of the] crowd.”

Key, whose full-time job is as airfield inspections manager at Tulsa International Airport, is also amazed at some of the reactions she’s received from people who have watched the wing walking routine. Interacting with those who attended the Alliance Airshow, the feedback was once again positive.

“At an air show this size was really interesting, because I had Greg drop me off the airplane right at the show center,” she said. “The crowds were just chomping at the bit to try to come and talk to me, especially little kids. I think that’s just awesome. The guy that did the music today said it was an incredible reaction from the crowd during the wing walking.

“The little kids and little girls especially, they look up to the wing walker. It’s almost like you could put on a superhero costume or something. They think, ‘Wow, a girl can do something like this.’ And not just a girl, but people in general. They’re really amazed at that. [When their parents] like our Facebook page, they’ll send me messages about their kids. ‘My daughter has your picture hanging in her room and she wants to be a wing walker.’ That’s really what counts.”

Thunderbirds thrill Alliance crowd

Headlining the Bell Helicopter Alliance Airshow, the Thunderbirds put on another spectacular show to the delight of the many spectators who stayed until the end of the day to watch their performance.

From their signature ‘Diamond’ flight formation, bomb burst maneuver, roll maneuvers, and inverted head-on fly-bys, the Air Force demonstration squadron flew their F-16s with precision and skill as fans cheered them on below.

“It’s amazing,” Major Alexander Goldfein, who flies the No. 3 jet for the Thunderbirds, said of the opportunity to perform at air shows. “Things like this right here, getting to see people’s reactions and the excitement, having people see what we can do, then making those personal connections as well is a lot of fun.”

Goldfein, who has flown with the Thunderbirds for two years and served 11 years of active duty flying, is near the end of his tour with the squadron. He said he knows what advice he will give to his replacement that he will be training in the near future.

“Just enjoy the ride,” he said. “It’s a neat opportunity to get to show people the military and aviation. I’m a big aviation enthusiast, and every part of this job has been a lot of fun. Definitely savor it and enjoy it, and make a difference in some people’s lives.”

Staff Sergeant Leonel Alvares is a tactical aircraft maintainer for the squadron, serving as part of the team for over a year and has logged eight years of active duty in the Air Force. Seeing the performances come together as a result of preparation is a thrill, he said.

“I can see all my hard work, as we’re flying out there, then the focus is making sure we put on a good show for the public,” Alvares said. “It’s an amazing feeling.

“I was fortunate enough to have a very good mentor early on in my career. It took about seven years to join the team, but it was always a goal of mine. I’m happy I was able to accomplish that.”


DFW Airport improves the flying experience with Aveda, Jo Malone London and MAC Cosmetics stores

The more than 60 million passengers who pass through DFW International Airport annually expect more from their travel experience than passengers of yesteryear. Today’s flyers know their travel experience begins when they step through the airport doors, and they want to the first moments of their travel to be just as fabulous as their trip itself.

In the DFW Airport’s latest effort to give the traveling public what they desire, the Airport partnered with Aveda, Jo Malone London and MAC Cosmetics to bring luxury beauty options to customers traveling through International Terminal D. The three stores, all of which are part of the Estée Lauder Companies, Inc. brand portfolio, celebrated grand openings with ribbon cuttings and free service offerings on June 24.

“This is just another step in the evolution of Terminal D, our international terminal, which is well on its way to becoming a premier retail and dining destination for our customers,” said Ken Buchanan, executive vice president of revenue management at DFW Airport. “With the addition of these globally recognized luxury beauty brands, DFW Airport is enhancing the customer experience and appealing to a global audience.”

Aveda, Jo Malone and MAC each have two locations at D18 and D25, respectively.

“We find DFW airport to be very progressive and ahead of the curve in passenger service,” said Bernard Klepach, CEO of DFASS. “This is the first time Estée Lauder group of companies has opened six stores at one time in any one airport. It is really a tribute to DFW airport and their vision to customer service.

“It is always astonishing how they want to up the benchmark and always have the wow factor at DFW Airport. I want to thank Olivier Bottrie. This is the first time that Olivier has actually come to a store opening [in America]. And it’s the first time that Estée Lauder group of companies has opened six stores in an airport. I am very proud and honored that they did this with us.

“Estée Lauder is a brand that is aspirational for all sorts of demographics. It is very progressive as a brand, and it is a brand that people always gravitate to,” he said.

DFW Airport has added a number of retail and dining options to International Terminal D, including Coach, Hugo Boss, L’Occitane, Montblanc, TUMI, Sky Canyon by Stephan Pyles, III Forks Prime Steakhouse and Dylan’s Candy Bar.

“These prestige beauty brands, known world-wide will now be presented in DFW as individual boutiques,” said Olivier Bottrie, president of Travel Retail Worldwide, Estée Lauder Companies. “All stores are built with unique customized design features, and our multi-lingual expert beauty advisors and makeup artists will provide personalized consultation to customers seeking product guidance or assistance in selecting the perfect gift. Visitors to these stores will be able to experience the most recent product introduction from these brands and range of services designed specifically for the traveling consumer.

“What is important for us is the services. Consumers today have other options to buy. As a prestige company, we share with consumers advice. The people that you see working in the stores are well-trained professionals who will sell to you what you need after they have started to learn something about you to make sure that the product and the personal relationship are perfect. It is all about services,” he said.

With a portfolio of more than 30 brands, Estee Lauder Companies products are sold in more than 150 countries. Solely focused on prestige beauty, Estée Lauder Companies is widely diversified by brand, category, geography and channels of distribution. The Estée Lauder Travel Retail division operates in 285 airports worldwide, serving over 316 million departing airline passengers.

“DFW airport is truly the best of the best,” said Steve Flory, managing partner of Estée Lauder branded stores. “Having six new Estée Lauder branded stores is incredible. Stop and think about it. We have Estée Lauder, the number one prestige cosmetic company on the globe. We have DFW airport, the number one airport on the globe. We have American Airlines, the number one airline on the globe.

The introduction of six Estée Lauder branded stores in Terminal D truly brings DFW airport to a new level. It is on a global level now. We brought six because that is what was needed to properly represent the brand in Terminal D. We have a blend in Terminal D of international passengers and domestic passengers. These brands are global, so they appeal both to the domestic and international traveler.

DFW airport will now be a global leader in innovation and retail marketing that will enhance the customer experience beyond anything that you can find in the world,” he said.

Live music soothes the traveling soul at Dallas Love Field

Photo courtesy of Dallas Love Field Art Program

In a busy airport concourse, music normally drifts down from ceiling speakers and is lost in the noise of a busy public place. The Love Field Art Program brings music to the forefront, allowing it performers to entertain passengers, families and staff as the music refreshes souls.

Dallas Love Field Airport now features live music from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The airport’s visitors and staff are enjoying the Texas Singer/Songwriter Series made possible through a partnership with the Texas Music Project.

Actually, live music is popping up in a number of airports around the country. Austin and Nashville provide live music in their airports, which not too surprising. New Orleans, Seattle, and Portland do as well. What is interesting about Love Field is not only that it is new, but also how well they do it.

The live music program began when Mayor Mike Rawlings came through the concourse after arriving from Austin. He saw live music in the airport down there, and he asked why Love Field did not have it. From there, Mark Duebner, Director of Aviation for the city of Dallas, and Guy Bruggeman, Love Field’s Art and Program Coordinator, took on the challenge.

The Love Field Stage was completed in March of this year. It is a spacious elevated stage fully appointed with power, lighting, and a large video screen backdrop. Backstage, there’s a wide ramp to facilitate moving heavy equipment up to the stage level. There is secure storage, and of course, some comfortable privacy available for the musicians between sets. The whole live music hub is situated in the busiest part of the T-shaped concourse near a spacious food court.

All of that sets Dallas Love Field apart from every other airport offering live music. So far, no other airport has a performance stage that is as well thought out.

“This is great. Nashville has a pretty basic plywood stage with rounded corners,” said Will Yates between sets. Crystal Yates and her husband, Will, are already regulars on the Love Field Stage. Some airports like Seattle do not even have a stage. They merely have musicians playing somewhere on the concourse.

“At the start, we were worried that local musicians wouldn’t support our performance stage, but their response has been great,” Bruggeman said. “They’re performers, and they like the exposure. We get well over one million passengers a month, and a lot of those are here during the live music performances. The response on the concourse has been overwhelmingly positive.”

For more information and a current schedule of events at Love Field, visit .


Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price gets the ultimate “Top Gun” experience

Photo by Courtney Ouellette

Joining an elite group of people around the world who have flown in an F-16, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price took to the sky in a Lockheed Martin plane with test pilot Paul “Bear” Randall on Friday, May 13.

“We want to expose you to what goes on around here,” Randall said to Price. “I think the power of Lockheed Martin is the people that work here and the passion that goes in to each program.

“With the F-16, we’ve got 26 to 27 customers around the world, so the backbone of the free world’s air force right now is the F-16. As we continue to build this airplane and the F-35, those same partners are our partners now, and that’s going to continue,” he said. “It all happens right here in Fort Worth.”

In addition to flying with Randall, Price had the opportunity to see the behind the scenes work of the plant and meet some of the men and women who keep it running.

“We’re going to go down to the flight line,” Randall said to Price. “You’ll be able to see some of the maintenance and some of the supervisors and things who will prepare us and prepare the airplane. It’s just regular people who are really excited to do their jobs.”

Who is the man the City of Fort Worth trusts to take the Mayor on an adventure 15,000 feet in the air at 600 mph?

“I’m the chief test pilot for the F-16 and have been for about five years,” Randall said. “I’ve been here for 13 years. From there, I came from another defense contractor, and from there, I came from the Navy. I was a test pilot and a combat pilot flying the F-14 in the Navy. I entered the service out of college and wanted to be a pilot.”

After a visit with the flight surgeon to ensure the two were healthy enough to fly, Randall explained their flight plan.

“We’re going to do a real steep climb; we’re going to go straight up overhead to 15,000 feet. It’s a beautiful, fantastic day with dry air, so it’s going to be fantastic visibility. We’re going to be able to see everything,” Randall said.

“Then we’re going to go out into what we call working area where Possum Kingdom Lake is, and we’re going to use that as a center. From there, I’m going to show you a little bit about how to fly. We’re going to let you fly the airplane.”

When they are not busy executing skillful maneuvers, Randall planned to show the Mayor the Brazos River and dam and even the Mayor’s house.

“I’ll give you a demonstration of the performance capability,” Randall said. “What I want you to take away from today is: you’re never going to have been accelerated so fast, except perhaps when you go in a supersonic transport. You will never be faster than you have gone today: more than 600 miles an hour. And we’ll experience some Gs, as much as we’re comfortable with. If you want, maybe we’ll do a little weightlessness.

“This is really one of the most fun parts of what I get to do, outside of working with the great people around here. If we’re having fun, we’ll stay up there until we run out of gas.”

The opportunity to view the city from the F-16 took on even more significance for the Mayor as she reminisced about growing up near the plant, back then simply called the ‘bomber plant.’

“I grew up in Fort Worth,” Price said. “We used to get B-58s and ‘52s going over our heads, and people would stop talking. But that’s the sound of freedom, and that’s what we’re all about.

“It used to be the bomber plant when my parents came to Fort Worth in 1945 before I was born.”

In response to Randall’s hopes to show the Mayor what Lockheed Martin is all about, she explained the plant’s impact on the economy and her former visits.

“This plant employs about 13,000 people. So really it’s one of our largest employers and biggest economic drivers in the region,” Price said.

“I’ve been out here a lot but this is the first time I’ve looked at one of the planes, and it was quite an honor to see what you do, Paul, on a day-to-day basis, as well as the men and women who are right across the way at the Joint Reserve Base, who really do keep us safe.

“This is one of those very agile and maneuverable planes that you watch in the sky and you’re just amazed at what you can do and pull off in them,” Price said.

Joined by her close friends and family at the hangar and runway, Mayor Price, decked out in a flight suit, took off on a once in a lifetime adventure in the sky.

70 years of excellence: Meet the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels

Photo: Blue Angels fly in close formation. /Photo by John Starkey

Any aviation fan will admit there is nothing quite like the thunderous rumble of airplane engines and thrust that vibrates through your chest and leaves your ears roaring. The takeoff of a Boeing F/A-18 Hornet used by some of the Navy’s finest pilots, the Blue Angels, is a memorable experience. The Blue Angels have demonstrated the strength and skill of U.S. Naval aviation for the last 70 years.

Following WWII, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, ordered the establishment of the Blue Angels in order to keep Americans interested in naval aviation–and to compete with the Air Force for a shrinking defense budget.

On April 24, 1946, the Blue Angels were established, garnering its name from New York City’s Blue Angel nightclub. Just two short months later, the three airplane team performed its very first airshow at Craig Field in Jacksonville, Fla. flying Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats. Since then, more than 484 million fans have felt the rush of a Blue Angels fly by.

The Blue Angels squadron is made up of 16 volunteer officers, a mix of tactical jet pilots, support officers and Marine Corps C-130 pilots.

Just as the Hornets are numbered, so are the pilots, with the “Boss” taking the Number 1 position. The Chief of Naval Air Training selects the “Boss,” who becomes the Blue Angels Commanding Officer. To be eligible to become the CO, he or she must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight hours and previous command experience.

The rest of the pilots must be Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours. These pilots fly jets Number 2 through 7. Number 8, the Naval Flight Officer, is also known as the Weapons System Officer.

Affectionately known as “Fat Albert,” the team also includes a C-130T Hercules aircraft flown by a Marine Corp pilot who is aircraft commander qualified with a minimum 1,200 flight hours. “Fat Albert” joined the team in 1975 and acts as the show opener.

Officers typically serve in the Blue Angles for two years.

The Blue Angels have flown over 10 different aircraft since the team’s establishment. Today, the squadron flies the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet painted Navy blue and gold.

The approximately $21 million aircraft can reach speeds just under Mach 2, which is almost twice the speed of sound or about 1,400 mph. During shows however, pilots do not exceed 700 mph staying below the speed of sound.

The closest the soaring squadron flies near each other is in the diamond formation, leaving a mere 18 inches of space between them.

With an average weight of about 24,500 pounds, the F/A-18 can travel approximately 1,000 miles on a full load of fuel without external tanks.

The Hornet is used in defensive as well as attack missions. Some of its functions include uses as a fighter escort, fleet air defense, shows of force, prohibition and close and deep air support.

In 1999, a more advanced version of the F/A-18 called the Super Hornet was introduced. Though a decision has yet to be made about transitioning to the newer model, the Super Hornet’s advanced capabilities would provide an enhanced spectator experience.

The Blue Angels served as the main event for 2016 Airpower Expo hosted by the NAS Forth Wroth Joint Reserve Base April 23-24.

The aviation expo offered guests the chance to see high speed acrobatic performances including the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration, a Wings Over Vietnam Demonstration, MiG-17F Fighterjets, a Trojan Phlyers Demonstration and an F-16 Viper Demo with US Air Force Heritage Flight.

Guests were able to also explore the inside of historic aircraft such as a B-52, an F-35 Lightning II and multiple WWII aircraft.

SOURCE the United States Navy