Hey! Who's that guy in the black Ford Escape out there on the taxiway? Is he authorized? Is he talking to ground control?
As a matter of fact, he is!
This frame grab from the rear-facing camera on the Super D on Day 2 of Acro Camp shows the vehicle from which Director of Photography Will Hawkins was shooting takeoffs out rear window while I drove and talked to ground control on the radio and Jack Hodgson rode along as safety pilot in the right seat.
With an airport taxi diagram gaffer-taped to the dash and a paper trail months in the making, we were cleared to go hurtling down Taxiway Delta between the threshold of Runway 27R and Taxiway Juliet about 3,500 feet west doing up to 80 mph paralleling the Citabria and the Super D on takeoff.
If you ever though you felt out of place at a party or other occasion, try driving around on a taxiway in an SUV in the busy movement area of a Class D airport. It's like one of those walking-around-in-public in-your-underwear dreams, only it's not a dream and yet it's okay on this one special occasion.
I submitted a plan ahead of time to both the FAA and Oakland County months ahead of time. I had brand new batteries in my Sporty's handheld radio. I briefed the profile until I was sick of it. I even had the current ATIS when I checked in on the frequency at Victor Row. But that's what you do when you want to make some art out there in the movement area.
We only made two runs, but they were fun and we got some usable footage out of it. And it was a lot of fun using the callsign "Movie One" on an ATC frequency. After the first run, ground even cleared me to "back taxi on Delta" to the threshold to film the other aircraft.
"Back taxi." In my car. Yeah!
The only sticky bit was that the word about us hadn't quite gotten to the fire department on the field. The otherwise friendly guys who drive the big lime-green trucks saw us blazing down the taxiway and had a minor freakout. Understandable, of course. What would you think if you sawan SUV tooling around on the taxiway at high speed chasing airplanes?
If I could have convinced myself that they weren't armed, I might have entertained the notion of jumping out of the vehicle, pointing wildly at the sky, and yelling something about how my ex-wife had just made off with my airplane. But nah. I still hold out the possibility that I might need those guys at the fire station someday. And I want them to think kindly of me if I ever do.
Anyway, Pontiac ground assured them on the radio that we were authorized to be out there and we even pulled into the station afterward to have a meet-and-greet and explain what was going on without little enterprise. We even made some new friends after everybody's heart rates subsided a little.
Lots and lots of firsts doing this movie. I had a ball. And I'm getting to re-live it as I go through all of the footage. My only regret is that we weren't running a couple of cameras on Movie One . . .