From a young age, my eyes have looked skyward. I was fascinated by anything and everything that took part in the wonders of flight. From becoming the youngest member of the Yankee Air Museum as soon as I was born, to being a volunteer crew member on a Douglas A-26 Invader, my journey though aviation has just gotten off the ground.
It all started in Ypsilanti, Michigan in the mid 1940's. My grandfather was the plant electrician at Henry Ford's Willow Run B-24 bomber plant durring World War II. The inspiration of aviation was passed on to my father at a young age, building models in his basement growing up and researching what his father did after his passing. That passion drove him to join the USAF and become an EGRES tech on the F-16 at Luke AFB, from 1981-1984. The moments he experienced and the things he was able to do influenced his work after he got out of the air force.
A short time later in the late 90's back in Ypsilanti, my story started. In the delivery room, my dad was on the phone with the Yankee Air Museum to try and get me a membership. To this day, I don't know of anyone who has been a member younger than I was at the time. In February of 1998, I got a letter in the mail from the curator of the museum, telling me to save my daipers to help polish the aircraft in their collection when I was older. We didn't stay in Michigan very long after that; our next home was found in Centerville, Ohio, just southeast of Dayton. Following the trend my dad had set, we visited the NMUSAF as much as we could. This is where my deep passion for aviation started to show.
Our last move as a family planted us in a small Indiana town of Huntington. Quickly, we had learned what we had gotten ourselves into. On some weekends, the whispers of the trees were interrupted with the echoing growl of a Packard Merlin engine, from Jim Shuttleworth in Robin Old's former P-51D Mustang "SCAT VII". Our little airport in this quiet town turned out to be a hub for warbird aviation. With Tim Savage and the B-25 Mitchell "Green Dragon", "SCAT VII", and a Corsair project buried back in one of the hangars, my dad and I started to make an effort to come out to that airport as much as we could.
In 2007, our town had a small airshow at that airport. Working the event was a ramp crew helping the the ground handling operations for the show. My dad approached one of the members and started asking questions. After a brief discussion, we were invited to one of their meetings in Mount Comfort, Indiana. Before we knew it, we were in. I visited my dad working some events durring the 2008 season, with Thunder Over Michigan being my first airshow worked in this manner. The following season, we traveled to airshows all over Indiana providing flightline safety management and aircraft handling to civilian and military airshows, as well as fly-in events. We were the "Ramp Rats".
With the second airshow in Huntington in 2009, my dad let me use a small camera of his, a Kodak Eazyshare Z612. This oddly shaped silver object sparked enormous curiosity in photography from an angle most people don't get to see at these events. Every airshow I went to from then on, I carried that camera with me. Snapping a shot here and there of the interesting and oddball aircraft that I hadn't seen in person before. One specific display I still beat myself up for not taking pictures of, was at the 2009 Goshen Freedom Fest, with the three-ship F-104 Starfighter demo team from Florida. There was a retired F-104D as a gate guard in front of KHHG at home, but I had never seen one alive, breathing in air and turning it into a glorious howl over the skies of northern Indiana. It still sends a shiver up my spine when I think about the sounds those magnificent jets made that day.
One fateful day in 2012, my dad made the mistake of walking into a gun shop. There, he bumped into an individual that would change my life forever. Standing behind the counter was a tall man wearing a black MiG-17 hat. They started talking about who they knew in aviation; pilots, museums, and crew members. Turns out that both of them knew almost all the same people and have been living parallel lives going to airshows and other events for many years prior. This tall individual is now my good friend and fellow Full Disc member, Charles Church.
A couple years went by, many airshows were had, and aviation was committed, when one evening after the end of the 2014 Warsaw Airshow, Charles pulled me aside and let me in on a bit of unheard local news. Tim Savage, (at the time) former owner of Warbird Digest magazine had bought a Douglas A-26B Invader, 44-34104. I was stoked. The Invader had always been one of my favorite aircraft, and to have one so close was incredible. After the aircraft arrived in the following fall, he mentioned that he was going to try to get me involved with the polishing process on the airplane. I had never met Tim before. I had seen his B-25 fly over Huntington a few times and had heard some things from Charles about him, but that was the extent of my knowledge about him. One winter day, I was invited out to his hangar at that small Huntington airport. There I found the A-26, masked off and being painted, which would soon make it the famous "Silver Dragon". There is where I met Tim. Tim had known about the Ramp Rats much longer than I had been with the group. We had briefly discussed the possibility of me helping out with the polishing process when it was time to start. He graciously accepted the proposal, which to this day, I am profoundly thankful for.
The following summer, Charles and I were out at Tim's hangar every work day from 3-9PM, buffing away and getting filthy from the 70 year old skin we were cleaning up. By the time for Airventure 2015 came around, the small group of us had the majority of the aircraft turned into a flying mirror. I was only at that event for one day as a spectator. After working 6 years at airshows, it was an odd feeling to be on the other side of the fence. I was hooked immediately. Airventure blew my expectations for an airshow out of the water. It was my second year going, but just in one day, I saw three WWII aircraft fly for the first time.
The 2016 season kicked off with my dad, now the commanding officer of the Ramp Rats, getting an e-mail to help with ramp ops for the first annual TBM Avenger gathering. The group that headed the operation was the same group that does ground ops at Airventure, Sun 'n Fun. Because of that event, my father, sister, and I were invited to come work the flightline at Airventure that year. From then on, I was warbird line crew at the greatest aviation gathering of all time.
Somewhere along the way, I found myself talking to a great group of photographers and aviation enthusiasts from all over the US. I am still using that little old Kodak camera, and still bouncing all over the Midwest working airshows that I had dreamed of going to as a kid. Full Disc Aviation takes me one step further in this journey through aviation. Photographer, student pilot, or whatever I happen to have on my bio on my Instagram page, deep down I'll always be that little kid fascinated by the wonders of flight.