Developing a Relationship

By Anna Serbinenko, In Flight USA, January 2015


Lessons learnt from the ICAS 2014 conference. 


3.30am on Monday. We boarded our school’s Seneca V and have completed the run-up check already. Ahead is almost 900nm of IFR, and we should be in Vegas by noon. The schedule is tight, there’s not a minute to lose. My Multi-IFR student Tony is briefing the departure plate. Pierre, another student, is getting cozy with Delphine in the back.  Weather justifies the IFR departure with 800’ ceilings. Almost two days of flight planning prior to that, already for half an hour on the ground warming up engines, doing the run-up, entering the flight plan – everything to make sure there would be no surprises when “the game is on” at take-off. We are now on our way to the International Council of Airshows (ICAS) conference in Las Vegas, NV – the place and time that will define the 2015 Air Shows season.

ICAS conferences are filled with training sessions, special events, exhibit hall time for business deals and lots and lots of networking. Many inspiring events will touch your heart and bring out the better you, fired up to make the next airshow season the best one ever. 

It was the second day of the conference, first day of the exhibit hall time. Tim LoDolce and Margaret Skillicorn from the Truckee Tahoe Airshow (California) stopped by my booth, and right after “Hi, how are you”, Tim said “We want to hire you. Do you have a contract to sign?”. Music to each performer’s ears! And how come that a relatively new performer like me would so “easily” get hired by a reputable – and very-hard-to-fly – show, as Truckee, CA?

Well, the answer is that it was anything but easy. I started talking to Tim about that show a while ago, when my inexperience was compensated only by enthusiasm and motivation. We had a friendly, and very educational for me, chat at that ICAS, explaining to me that when I take off at 8000-10000 density altitude (DA), my Decathlon would probably feel more like a glider. And how airshows are concerned about safety of the events, and that I need more experience with high DA airshows, and, and, and… I could have been discouraged. Or I could have learned from it, and take it as a guidance for my next steps. I chose the latter and here I am: scheduled to fly Truckee Tahoe Airshow on July 11, 2015!

I am a business person, and the combination of flying and business experience brought me where I am. I am happy to share today these common sense “secrets”:

  1. Be humble and always learn. If you are a beginner and just starting, do not pretend you are anything else. If you have more experience, well, still learn. I am still learning from my pre-solo students, improving how I could have explained better, and – if nothing else – how not to fly a plane! My dear mentor Bud Granley told me multiple times to “be a good cadet”. Tim in our conversation back then gave me pointers on flying high DA shows, and I am so happy I listened. 
  2. Apply what is learned. All wisdom is useless if not applied. Want an example – take any flight instructor who teaches students to check fuel before each flight, and then just hops in the plane as a “walk-in captain”. Guess what – statistically the most frequent pilots running out of fuel are the flight instructors. Not that I’ve always done it perfect, but in the last year I’ve had fair share of loops and rolls at a few thousand feet, as well as flew a few high DA shows last summer.
  3. Keep the connection. It is easier to maintain an existing connection than to create a new one. Even if you do not get an immediate result, call or email the person with a progress report, question, update. You never know when a “Yes” would come.
  4. Filter the BS. No, you don’t have to accept and agree with everything you are told. Just because someone says you can barrel roll a Buffalo, it does not mean you should try it tomorrow.
  5. “No” does not mean “Never”. Most likely, it’s “Not now”. Have a “Never Give Up” attitude.
  6. Give it all of yourself. Once the goal is set, you walk, sleep, eat, smile and cry without taking your eyes off the goal.
  7. Go back and succeed. The “Yes” will come. And it will give inspiration for a new challenge.

Later that day, Tim came by again and asked if I would join their group for dinner. We ate in a nice Italian restaurant in Rio Hotel. Tim and Dave shared exciting stories of their military flying careers, and Margaret reminded me to send her high resolution pictures for the promotion. It was a very warm welcome into the Truckee airshow family, and I cannot wait to go there in July!

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Pitt Meadows and Kamloops
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