Last month I was privileged enough to be invited out as a guest of Team Chambliss. I am 17 years old (going to be a senior in high school) and I’ve recently started ground school and my path to the aviation field. Kirby has always been a mentor of mine, especially after seeing him dominate the Red Bull Air Races. I had always thought the races were awesome but I was younger and at the time the free ice cream was of equal importance as the race. Little did I know that the races would be such an inspiration.
I traveled down to Kirby’s home a day before we departed for Oshkosh, anxious to see what this eye opening week would bring. The first morning I was there, I watched Kirby practice. I was absolutely amazed when I saw him ripping through that Arizona sunrise and felt the rumbling in my chest as he flew by on a low pass. After Kirby was done practicing, he hopped out of his airplane like what he just did was no big deal! I couldn’t believe it! The next morning it was time to go, I saw Jason and met Grant for the first time. Jason is the crew chief and pilot for Kirby’s fleet of airplanes and is the absolute workhorse behind the scenes. Grant is another pilot who helps fly the airplanes to various events. Grant and I hopped in the two seat Edge and we were off!
Going long distance in the Edge requires refueling every 2-3 hours which is a beautiful thing because being in such a small space for much longer can drive a man insane. Not that I’m complaining! This is the hot-rod of airplanes with a 360 horsepower in a plane that weights 1100 pounds.After a couple of short legs, we arrived in Oshkosh. I have never seen so many airplanes in my life! It wasn’t until then that I realized how enormous this event really is. We touched down and parked in the hangar and it was there where I was taught how to make a plane look absolutely spotless which is the only way Team Chambliss rolls. Being sure that the paint on the planes was oil and fingerprint free was my job throughout the week.
The next day Oshkosh really began. A typical day consisted of getting to the hangar by 7:00am and prepping the airplane for Kirby to practice. Kirby would be back by 8:00 and then take up a thrill seeking reporter or a sponsor representative for a ride. After that, the busiest part of the day began. The remainder of the morning was spent in sponsor booths and the entire Team was always busy. This was a good way for me to familiarize myself with the sponsors, as well as the many, many new faces. I usually had a little time to check out a variety of booths and begin to get familiar with various types of aircraft. The air show would begin at 3:30 and ended at 6:00pm. We watched the show everyday waiting for Kirby’s slot so we could prep his airplane. Now was when I’d be sure the plane was looking it’s best. Kirby would fly the show and then I would wash the smoke oil off and be sure it was looking good and then we would head back to the hangar. After that we went to various sponsor dinners. This was one of my favorite parts of Oshkosh, because I got to meet so many amazing and interesting people, including a man who runs an international flying eye hospital. I also met a producer of an up and coming show about aviation, several aerobatic pilots and a man who climbed Everest at just 22 years old.
As the end of the week approached quickly, I realized that I would have to go back to real life again and that the dream would soon be over. We packed it all up and got ready to headed west for the next show in Seattle. Coming into this, I only had a couple of ground school classes under my belt so it was all relatively new. I can’t even begin to describe how much I learned from Team Chambliss. This experience has truly been invaluable and has opened my eyes to not just a career path but also a passion. Thank you Team Chambliss for giving me the opportunity to come to Oshkosh with you.
Gratefully, Kyle Pringle
Kyle we were lucky to have you with us! Thank you for all your help during the week!