The Pilot Base

Being a Blue Angel

February 01, 2021 Major Frank "Chomps" Zastoupil Season 1 Episode 3
The Pilot Base
Being a Blue Angel
Show Notes Transcript

We got the privilege of speaking to Major Frank "Chomps" Zastoupil, also known as "Blue 3" in the Blue Angels. With amazing insight into the Blue Angels aerobatic team, Frank talks about his life in the US Marine Corps, how it all started and his hopes for the future.

Ben Hall:

Hello, and welcome to the pilot based podcast. I'm Ben and I've been a pilot for over a decade. And I'm Dave categorically not a pilot. Every Monday we'll be chatting to both pilots and non pilots with amazing aviation stories from all around the world. You can find all episodes of the pilot based podcast for free wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you're hearing, subscribe to our channel and leave us a review.

Dave Rogers:

In Episode Three. We made major Frank chomps disaster bill, a real life Maverick flying his blue three in the Blue Angels Aerobatic Team now, I never expected to be able to use the words naval aviator in a professional context. And maybe one day Ben, I get to see a MiG 28 to a 4g negative time or request a flyby. But until then, I just have to settle for great guests like chops. Here is major Frank Zastoupil. welcome to pilot base. I thank you so much for joining us. How are you? And where in the world are you?

Frank Zastoupil:

Well, thank you so much for having me today. This is truly my honour and privilege to be a part of our base here. I'm extremely lucky to be able to talk to you all to find gentlemen today. I'm currently in Pensacola, Florida, which is the western panhandle of Florida down this in the southeast gulf coast of America. Central Time Zones about six hours difference from now.

Dave Rogers:

Benny's charmed me already.

Ben Hall:

I know. I know. I'm so.

Dave Rogers:

Frank, we've got so much that we want to talk about today. But for those of you who are only listening to this podcast, I'd recommend watching the video as well, because there is so much going on behind you. First of all, talk me through your uniform because you've given us the the great privilege of actually wearing it today. So we can see. Well, essentially what you're wearing, is that the actual flight suit that you would take off in

Frank Zastoupil:

Yes, so this is our current fight blue flights that we wear every single day to and from work while we fly. Everything is custom tailored to each individual pilot to get the appropriate fit. For every single individual. It is kind of a thicker material a little thicker than a normal flight suit that you would see on a traditional military pilot, but it is it's definitely a form fitting suit. We put our name tags over here if you can kind of see on the our naval aviator wings as part of the US Navy and Marine Corps. On the right side we put our crest so yes, yes sir. This is our our typical flight sooner typical everyday wear.

Ben Hall:

I think a flight suits probably not ideal for Florida weather though, is it?

Frank Zastoupil:

Yeah, it gets a little muggy down here.

Dave Rogers:

So you're in Florida right now. But where were you born and raised?

Unknown:

So I'm originally from Houston, Texas, the southeast. There's kind of a big oil community. And my dad worked for the oil industry as I was growing up and we kind of home based out of Houston and then I joined the military out of Texas a&m University. It's one of the larger kind of military centric universities in America. And then I got commissioned in the United States Marine Corps straight from Aden.

Dave Rogers:

Are you from a military family then?

Unknown:

I am not No, sir. So my dad, he just did oil. My grandfather's wonderful them. He was a checklist avakian guy when he first came over from from that country, and then we kind of just grew up as Texans. And then as I was in college, two of my cousins joined the Marine Corps. And I expressed some interest in joining the military and these two guys, right? Hey, man, if you join any branch, besides the Marine Corps, we're gonna disown you. words for that? I can't I can't say those words on this podcast, though. Let's just say it is a very influential that three, three relatives in the United States Marine Corps.

Dave Rogers:

Oh, absolutely. I'm in the US as well. Such a proud military nation and the US Marine Corps is held in such high esteem around the world, it must give you and your family an immense amount of pride to have your involvement and your relatives involvement to

Frank Zastoupil:

help sir, otherwise, it's never personal gain. I'll say that this is definitely Bob, you're doing it. Not for yourself, for the country, for your family and for all of our counterparts and for y'all as well being such close partners in the military environment.

Dave Rogers:

So please, you plan always to join the military to become a pilot, or was that something that evolved as your as your military adventures grew?

Frank Zastoupil:

Great question. So growing up, I my dad actually took me to an airshow in Fort Worth, Texas, and I was about four years old. And I saw the Blue Angels fly. I saw them and I was like, Hey, man, that's kind of a cool job. I think that that might be something I want to do. And I grew up when we used to say I kind of put on some pounds as a young kid and I got kind of chubby. I started playing offensive lineman for our football team growing up and then I went to College kind of disregarded my my dream of becoming a military aviator at that time, I was in college, something sparked inside of me again. And I was like, you know what I'm going to actually pursue this goal. This is something I have wanted since I was four years old, I'm going to look into it. So I dropped my optometry track in college, and I'm waiting to talk to the local Marine Corps. And he made me take a couple tests, and I studied my tail off for those tests. And next thing you know, he said sign right here on this dotted line, you can become a Marine Corps pilot. So that sounds like a perfect plan for me. So kind of a last minute rush to a long term goal, I would say kind of surprised my parents as well. I don't think they truly knew I'd sign on the dotted line until I told.

Ben Hall:

So you were still studying at university when you decided to completely switch from optometry you said?

Frank Zastoupil:

Yes, sir. Yeah, I was in a pre medical optometry degree and instead,

Ben Hall:

that's a bit of a change of career, isn't it? Just a little bit?

Dave Rogers:

grey? I used to be a pilot though. So maybe they were all linked all along? Yes. Lots. So well, you mentioned offensive lineman there. Did you play football at college?

Frank Zastoupil:

I did not know. I was not a very good football team serious. Yeah. Now, in case you haven't checked today's latest poll, but uh, no. Animal I only weigh 185 pounds is boys around 300.

Dave Rogers:

Well, that was what I was going to ask because you talked about gaining a little bit of weight. So you're 185 pounds now? What were you at your heaviest? How much shape did you have to get in?

Frank Zastoupil:

About 50 pounds? I dropped about 50 pounds. From my high school days until

Dave Rogers:

50. Well in high school pounds.

Frank Zastoupil:

I don't know that was in students stones, right? Because you're in stones.

Ben Hall:

What's 50 or we're a complete mess with our with our unit.

Dave Rogers:

So it sounds like three holograms? Yeah, yeah, three and a half seconds, something like that. Either way, that's a lot of running on the treadmill to get shift that kind of timber. So once you once you graduated from college, then and and you joined the US Marine Corps. What happened then what was your sort of introduction to the forces.

Frank Zastoupil:

So we go from college to a place called Officer Candidate School located in Quantico, Virginia, we spend 10 to 12 weeks there and learning the basics of officer corps, customs and courtesies and how to lead Marines at a very basic level. It's kind of our introduction, kind of the officer boot camp, if you want to call it that. From there we go to a school called the basic school. It's literally just across i 95, right there next to washington dc in Quantico. And we it's a six month course, where we learn all of the basics of leading a rifle platoon. So we hike through the woods, and we do all these long marches. And we do land navigation at night. And all these things that as a pilot are extremely scary, you know, walking into trees, wearing goggles, so you don't have eyes, all these different things. But it is extremely valuable, valuable to be a well rounded Marine Corps officer to go through these different schools, and ultimately gain an understanding about what the Marine Corps about, you know, everything focuses on the rifleman for the Marine Corps, non aviation or not anything else besides the grunt, it's actually on the ground carrying a rifle. Everything else in the Marine Corps there is support, including me, and as a big concept understand, going through the basics, from the basic school that, you know, I graduated in 2009, I went through the basic school and OCS and all that and eventually started flying flight school in 2011, essentially, so about a year and a half or so, of ground side training. And then I got to finally jump in my first aeroplane. So all this you know, grown up wanting this and then another delay after college before I could know and I'm never looking back It is a dream come true. As any any pilot out there want to be pilot or somebody even dreamed of flying in a new test.

Dave Rogers:

It's incredible. We've been so lucky on this, this podcast, obviously Ben in your in your life in aviation, you've met 10s, probably hundreds of pilots, but I've spoken to far fewer. But one of the things that always comes across is how much of a privilege you will consider it to be able to do the job you do whatever, whatever job that is, but also just how many setbacks and delays there are, it doesn't seem like an easy, straightforward journey for anybody.

Ben Hall:

That's I've never met a single pilot who's had a smooth sailing career right from the beginning.

Frank Zastoupil:

I think everybody's gonna come across some delay somewhere, to be able to make their dream come true and to be able to do a job they want to do. And so as a Marine Corps, it's all about the kind of team especially in the Navy and Marine Corps department and navy here. It's, it's about how can we help each other as a team to get these people to where we need to move them in the most efficient manner. So it may be a six month delay here, but in the long run, it's producing in result that is better for our service.

Ben Hall:

So in the US Marine Corps, then what are the pilot jobs that are available once you've got the the number of grads Josue graduated and you decide who is who's passed the requisite qualifications to become a pilot? How are you then? divided up?

Frank Zastoupil:

Great question. So in our primary flight training, we can pick three different tracks. And those tracks are a little helicopter world, the fixed wing jet world, or the the kind of ospreay, to see 130 to look at the world, it's based off a variety of factors, what you want to fly is definitely one of them, how you perform is one of them. And then the needs of the Marine Corps or Navy, in that respect is also. So when all three of those different things line up, then we can have a good compromise as to where we send each individual pilot. And for me, particularly, I always want to fly a jet. And so I selected I put jets as number one, my grades ended up panning out that I was qualified to fly jets. And then the Marine Corps said we have one jet spot available at the time of the election, and you're ready to go. Army jets.

Ben Hall:

This is all aligned. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Dave Rogers:

So this is this is no time to be modest. Would it be fair to say that only the premium fliers the best of the best, as it were become the job that you have. Now, I say this no time to be modest. I've sounded like I'm being modest on your behalf when trying to set up that question. But hopefully that made sense.

Frank Zastoupil:

I, I understand your question. But I would actually say that, it just depends on what you want to fly. Like I was just over at our group, Marine Corps group yesterday, talking to the CEO over there. And it's amazing that all these phenomenal, very, very bright individuals who come in and they're like, I want to fly Cobra helicopters, that is the number one thing I want to fly, or I want to fly c 130s. And these guys are probably some of the best pilots have ever met in your life. So it is purely just a decision that you want to do. And it changes and it fluctuates as to the generations or the cultures at the time when I was going through jets was what I wanted. And the guys that I surrounded myself with were all guys that wanted jets. And it just seemed to happen that we all kind of heated with each other. It's very, very competitive. But at the same time that competition, like we mentioned earlier, is based around that team. I wasn't trying to outdo that guy. We were trying to work together so that we both got jets because we liked working together. So that was a that was a crucial aspect of

Dave Rogers:

some of the first jets or what was the first jet that you flew?

Frank Zastoupil:

It was the T 45 goshawk. So it's made by EA. And we use it for our initial carrier based training pipeline.

Dave Rogers:

Okay, and do you remember the kind of the emotions and the way you felt the very first time you took off as a naval aviator?

Unknown:

Y'all remember that scene from top gun? We're Tom Cruise is riding his motorcycle down the runway. I mean, the jet takes it. I'm not even being corny. When I pulled into kingsville, Texas and I saw the Jets taken off overhead. I mean, they're just little orange and white. Let me tell you what I goosebumps as I was, you know, just dropping into the front gate. I was so overjoyed, like holy crap, that's what I'm doing. Hopefully, when I get the opportunity to do it, literally, that scene just reminds me every single time.

Dave Rogers:

Do you know what I'm so glad that you dropped a Top Gun reference? Before I did?

Ben Hall:

It, it was only a matter of time was my

Dave Rogers:

head in my head. I was like don't don't do a Top Gun. Don't do that. But yeah, I can, as soon as you said that I could, I could kind of visualise it and almost feel it on your behalf. We're kind of special moment in a very, very select bunch of human beings who who get to experience that. And so let's let's move it on to the current day, then because you are sat there in your uniform right now, as a Blue Angel. How did that How did that come about? Is that something that every pilot in your position gets to experience or is that something again, that you're selected for and there's quite a rigorous process before you can become a part of that team.

Frank Zastoupil:

It is available to anyone any tactical jet aviator in the United States Marine Corps or Navy, you will go through a certain set of qualifications or prerequisite qualifications to be able to join the team. But it's open to anyone who wants to apply. And it's as simple as just throwing your name and a hat going and meeting every single person on the team performing extremely well from wherever you came from. And then more importantly, meshing well as that team that's going to move forward. And the most crucial part after you know, before this, I was like man, the blues are just something and even the red arrows or the snowbirds or the Thunderbirds, or or any of the jet teams out there, like those guys must be the best of the best at whatever they do. And then you get here, it's just a normal group of guys that just work together as one team to make everything kind of flowing mesh together. So I think that's kind of the the most important concept is just how well we the daily interaction goes between everybody here is just on a different level. I think that's something that we strive hard to do each and every day.

Dave Rogers:

So once you become a Blue Angel, is that all you do? Are you Do you still have other responsibilities in the US Marines or for that period of time is all your concentration on that one job.

Frank Zastoupil:

This is my only job the United States Marine Corps at the time, it's it's pretty lucky, I'm very grateful to be

Dave Rogers:

and how long How long have you a Blue Angel for.

Frank Zastoupil:

So the tours are typically two to three years, just depends on which position that you get selected for once you get. So, for me, I selected that they, the team masters team, so I can meet the three position, which is the left wingman inside of the diamond or the Delta formation is typically a two year tour, the three year tour goes to our narrator who moves from the narrator position into the solo position inside of the actual flying Delta. What's unique about this year is I actually get to experience a frozen team because of the current pandemic that's going around the world, we actually needed to freeze the team to keep some sort of experience involved with us to move on to next year. So that for the safety aspects and the ORM aspects, the operational risk management aspects or the considerations that go into different show sites or, or flying next to airliners and doing formation flying, or wherever, whatever it may be, at the time, there's needed to be some sort of experience factor that went along with that. So we're, this is a very unique year that a diamond guy or multiple team members get to experience an extra year

Dave Rogers:

to spend a little bit longer live in the dream. Sounds good to me,

Ben Hall:

have you actually done any air shows this year at all?

Frank Zastoupil:

No, we didn't do any air shows this year, they pandemic kind of cancelled most of the air shows or most gatherings and then the risk factors were just too great. We, we, we wanted to make sure that we were abiding by every sort of regulation that we could, and the air shows in us as a team eventually came do we end up being the correct decision at the time for all these different events, we made the best of what we could

Dave Rogers:

have you still been able to to fully practice as a team. Now what is your What is your normal day look like as a as a provincials pilot.

Frank Zastoupil:

So we typically will work out at some point in the morning, maybe an hour or two in the morning, and then we'll come into work more brief. And we'll fly and we'll debrief almost every single day. Of course, there's some days where that can't happen, whether it's weather or whether it's an operational requirement, or whether it's something that just needs to be an administrative data handle all the ins and outs and behind the scenes stuff to make sure that this their show community in this team persists throughout the next generations that simple day, yeah, workout for an hour to come to work, fly, do the demo, an actual air show demo, practice, over the field or over the water or over something local that we can get different sights and sounds and feels and talk to different people. And then we come back and read debrief, which takes about twice as long as the actual twice. And we nitpick every single detail that's in that flight and something that, you know, the flight is one thing, and then you get to the debrief, and you thought you did okay in that fight and you see it on the film and to the general public. Hopefully, it looked good. And then we see and like, Man, that looks horrible, or that little wing that we had didn't exactly match what boss was doing, or, you know, we didn't work together as the left and right wing and to perfectly match a breakout or whatever it may have been at the time that we're constantly seeking perfection, we were constantly seeking up the standard of every single demo or practice or whatever we're doing at that time to make it better for the next one

Ben Hall:

isn't one of those activities where sort of confidence plays a big part as well, because obviously, you're a very skilled aviator. But, you know, just like sports, if you've, if you've seen on a debrief that something's not quite gone, right, and it was your fault, is that playing in the back of your mind? Or is it more of you know, you're confident in your abilities, and you're professionals and you can put that behind you and just crack on, you know, to make it better next time.

Frank Zastoupil:

So those go hand in hand, I think, at least here in my experiences, you know, they'll do something and you're like, I know that wasn't quite up to what I know I could do. I know I can do better at that one thing and you'll come back to the roof and you'll own it you'll be like you know, a number to the right women like I didn't do what I needed to do there and it affected how you look so you take complete ownership of everything you do up in the air in the actual air while you're flying. Yeah, you'll do that and you're like alright, I kind of that one may not go on well or that one went extremely well that's awesome. But then you have another manoeuvre you know, second later you have an a very difficult rejoin a second later. So compartmentalization is key to any fly. This is you know, any type of flying whether you're coming into land or taking off or or even talking on the radio I compartmentalization is very key aspect moving forward and in the aviation community.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, totally. Talk to me about the jets that you fly over in the UK you've already mentioned and we see the red arrows on special occasions and air shows and, and whether there's an Olympics opening ceremony or it's the Queen's Birthday, there, they're a sight that moment Brits are familiar with and they're the small jets. They're quite old technology, but they're iconic. What you fly is very, very different isn't it?

Frank Zastoupil:

So we actually find fleet aircraft from the Navy. So we fly the we currently fly the Super Hornet we this next year is going to be our first year flying the Super Hornet, which is flown by the United States Navy and Marine Corps doesn't have to borns we had legacy Hornets, the A through D model, which is what the team flew for the last 34 years. And what we do is we take the oldest of the old fleet aircraft that the may not be necessarily deployable that day. And we take the best people to make those jets flyable every single day. So we had 34 year old aircraft that were flying up until up until November of this year. And now we have Super Hornets, which the same concept applies. So we take these jets that are I mean, just extremely old aircraft, and then we painted blue, we make them look completely different than what they did in the fleet. And then we find to the limits. And that's that's kind of what we do. And it takes the entire 130 plus person team on this, here in Pensacola, or on the road to make sure these jets are flyable every single day, I'll tell you what, after going from the fleet and seeing the challenges and the unique maintenance aspects that go in with any sort of aeroplane, to be able to do it day in day out and have six aircraft be able to fly a demo every single day. And the quick turnaround on maintenance actions here is a sight unseen any, any level in aviation, this is just something that you know, something that is an engine swap, whether it's on a commercial airliner, whether it's on fighter jet, it takes time, and it takes expert expertise of what you're doing. And these guys downstairs and gals will do it without even acquaint without even anything. And I'll do it faster than you've ever seen before. It's absolutely incredible to watch.

Dave Rogers:

Wow, 130 people are part of the team. I'm so glad you mentioned that. Because I wouldn't have even thought to ask the question. I assumed there'd be the six pilots, maybe a few reserves and some support staff. But 130 is an astonishing number.

Frank Zastoupil:

Yeah, so we have the six pilots that fly every single show there, though, there is no reserved pilot, I would say. So if one of us is sick, or if one of us can't fly that day, then it's we're just not gonna fly six planes will fly five points or whatever it is. There's no backup pilots bring the shares. But the there's 16 sometimes 17 officers, whether it's the administrative officer, the supply officer, the doctor or whatever it may be. And then we have 130 maintainers downstairs and support crews that get help everything. They're the ones behind the scenes that most times don't necessarily get the recognition they deserve. But those are the guys that are the linchpins that hold this whole operation together. Like all you see is a jet flying through the air what you don't see is the nights of work that have been put in to make sure that jacket fly

Dave Rogers:

salutely absolutely incredible stuff. And let's talk about actually being in the air then I really want to talk to you in a bit about how excited you are to actually take the show on the road and and do what you've been practising all this time and sort of represent yourself and, and your family and the US Marine Corps. But when you're actually up in the air talk to me about the proximity when you are in your display positions, what kind of distance is there between you and your teammates?

Frank Zastoupil:

Sure. So that's something that's a relatively unique to the Blue Angels and each jet team has their various differences in what they prioritise and what we prioritise as a team is working together as one so that we always look as one aircraft. So, number one, our boss he'll set the formation and whatever his wings are, if they're perfectly level, that's what all the women's wings should be, unless we're doing a breakout or something but when we go into turn, every week should be level the depth consideration the stacking of like a canopy to wingtip or can be to a stabilator or whatever it may be during the formation that is set based on the tip of the manoeuvre that we are doing at the time. The closest will fly is going to be between me there's the left wingman my head, the top of my canopy and the underside of boss's wing so when we get into it, we call it a diamond 360 It's a left hand turn in front of the crowd as we pull a little bit of GE right in front of everybody. And I will actually just tuck myself up under boss's wing right underneath kind of Where is his flaps and ailerons neat under there so you got about a couple feet of weighing on your left side. And then all you see is a intake and an engine on your right as you're looking at it. That's about 18 inches from the top of my head to the underside of that

Ben Hall:

is where you can see his his left wing on your left side because it goes over your head.

Frank Zastoupil:

Absolutely. Yeah you it'll completely shadow everything inside of your pocket.

Ben Hall:

Uncomfortable just talking about it. To be honest,

Dave Rogers:

I mean, you've you've flown lots of planes, Ben, most recently, of course, the 8384 British Airways, and you've spent about how many hours as a pilot? Have you been in?

Ben Hall:

About four and a half, 1000hours in this year?

Dave Rogers:

You've got so four and a half 1000 hours. By all accounts, you are an experienced pilot. How does that make you feel?

Ben Hall:

doesn't make me feel great? Well, I mean, or to be honest, because I wouldn't dare getting within miles of another aircraft. So to be 18 inches away from a wing. That is some ballsy manoeuvres,

Dave Rogers:

I should say. So when you're in those positions, and you're in such close proximity, what's the communication like? So I suppose all of the instructions come from number one? Yes,

Frank Zastoupil:

that's exactly right. So we, we operate on a on a cadence. So boss will have a set cadence and his voice inflections, and how he says certain words will mean different things to everybody in the formation. So when when, for example, for example, we don't follow g suits, we don't find anything because we're literally just frozen in the jet like we don't want to move. And it's typical that you hear going through flight school, you know, relax, wiggle your toes, do all that kind of jazz to make sure everything's nice and nice and smooth out there. We're actually straining so hard in some of these movers, and pushing down on our leg or pulling up on the stick and focusing so hard to just cancel any movement so that when we hit a bump of turbulence, let's say all the catch is kind of bounced together. So we don't want to have any kind of out of sync or out of waveform type of movements together. So we're literally focused so hard at that time, that you'll be Oh, man, the Jetsons is finally there, and the poor pilots, and they're just sweating his tail off work. It doesn't get out of formation at the time. But that is the reason why we don't wear g suits is because the G suits will inflate. And it will actually change where your elbow sits on your rests on your leg to squeeze this stick to level that you need to do. Why in close proximity.

Dave Rogers:

Goodness me, this is a remarkable insight, Frank. So thank you so much for for taking the time. But still lots of words to talk about, I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that you're you're telling us all this, it's amazing. I still want to talk more about flying. But I also want to talk about chomps. So that's your call sign right? It is

Frank Zastoupil:

definitely pass on typically it's you come into the Marine Corps, the Navy or wherever you're going at the time and you'll do something that maybe super smart or super good or super stupid or nothing happens or whatever, maybe at the time, and you earn a callsign after that, so call centre earned based on something that is unique to that individual chomps came from a deployment overseas, I was on the USS Iijima on a Marine Expeditionary Unit that we were taken off the east coast and we're going into the Red Sea and then kind of for a little bit further reason that and actually another British guy was on that boat with me up in Britain he's in the Navy over there so he's he was on that boat and sure enough and find the AB AB Harrier at the time and I get on the tram line to get ready to launch and my fuel gauge drops to zero in my engine digital gauge drops to zero and I didn't know what to do at the time I I knew I couldn't launch I should say so I I came back and everything involved around that ship right there as for that one jet trying to take off and I'm on the train when the engines run off so I pull the engines back to idle and I call up to the tower and I are talking to major buzz Tanis at the time nice Lieutenant Colonel retired but he's like a cha or Frank, Frank guy, you can't launch man. So go ahead and shoot, you know, pull your back dial taxi off, get off the train line watch three jets. Needless to say it's 2am in the morning, it was a night launch is the first like real mission of the deployment. So they gave me a call sign said chomps have choked on the mission possibility. Oh, they said I was scared that that is the genesis of that. And they all they made it the challenge because I was a pretty large teeth. That smile or whatever it is. big teeth so my choppers is where

Dave Rogers:

you're talking to two Brits mate. Let's not get into dentistry. optometry, for that matter. But so how long was it before you could sort of rectify that situation and finally get off the aircraft carrier.

Frank Zastoupil:

So I didn't launch that night. That was a complete wash for my position to launch this as one ship short on that one. But then the next day we were able to fly.

Dave Rogers:

I bet there was so much relief when you could finally get it for

Frank Zastoupil:

no yeah, it's like that one thing to

Dave Rogers:

me. Right. I'm just going back to the room that you're in. So there's there's so much stimulation going on behind you I keep darting around. Firstly, is that an ice hockey stick do you play?

Frank Zastoupil:

So this is actually our ready room where we kind of hang out brief debrief everything. So everything in here means something over the last 75 years to the Blue Angels history. So, we over my left shoulder we have our kind of briefing models. They're currently the legacy Hornets we're forgetting the Super Hornet models and as we speak, actually, over my right shoulder, we have a jet, the hockey stick and you see a golf bag, etc. Anything that has meant something to the team over the last 75 years, a little memento we kind of have in this room. pictures on the wall different air shows a gun barrel from a hornet ncsp

Ben Hall:

Am I right in thinking you're the only US Marine Corps member? The rest are all US Navy.

Frank Zastoupil:

I'm the only marine in the jet and we have three marine pilots that fly sea 130 actually, we got our C 130. This past year from England so thank you for allowing us to grab us even 30 j off your hands and painted up blue light gold and make it our Marine Corps jet or Marine Corps demonstration. Erica, is this is this Fat Albert? Just about over three Marines. Yeah, amazing maintainers and support crew downstairs to help us out. For anybody that doesn't know what fat Alba is.

Ben Hall:

Do you mind just running through the little modifications? You guys have popped on it?

Frank Zastoupil:

What have we done to Fat Albert?

Ben Hall:

Yeah,

Frank Zastoupil:

so fat our is a c 130 j that we paint in our colours. And these guys fly it in a demonstration and in front of crowds but they also are a logistics piece that they're able to move equipment or parts or, or people or show loads or whatever it may be at the time. There's no special modifications to the aircraft

Ben Hall:

does it not have the jet assisted takeoff anymore?

Frank Zastoupil:

So the T model needed that back in the day the J model actually has enough power. Ah, it's disappointing. Yeah, that's always a crowd favourite, but I think you're gonna be surprised and excited to see Fat Albert at a demonstration how just the thrust behind those propellers. It's a well produced, it's an impressive aeroplane is a truly impressive,

Dave Rogers:

either was a US Marine aviator, or as a Blue Angel. What have been your proudest moments in the military?

Frank Zastoupil:

Some of the proudest moments, the things that I look back on in my 11 and 12 year career so far have been the people Honestly, it is just the people that you work with, and the communities that have shaped every single thing. You know, I've been extremely lucky to have flown, the Harrier and the F 35 and the Hornet and now the Super Hornet. But it's not the planes that truly have made the difference. It's each individual community and seeing the differences and seeing how everybody just comes together to accomplish one goal that it is, it is just so I'm so lucky to be part of such a good team. You know, that team isn't just the blues, or it isn't just the Marine Corps. It's the Marine Corps Navy. And it's the D od and it's an it's our joint counterparts. And you know that for instance, we're just talking about Fat Albert, getting Fat Albert, working hand in hand with the, with the British military, to be able to make something happen. As a joint team, it was just incredible. Like the fact that we're able to do that together. I love it. I love it, especially having a couple British friends I hold near and dear to my heart. It meant a lot to be able to have that happen.

Dave Rogers:

I suppose it makes you realise that what you're doing has a knock on effect not just in Texas or not just in Pensacola, or not just in the United States, but kind of around the world. It's it kind of makes it all macro, doesn't it?

Frank Zastoupil:

It does. Yeah, the mission set here is definitely different from the fleet. It's definitely different from going out and getting deployed over bad guy country, whatever baggage that may be, or, or even friendly patrols or friendly joint exercises with different various nations around the world. Our mission is definitely different. You know, we're here to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the United States Navy Marine Corps. That's that's our only mission and how we do this through air shows and community outreach in various aspects in that manner. But it definitely does make it macro, you know, as simple as going and find a jet to now a representative of something that's so much greater than one person. It is truly, truly privilege to do

Dave Rogers:

other than Of course, going out and actually doing the air shows and and taking what you do kind of around America and around the world to do the job that you've described. So well. Do you have any other ambitions as a pilot, either a plane you'd like to fly or a country you'd like to fly in or just anything that you've you'd really like to achieve in the near future or kind of a long way in the future?

Frank Zastoupil:

So there's a good answer to this and then there's the honest answer to this. Please love flying different aircraft. As I mentioned, the Harrier that 35 B and this Hornet and Super Hornet all been fantastic. I wouldn't mind flying any of them every single day. I would also like to maybe trap on a carrier again and the F 35. c, I think that would be pretty special that I haven't done in about 10 years. I would also like to do some sort of overseas fly maybe with you all or maybe wherever it may be. I think that would be an incredible opportunity. Wherever the Marine Corps needs me to go next, I feel like I've gotten a good deal to be able to come here if they need me via England, if they're watching this a I'll pick you up.

Ben Hall:

We'll put in a good word for you.

Frank Zastoupil:

I think

Dave Rogers:

I'd love to see a kind of best of the best of the best where you get everyone together. And you could just do the same thing. You get one red arrow and one Blue Angel and one Thunderbird and put them all in house and with that. Anyway, we we digressed is that in terms of the display teams then so you've you've already mentioned the Thunderbirds and the red arrows. Is there a rivalry or is it all sort of? We're great friends doing a great thing in a great position.

Frank Zastoupil:

Yeah, that's a that's a great question. Is there a rivalry between the Jetsons there's always a professional rivalry between any, you know, extremely high operating environment anywhere you But uh, this year has been unique for us that we've actually become very close friends with the Air Force Thunderbirds. I haven't been able to actually know some of the guys in the red arrows, but I haven't been able to personally work with him in this setting yet. But the the rivalry between the Air Force Thunderbirds in the navy blue angels is something that dates back a couple years. This year, we did something called Operation America strong, where the teams actually got to work together during the COVID pandemic and do joint flyer there's different cities I was in New York or Washington DC or Atlanta, over Texas, etc. So we got to work together and develop a friendship and a professional relationship between the two teams, to the extent where we actually do joint training together now whether it's in Pensacola or whether it's in winter training is what we call it in El Centro, California, we will actually join forces together and see how each other operates and see how and ride with each other and in the aircraft to see what the other guy is actually looking at or what they're prioritising at the time, or how their thought process different is different than ours. Or maybe it's very, very similar. So that has been a very unique thing for this year that we've developed this professional friendship, while at the same time maintaining this competitive nature built in we put forth the best demonstration.

Dave Rogers:

Amazing, absolutely. But what are the main differences between what you do and what the Thunderbirds do there.

Frank Zastoupil:

So the missions are very similar. One is the Air Force representative of jet team. And once the Navy Marine Corps representative, ultimately, we're accomplishing the same goal. We're operating to demonstrate professionalism and teamwork of any sister service in the United States.

Dave Rogers:

Amazing, Ben, I feel as though I'm just asking a load of questions and getting a load of answers here. Is there anything that you want to bring up? Or Frank? In fact, is there anything that you'd kind of like to to talk about that we haven't that we haven't brought up yet? I think you've been incredibly generous with your time. Thank you.

Ben Hall:

On the rivalries perfectly, this fight between the Blue Angels and the red arrows who would win that?

Frank Zastoupil:

That's a good question. I have David Simmons watching this season on the red arrows right now. Coming on next

Ben Hall:

week on the podcast we

Dave Rogers:

have we got to we got James Turner he's read for he's gonna join us too. So I'm sure he'll say lovely things about you.

Frank Zastoupil:

They are a great group of guys and gals everywhere. They are extremely professional. I was able to hang out with him just for a few minutes in San Diego last year. And every single guy and gal that I talked to from that team was it was an honour to be able to talk to this. There's people they're very, very good pilots. Some of the absolute best pilots have ever been able to see my entire life The manoeuvres they do are incredible. Like it is a very good jetty.

Ben Hall:

Frank is just the epitome of class isn't

Dave Rogers:

I know. He said he charms me from the very beginning. Unbelievable, but do you know what Frank you're absolutely right. But I think what Ben and I were hoping for is I yeah, we'd smashed those guys. This is a strange observation for me, given that your frame from the chest up, but you look quite tall. Frank, how tall are you?

Frank Zastoupil:

I'm 60.

Ben Hall:

Okay, are you on the tall side for for a pilot in the us then?

Frank Zastoupil:

Um, I would say mo a little bit. On the tall side. Our boss is six foot five. I think there's some guys that I've flown with that have been definitely taller than me. So I'd say average to slightly slightly above average height wise.

Dave Rogers:

So Ben, you could be a friend Bass jet pilot in the US.

Ben Hall:

Yeah. So I'm six foot five. And I was rejected from the Air Force when I was 17 because my femur length was too long. I think they thought if I use the bank seat or just lose my kneecaps commercial rejections in a 380? I hope not. No, I just as boring at the back.

Dave Rogers:

Could you imagine that there was one for you, but not for the passengers you like, see ya. Frank, thank you so much. This has been a wonderful conversation. And I just like to say good luck as everything opens up and you and you finally get to do what you've been training so hard to do and actually live that dream and represent the US Marine Corps around the world as part of the Blue Angels. I say good luck. How are you? How are you feeling about it? Are you nervous? You excited? Are you just ready to go?

Frank Zastoupil:

I think this entire team is ready to go. I know I am. I know we are ready to rock and roll. We're prepared. We're ready to ready to put on a good airshow demonstration represent the best Navy Marine Corps and all the 800,000 people that are in the Navy Marine Corps at this time. It's truly an honour and, and Ben and Dave, seriously. Thank you so so much for allowing me to be on this podcast. This is a very unique honour that I feel very privileged to be a part of this and hopefully that continued success for pilot base and I know it's a great company great organisation. So seriously, thank you.

Ben Hall:

The privilege is all ours. Frank, thank you so much. Thanks for listening to the pilot base podcast. We'll be back next week with another great guest from the aviation industry. Don't forget to check out our new career platform at pilot base.com and all the socials at pilot base HQ. If you enjoyed this podcast Don't forget to subscribe and rice review