Al Clark is our Crew Chief and oversees everything we do on the ground. A key member of Waterloo Warbirds since day one, Al has led numerous achievements with the team and has developed a great crew. He has flown in jet aircraft, attended shows across Canada and the US, and forged a bond with other like-minded individuals that he could only dream about as a young aviation enthusiast. Al sat down with us to give a glimpse into life on the ramp and share some of his favourite aviation moments.
When did you join the team and how did you find out about us?
I was volunteering for another aviation organization that Derek [Hammond] was also part of. When he was thinking of founding Waterloo Warbirds, he asked me if I wanted to be part of it and I said yes, so I’ve been part of the team since its very start in 2014.
What is your role with the team (fly days, airshows, maintenance days, other)?
I’m the crew chief, which at a high level entails keeping everyone in line when we’re on the ramp or in the hangar. My #1 priority is always keeping everyone safe and making sure we’re all looking out for each other and everyone around us. I also take the lead in making sure the jets are ready to go, safe to fly, and clean. Ramp safety is a big part of that, which includes making sure everyone has a job to do, they know how to do it, and they’re doing it safely. On maintenance days, I coordinate with our Chief AME on the tasks we have to do that day, assign tasks to the volunteer maintenance crew based on their skill level, and supervise the whole team to make sure our maintenance activities are carried out safely.
What first got you interested in aviation?
I’ve always been fascinated with flight. It started with a model airplane my mom bought me of a Douglas SB2 Dauntless, and then grew as I got more and more into watching airplanes fly.
What is your favourite or most memorable aviation experience?
It would probably be a ride in the front of an AH1 Cobra attack helicopter I took at the Thunder Over Michigan air show. I was the first guy to fly in it that day. We got to fly backward and dive, which was pretty cool. I didn’t know a helicopter could pull Gs!
What is your most memorable experience with the team (pax, airshows, other)?
I’d have to say the first time we went to the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) conference in Las Vegas approximately 7 years ago. I got to meet lots of the other professionals in the air show community, and it was really cool to get an inside look at the industry like that. This year, I was actually appointed to the Board of Directors for the North East Council of Air Shows, which is a regional branch of ICAS. So that first trip really ended up being instrumental in shaping my future in the industry in more ways than one.
What is your most memorable flight experience in one of our jets?
The first time we did a three-ship flyover with the T-33, Vampire, and L29 for the anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. That would have been about four years ago. It was cool because it was the first time we had gotten the three of them up together for something like that, and when you looked out the canopy, you could see the other two jets beside you. That was a monumental experience and a big deal for the entire team.
What advice would you give someone interested in aviation?
Do it. Connect with like-minded people, volunteer somewhere, just get exposure to it however you can. It all depends on what you want to do. There are so many different jobs and niches that you can fill. Everyone can’t be a pilot – there are maintainers, detailers, passenger coordinators, media liaisons…all kinds of things you can do as part of an aviation organization or a volunteer group. Being part of a team atmosphere and working on this side of the industry is a pretty cool thing and really rewarding.