Ryan Seiler’s feet are on the ground, but his head is in the clouds — he has to be, as the air boss of the Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival.
He’s the eyes and ears for around a dozen acts, as performers swoop, zoom, fall and set off fireworks.
“I’ll plan the show, set the line up…and then during the actual show I act as air traffic control,” Seiler said.
According to the air boss, variety is key for a great show. The complete air show is five hours long and you’ll see F-22 Raptor jets, aerobatics, skywriting, parachute jumps and more.
If that’s not enough spectacle for you, stay until dark for the night show on Friday. It’s one of the biggest in the nation.
“I love the night show,” Seiler said. “It’s one of my favourite parts of the week…it’s flying fireworks. There’s no better place to spend the Fourth of July weekend than here.”
Night air shows are rare because of the added complexity. Besides flying in the dark, the planes are shooting off pyrotechnics such as sparklers and fireworks.
“They count on me to keep them safe while they’re performing,” Seiler said.
He has to map out the Battle Creek area, whether it’s knowing where there are towers or a part of town where birds like to nest.
During the school year, Seiler is a lead flight instructor for the Western Michigan University School of Aviation. He works out at the W.K. Kellogg airport.
So he knows what it’s like to get into a 100 degree cockpit in a fireproof flight suit on a hot day.
“As a pilot, it is just a love for what you’re doing,” Seiler said. “And to be able to do it for a living, it’s like, hey I get to get paid for having fun and doing something that I really enjoy.”
As flight boss, Seiler is one of the hundreds of volunteers who make Field of Flight go smoothly.
It’s like a big family, he said. It was a happy reunion to see everyone after having to skip last year.
The work is also about giving back to the community. The festival draws thousands of spectators. It’s offered at family friendly prices. Seiler said other shows charge more money and for less entertainment.
Besides five hours of air show, you can catch hot air balloon launches, fireworks, night shows, live music, carnival rides, a guy getting shot out of a cannon and more. For a complete schedule, go here.