Brittney Miculka, the host of Redbird Flight Simulations' popular Winging It video series, is confronting another test in addition to the challenges that she mastered in 2016 for a growing YouTube audience. Miculka will put down her pink headset to steer a flock of 200 flight instructors, educators, and flight school managers through the sixth annual Migration at Redbird headquarters in San Marcos, Texas, Oct. 24 to 26. The event offers breakout sessions on new technology, instructional techniques, and marketing, and has become an important educational tool for the flight school industry.
When we last left ‘Britt,’ she was helping land the Commemorative Air Force’s B-25 named Yellow Rose in front of a delighted EAA AirVenture crowd and went on to share Redbird flight simulator tips and techniques with attendees at the Pilot Proficiency Center.
The online host and conference organizer learned to fly at the University of Illinois and holds commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates. She said she “did get a little rusty” when she moved to her new home in Austin, Texas, and used some of the Winging It challenges to get back up to speed.
Some of her adventures during the show were more difficult to tackle than others. During a tryout for the Ohio State University flight team, Miculka learned from nine different instructors in an environment that “was a little bit crazy” as she tackled skills challenges in preparation for the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s annual flight competition. She said, “It was a little intimidating and a little overwhelming, but so fun.”
During the video series, Miculka typically first flew in a Redbird simulator and then in an aircraft, a practice that boosted her confidence and her efficiency, especially in unfamiliar aircraft, and she said it would likely benefit other pilots as well.
Miculka advocated learning or brushing up in a flight simulator as “a fun way to go out and learn new things while saving money.” Moreover, preparation for her videos allowed Miculka to experience what it might feel like to “be in a tight spot” before actually flying into one.
As in much of aviation, not everything during Winging It went according to plan. In one episode with a simulated helicopter evacuation at Case Western University, Miculka was in jeopardy of losing her “patient,” a medical school dummy. Things unfolded very quickly for her and went from bad to worse in a heartbeat.
“We were in a tight, confined environment and I had to plug in all the heart monitoring equipment and everything while the simulator was moving,” she explained. The noise of the engine made medical instructions difficult to hear, and the “patient” was nearing cardiac arrest. Under severe pressure to perform, Miculka was baffled with a request for a medical glide scope procedure and thought she heard the words “glide slope procedure” instead. “I was confused,” she admitted. “I didn’t put in the heart panels to shock him fast enough and I’m afraid he died.”
In a particularly trying scenario with California flight instructor Michael Phillips, she “suspended all belief that it was a sim. He started the sim and walked away.” After a long day in the mountains her aircraft was programmed to run low on fuel while she communicated with air traffic controllers for a landing clearance. “I felt like I had put myself in a not-so-good situation,” she recalled, “and no one was there. I’m looking over at that empty seat.”
With unexpected headwinds, lack of sufficient fuel to make it to the airfield, and ATC peppering Miculka with questions, she can be seen on the video “watching things fall apart.” Although she hasn’t had to do it in an aircraft, Miculka said she “had to really declare an emergency,” in the simulator, and the experience humbled her.
There were, however, spectacular highlights for Miculka and for her 60,000 YouTube viewers as well.
Her favorite episode was upset recovery and unusual attitude training with Red Bull pilot and AOPA Ambassador Michael Goulian. Miculka said flying close to the edge of the flight envelope “was a whole new way of thinking,” but the lessons learned were instrumental. Goulian coached Miculka to embrace spins, and the two of them flew upside down in Goulian’s Super Decathlon with Miculka smiling broadly as she closed the segment. On a personal level, Miculka “was so giddy to meet someone of such a high caliber, such an amazing pilot, and you know what, he was the nicest person,” she said.
In a season of whirlwind activity that also included planning for the Migration seminar, she said, “That was, I think, one of the best days ever,” and it was all caught on tape.
As Winging It wound down and Migration cranked up, Miculka reflected on future ideas. “For now I don’t have any next adventure plans but it seems like everyone has really enjoyed it. I’ve had a blast, and so who knows, we might do a few more in the future just because it’s been such a neat project.”