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Mon, Apr 18, 2005

Mark Your Calendars For SMXgig

Popular Santa Maria, CA, Event's 17th Year

What's SMXgig? Well, it's the snarky name for a fly-in that's been taking place for 16 years -- this is the 17th annual -- at Santa Maria, CA (SMX, get it?). When insiders say it, it sounds kind of like "smixgig," with hard G'S... rolls right off the tongue? Maybe not, but it's definitely a memorable name.

The airport is a wonderful Southern California GA airport, and you couldn't ask for a better location for an aviation event. The sessions and presentations take place at the nearby Santa Maria Radisson Hotel, which is where most of the transients will stay.

Did I say "nearby" -- actually, the Radisson is right on the ramp. Is that cool or what? Another unique thing about SMXgig is that there is NOT a complete, full schedule of sessions. They deliberately leave open time for networking, friendship polishing, and what they call "hangar lying" (what, pray tell, would that be?).

Many of the sessions are FAA Wings Safety Sessions, for those participating in the excellent FAA Wings program.

SMXgig started as a local meeting of aviators who knew one another from AvSig on CompuServe, back in the days when many people belonged to large private computer networks that didn't connect to the internet. Many of those -- would you call them "founders"? or "charter members?" -- still participate today.

It wouldn't be a major fly-in without a guest speaker, and SMXgig has a winner: Captain Brian Udell, who'll speak at the Friday dinner. Udell involuntarily wrote his name in history with the traumatic experience of ejecting from an F-15 Strike Eagle at supersonic speeds (almost 800 MPH). He then spent four wave-tossed hours waiting and praying for rescue. Even rescue was not the end of the story, as Udell endured a long and arduous recovery, but he did recover well enough to return to flight status in the USAF. He's now well into a second flying career as a pilot with Southwest.

Udell comes from flying stock. His father, Maurice Udell, was briefly in the news in 2004, as he was one of then-Lieutenant George W. Bush's flight instructors in the Air Force.

There always has to be an organizer, and for SMXgig, the guilty party is Cory Emberson, who's an aviation writer and videographer. We can testify that she's not real big but she's all energy, and she and the SMXgig regulars have really outdone themselves this year.

We spoke to Emberson at Sun-n-Fun and she wanted to get the word out that there are still slots available for the whole April 22-24 show, or for partial packages. They also have souvenir T-shirts and hoodies for sale, with a nifty white-on black design "like you're on final for Runway 30 at SMX."

Sounds like a fun time.



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