What do you get when you combine an experienced F-16 pilot, a Beechcraft Premier 1A jet, and a cockpit full of cameras with some creative videography and YouTube? You get Premier 1 Driver and the chance to fly “right seat” as Greg Mink travels to exciting locations throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
It all started when a Cessna 172 was purchased by Greg’s father for their flight training.
“When I was young, my dad and I raced motocross together. I had gotten injured in a race, so my parents (especially my mother) were looking for a safer activity for me to pursue,” Mink said. “So, one night at dinner, my dad casually mentions that he bought a Cessna 172 that afternoon. He had always been interested in flying. So, we hired a flight instructor and started our flight training together when I was 15. He got his license in about a year. I had to wait until my 17th birthday to take my check ride.”
In short order, the younger Mink went on to add his instrument and multi-engine ratings. And while his ratings advanced, so did the family’s need for a faster form of aviation transportation. “After doing all of our training and flying early in the 172, we moved up to a Piper Seneca II, which we used for a couple of years until I went off to college,” Mink said. “I think along the way I watched ‘Top Gun’ a few too many times. I was bound and determined I was going to fly fighters.” “I looked into the Navy, but a neighbor suggested the Air National Guard, which is part of the Air Force,” he said. “The ANG had a unit right in Fort Wayne, I served 10 years in the Air National Guard.
After graduation, he got accepted into the Air National Guard’s fighter pilot program. After moving up through the training ranks, he was stationed in Fort Wayne, where he joined the 163rd Fighter Squadron, Black Snakes. He flew F-16’s out of that base for 10 years.
“At the end of my ANG career, I had accumulated over 1,000 hours in the F-16. It was a thrilling ride, but I was getting too old for this young man’s game,” he said. “So, when my time was up, I left the Guard and went back into the family business. Today, I am COO of Modular Devices.”Modular Devices, Inc., specializes in providing temporary, mobile medical suites to hospitals and facilities to use during times of renovation or expansion. The units allow hospitals to provide uninterrupted patient care to the communities they serve.
“Most of our customers are hospitals in smaller communities,” Mink said. “We take pride in personal service, and that requires site visits. Living in Indianapolis, that can make direct air travel to our customers difficult. It’s hard to get anywhere without at least having one connection or a long drive.”As the company’s dependence on private aircraft grew, so did the size and performance of their aircraft. After its start with the venerable 172 and Seneca II, Modular Device’s fleet expanded quickly up through a pressurized Piper Navajo, Cessna P-210 and a Cessna 414 in 2003.
“I really enjoyed flying that 414 and put quite a few hours on it in a short time,” Mink said. “Around 2005, we bought a long-body Mitsubishi MU-2 Marquis, and a year or so later, we added a K-model MU-2 with Dash-10 engines. We had those through 2013, but to meet our expanding mission requirements, we needed even more speed, range and the ability to get up over the weather.” “We were coming up from the Marquis, which has a pretty big cabin. Most of the light jets were just too small inside,” he said. “The Premier 1A offers a good size cabin for a relatively small airplane and the composite structure is very quiet.”
After looking at Premier IA’s all over the U.S., Mink said that they actually found their ideal airplane where you’d least expect to find it: England. “The owner had passed away and it was in the family’s estate. They just wanted to see it gone,” he said. “It was very well maintained and in excellent condition with 1,400 hours, which is relatively low time for a jet.”
“While the airplane was the best available for us, the opportunity to take my dad to Europe to pick up our first jet was too good to be true,” Mink said. “We hired the family’s pilot to accompany my dad and me as we flew the Premier around Europe for a few weeks before crossing the Atlantic back home.”
Since bringing the Premier IA home in 2013, Mink, as the company pilot, has put over 1,200 hours on the airplane. And, as you’d expect, it’s had a few upgrades. To meet the FAA’s ADS-B mandate, the Premier’s avionics were updated with the Collins Airspace Modernization Package, which also included the addition of synthetic vision, LPV approach capabilities and Flight Path Vector displays.
“The Premier’s a bit of a dichotomy; it’s a big airplane for its size, and yet it’s very fast and fuel-efficient. You’d think you wouldn’t get all those things. “It does everything very well, but one of its strong suits is it climbs fast. On a standard day at gross weight, it’s around 21 minutes to 41,000 feet. And once you get there, you’re cruising at .76 mach.”
Mink said his YouTube channel, Premier 1 Driver, evolved from him just wanting to share videos of approaches and landings at interesting airports with his dad.
“The first one I posted was landing at Telluride, Colorado, in our 414. I had one camera hanging off the co-pilot’s sun visor,” he said. “I was surprised by the number of views and comments it got. It’s just grown from there.”
“Today, I enjoy the process of creating the videos, especially the photography part,” Mink said. “It gives me a chance to step back and really enjoy some of the amazing scenery and views that we pilots get to experience, but are often too busy flying the airplane to enjoy. The landscapes, the clouds, the water – there’s beauty all around us on every flight.”
Mink said that thanks to the countless comments he’s received, he’s evolved his videos to try to give viewers an actual “right seat” experience. That means he’s going to give you the “good, bad, and ugly” of these flights.
“There’s a human side to flying an airplane. I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. From a sloppy read-back to a less than perfect landing, I’ll point that out in the video,” he said. “It would be easy to edit those mistakes out. But, just like the guy who’s trying to figure out how to land a 172 in a crosswind, we can all learn something on every flight.”
“I’ve been flying for 30-plus years and have over 6,000 hours in all these cool airplanes, and I still have something to learn,” Mink said. “If I can encourage other pilots to accept the challenge of making their next flight better and safer than the last one, then I’m doing my job with my YouTube videos.”