Chicago Flyhouse Blog

Spring Break 2021

Posted by Flyhouse on Apr 14, 2021 10:30:00 AM


April means time off for many students, but not for the team at Flyhouse—our crews are busier than ever! Annual ANSI compliant inspections of schools and other venues through our Safer Venue program can turn up issues caused by wear-and-tear, misuse, or equipment malfunction. And Spring Break is often the perfect time to tackle such needed maintenance and repairs.

This month, our team is working on a number of inspections and maintenance projects. We are at Oak Park River Forest High School, Deerfield High School, and Plainfield School District, performing repairs and maintenance notes flagged at previous inspections to these Illinois high school theater spaces. We are also performing required annual inspections at DePaul University School of Music, Lyons Township High Schools (South and Central), and Milwaukee Repertory Theater, taking advantage of venues that are unused during break or as a result of the pandemic.


The scope of such repairs varies as much as the venues: from basic concerns like missing batten end caps, to urgent matters such as life safety, and everything in between. To learn more about Flyhouse's Safer Venue program, contact us today!

The Chicago Flyhouse, Inc., provides custom rigging solutions for a wide array of applications. Our services are diverse. Our reputation is sterling. Our dedication to extraordinary rigging that exceeds industry and safety standards means individualized, innovative designs. Whether permanent or temporary, decorative or practical, Flyhouse strives for the best, safest, and most personalized rigging available. #howwefly


Topics: News, Training

What a Year: Trainee Testimonials

Posted by Flyhouse on Mar 31, 2021 10:32:30 AM

In Part 2 of our look back, some kind words from a few of our online training participants.

Industry Praise for Flyhouse Online Training

"It was through webinars at your company that I learned new information about rigging, gained deeper insights into things I already knew, and became aware of a few things that I have seen on jobs that may be questionable practice. I feel more knowledgeable about rigging work, procedures and equipment now. Companies like yours that want to give back to the industry and improve the professionalism in the workplace are wonderful."

- Michael B.

"As the only theater technician for a high school, more than 20 years out of school and 10 out of regularly working anywhere in the industry outside my own space, these classes were invaluable. I received information that confirmed what I was doing right, showed me what I could be doing better, and gave me ideas for the future."

- Sean E.

One thing that impressed me was how the rigging big-names all went to each other's classes and learned from each other and shared in the conversations. Ed, Eric Rouse, Bill Sapsis, Ethan Gilson, it's been a who's who of the rigging world.

- Kristi R.

Classes with Chicago Flyhouse (and shout out to Edward Leahy) were such an amazing and rare bright spot in a rather dim year. If you are an aerialist you know that learning about rigging is typically hard to find (seriously I've traveled across the country just to take classes) and very expensive. I learned so much and really appreciated how the classes went from basics like hardware selection to more nerdy topics like bridle math. The break tests were particularly fun!

- Jane G.

I have the utmost respect and gratitude for the training sessions that Chicago Flyhouse has offered over the last year! Not only did it keep so many of us learning more about the industry while we were away from our careers but it helped many folks still feel an important connection to the industry that we dearly love and missed! There were so many great conversations with people from around the world and I am grateful for the free and paid training classes that I have had the fortune to experience in the last year! It's actually a little strange to not have Ed on my screen weekly now 🙂 Thank you Ed and the entire Flyhouse team for your energy and efforts!

- Sarah B.

We have loved meeting, connecting and training with so many this year. Flyhouse Online Training will remain a permanent part of our training program going forward. 

That's how we fly! 

Are you part of our training list? Join today! 

Topics: News, Training

What a Year: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Posted by Flyhouse on Mar 25, 2021 11:30:00 AM

We could see it coming.

On March 20, 2020, the state of Illinois declared a “Stay at Home” order. Just four days later, on March 24, we debuted our first Flyhouse Online Training course.

At the time, Flyhouse had two exciting live classes planned for April: a public class in California at a wire rope vendor’s shop, and a class with Local 10 in Buffalo to train high steel riggers. We were excited about both and really disappointed to cancel. Our cruise ship clients were also shutting down and we quickly realized that life was changing in a big way. We made the call to pivot to online learning.

We quickly took our normal class content and broke it into specific topics to create a robust online curriculum. Within a week or two, we committed to classes 5 days a week. Eventually we cut back to four days per week to allow time to develop new content and that schedule continued until the end of 2020. Our current two course/one day per week model seems to match supply and demand and will continue until that changes.

While we anxiously await the opportunity to offer in-person classes again, Flyhouse Online Training will be a permanent part of our program going forward.

Flyhouse Online Training - Course Stats:
157 total classes offered
96 free and 61 Premium
40 class topics
9 free and 31 Premium
13,344 instruction hours
approximately 10,000 of those on free classes
6,240 total class attendees
among 1700 individual trainees—the average trainee attended 3-4 sessions
Flyhouse Online Training - Trainee Stats:
52 countries
on six continents, from 46 US states and 7 Canadian provinces.
59 IATSE locals, including many participants belonging to the largest locals in the country in New York and Los Angeles
151 trainees
including riggers, electricians, and others, who collected ETCP renewal credits through Flyhouse Online Training
- 8% of all active ETCP riggers
- 68 trainees earned 10 credits or more—the number needed to recertify
1,620 total renewal credits
earned by trainees, with an average of 10.7 credits per person 
1,700 trainees
on our weekly email list 
973 members
of the Chicago Flyhouse Training Forum Facebook group 


Ed Leahy, Flyhouse’s Head Trainer and Cruise Ship Division Manager (and ETCP Certified Rigger and Recognized Trainer) shares his personal reflections on the year that was.

When I consider the past year and the rise of our online training program, gratitude is the first emotion that comes to mind. I am immensely grateful that we had the opportunity to be of service to the industry and that there was an audience who was interested in what we were trying to do. The pandemic has given rise to a wide variety of training opportunities and it is humbling to see so many people choose us as one of their sources of information. On a personal level, as I have said to classes many times, having a reason to work hard during this time when so many can’t be working was a true lifeline. When there is always a class to prepare for, there was no time to worry about the pandemic, the election, the holidays. I think we are all starting to see the silver linings in the pandemic now. There have been a lot of surprising positives for me. I got to train more this year than any other, which meant I was able to refine my skills and build my own wisdom and understanding. I got to listen to and train with some very smart people with deeper expertise than I possess. I got to learn what I didn’t know – an area where we can all do better! I got to serve our industry and help to build up our community. 

Best of all, I got to connect with a colossal number of new friends and colleagues. I have new friends on six continents thanks to these classes, and in many cases have been able to build those friendships up beyond the class experience. It has been wonderful to get to know what people do and how they do it. Learning what would help them do their work better and safer has been an intriguing journey and one which I look forward to continuing. All of our participants have helped to prove that online training can be effective and fulfilling and that it deserves a lasting place in our industry.

The list of people deserving of thanks is far too long. It includes anyone who has come to class. That said, I have to point to Mark Witteveen and all of the staff at Flyhouse for allowing me to try the experiment of online classes and for supporting the classes by helping to share the knowledge they have. Our admin team, sales staff, project managers, install technicians and fabricators have all made appearances in class and provided a different perspective on the work we do. Our associate trainers have helped share the class load and brought their own take on our class content. Beyond Flyhouse, so many industry professionals have helped by adding their voices. Many thanks to Gareth Conner, Dave Carmack, Joe Golden, Phil van Hest, Jeff Reder, Adrian Forbes-Black, Will Todd, Tom Lilly, Elliot van Laere, Steve Adelman, Ethan Gilson, Kelly Voysey and Ken Veach. We also have to give a shout out to Ohio Northern University for the frequent loan of their theater and its counterweight system for use in our classes.

It was the worst of times, but also the best of times (to invert Mr. Dickens). It was a horrible year, and a year filled with new connections. I consider myself beyond lucky to have built something at a time when so much was stagnant—and luckier still that the thing I built was helpful to others. We will continue to add to our offerings and grow this community in the months and years ahead so that this awful year can be remembered for more than just the awful things. 

In Part 2 of our look back, we'll share what some of our trainees have to say.

Topics: News, Training

Flyhouse Training, Online and On-Demand

Posted by Flyhouse on Jun 18, 2020 2:30:00 PM

So often this year, we have felt like we’re building the plane as we fly. But building and solving challenges—with a focus on safety—is what we do best.

Clayton Center for the Arts approached us last fall about inspection and training on site in Maryville, TN. The 123,038 sq ft Center, which includes a 1,200 seat proscenium theatre and a 250 seat recital hall on the campus of Maryville College, supports college arts programs, community arts organizations, and touring shows.


As often happens, the venue struggled to find time in their schedule to support such work. But by early 2020, the project was officially scheduled for June.

By mid March, much of the current Flyhouse training work had been postponed. The Clayton Center project, still a few months away, remained tentatively on schedule.

As both the level of risk and the applicable state orders evolved, we moved forward with a careful trip to the Maryville to conduct the inspection. We also used our time onsite to prepare for and design custom online training specifically for the Clayton Center.

While much of our content is theoretical in nature and can be easily adapted for online presentation, one of the real benefits of in-person training is hands-on demonstrations. The Clayton Center has a large stage with 36 line sets, and they hired Flyhouse to demonstrate best practices for loading, unloading and managing weight when installing challenging scenery. 

Flyhouse tapped one of our Associate Trainers to do just that. Having just been onsite at the Center, he was able to set up remote training from his base at Ohio Northern University, and effectively demonstrate the principles of safely using the Center’s counterweight system to the remote audience. With simple modifications and creative problem solving, we were able to meet the needs of the client while still keeping everyone involved safe. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to have to think quickly, and has also provided us an opportunity to help the industry—making a fast transition to online training. Within a week of Illinois restrictions in place, we began offering free online training nearly every weekday. So far, we have developed nine free courses on common rigging topics. 

We soon realized that we had more to offer. Our Premium classes explore topics with greater focus and depth, and a wider pool of trainers, at the lowest possible cost. With the popularity and success of the Flyhouse Online Training program, we continue to develop new courses—particularly those not commonly offered around the industry.

While fall protection training is widely available, few sessions discuss how to set up an institutional program to manage fall protection in your venue. We filled the void by creating a course specifically on the topic. Many riggers note how rare good automation training is across the industry, so we have developed a whole track of automation classes. Building a new venue or renovating an old one can be a complex process. Most only go through it once or twice in their careers, with no real understanding of the process as a whole. We have designed a class that walks participants through every stage of process.

We strive to be responsive to which topics offer the most value to out-of-work members of our industry, helping them build skills and improve marketable talents so that when works returns, they will be ready.


• 65 Sessions
   - 47 Free
   - 18 Premium
• 8,623 Person Hours of Training
   - 7,244 Free
• 4,142 Attendees
• 814 ETCP Credits to 81 Certified Riggers
• 38 countries
• 45 US states
• 6 Canadian provinces
• members of 50 IATSE locals

Our audience covers riggers from every sector of the entertainment industry—from regional theaters to universities, vendors to high schools. We have trained aerialists, engineers, stagehands, carpenters, electricians, audio and video technicians, safety professionals, and students.

We are incredibly proud of what we have offered so far, and we look forward to continuing to support our industry. That’s how we fly.

Topics: News, Training, Flyhouse Projects

Adapting Our Services, On The Fly

Posted by Flyhouse on Apr 24, 2020 1:34:02 PM

Like everyone, The Chicago Flyhouse Inc., has adapted to changes in operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. While construction—including rigging work—continues in many parts of the country, other projects, productions, cruise lines, etc., have been put on hold. We are continuing work that can be done; in particular, closed venues offer a great opportunity for inspections, repairs and maintenance—while following all current recommended safety guidelines.

“A generous and genius idea.”
– Freelance Technician

In an effort to support our industry during this unique time, Flyhouse quickly shifted our existing Training into an entirely new, online program. Over a few short weeks, our trainers have created curriculum for 6 different classes, with more in the works. And most classes are being offered for free. That’s how we fly.

Initially, we started with smaller, limited class sizes. We quickly found that—unlike in-person training—the number of students doesn’t impact the quality of the experience. Given that, we are working hard to serve the overwhelming interest to these sessions. Beginning next week, we are also offering new Premium sessions for a nominal fee.

“These classes really help fill in the gaps between formal education and road experience.”
- Acrobatic Rigger and Freelance Technician

In the past three weeks, we have provided 2,556 person hours of training—across all skill and experience levels. Participants have come from 42 US states, 4 Canadian provinces, and 17 other countries—Czech Republic, Dubai, Finland, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Paraguay, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.


Participating organizations include 29 IATSE locals and:

Duke University
Indiana University
Florida State University
University of North Carolina School of the Arts 
Georgetown University
Northwestern University

Producing Theaters

Arena Stage (Washington DC)
American Repertory Theater (Boston)
McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ)
The Kennedy Center (Washington DC)
Alberta Ballet (Calgary, Canada)
Indiana Repertory Theatre (Indianapolis)

Presenting Houses
Royal Albert Hall (London, UK)
The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (Nashville)
Mesa Arts Center (Phoenix metro area)
AT&T Performing Arts Center (Dallas)

Gallagher Staging
Foy Inventerprises Inc.
Rhino Staging
Mountain Productions

Cirque du Soleil


“Massive gratitude to Chicago Flyhouse for giving us all something positive and productive to do in this downtime.”  
- Flyhouse Training Participant

At the same time, we are also adding to our existing Flyhouse Films YouTube channel. We currently offer 37 videos across six playlist topics in our library, and we’re adding more new videos each month.

The focus at Flyhouse is always on safety. And for many in the rigging industry, the safest thing to do right now is to stay home. And train online with Flyhouse.

Topics: News, Video, Training, Flyhouse Projects