Keeping the focus
KEEPING THE FOCUS
When it comes to the Aviation industry -particularly Airshows , one thing I have learned is that you cannot have a weak heart or stomach. Not only is it physically and emotionally demanding but can be risky as well. From flight line to taxi, there are so many details that an airshow pilot must tend to before even taking off! Consequentially there are many things that go through my mind.
For starters …fuel, does he have enough? Is it too much or too little. Is anything leaking (if so, how fast can he fix it) is the engine too hot, is the music Q’d up, what time is he flying again. The list goes on, this is why it is important to keep focused!
I’ve been in the Aviation industry for over 15 years 3 of them airshows. Unlike many, it is not something I was born into or something that I was exposed to at an early age, I happened to get married into it. I always knew he was an airshow pilot, that’s really not something he wanted to hide but I really didn’t know what that meant until 5 months in. It is probably one of the hardest roles I’ve ever had to fill and focus is definitely a must! Living with a pilot- an airshow pilot nonetheless consists of having a strong mind, spirit, and heart. There are many different aspects of the industry that may overwhelm, confuse or even discourage newbies like myself- the trick is to keep busy.
One thing that I have learned in my short tenure is that there are many personalities and elements involved in an airshow that make it easy to get discouraged or turned around . Although it may not seem much, it is just enough for you to loose your focus . From a performer’s and in my case , an airshow pilots wife standpoint I’ve learned that you will be faced with an array of hurdles and obstacles that will nearly make it impossible to overcome: the names of the maneuvers for starters.
Aerobatics evoke a mixture of feelings all at once: adrenaline , uncertainty excitement and fun! Lets just say the first time i saw him perform, i cried. Performers grace the skies with ease and elegance sensationalizing the moment.
Walking into something of such great magnitude carries a lot of weight, there is a learning curve. My goal as a wife and manager was to immerse myself in the industry as much as I could. Not only did I want learn the art of it but different maneuvers and aerobatic jargon within it. I also wanted to get to know the different personalities and types of aircraft’s within it. I want to know what the limitations of each pilot and aircraft are and how things do the things they do.
Pre-season I try to support him every way I can. When he tries to give up a million times I find a million reasons why he shouldn’t quit. I am usually the one scouting for sponsors, seeing who has the safest products we can install in his plane like fire proof seats or flame resistant clothes. I try to find monetary support or who can help us continue to keep his dream afloat any way possible . I play the role of media & business manager sending countless amounts of emails just trying to get him as many shows possible. I am his operations manager and supportive wife year round.
Show time, now that’s the kicker. He usually is running around trying to do as much as he can while keeping calm. At this point I am his Grunt: i.e photographer, PR rep, go get person and cheerleader. I have to remind him to drink water, eat something light and to breathe! The last thing I want him to do on this day is worry. I think keeping busy also helps me stay calm. Just before he takes off gives me a kiss .
The kiss is usually when that first question I get asked pops in my head “Are you afraid ?” For me, fear is not really an option. Even though I turn off grunt mode and switch back to to wife mode i keep focused. I trust his skills as a pilot and trust his training. Despite my trust I still pray that he executes each and every maneuver, that the ceilings remain high, the announcer doesn’t mess his name up, the music doesn’t get stuck, his engine doesn’t fail , he isn’t left holding for a long time, his oil line doesn’t leak, that his smoke oil works ( all have happened!). Finally, I pray that absolutely nothing goes wrong. I hold my breath and hold onto my heart until he lands and taxis his way back to me. I wait for my second kiss, that is the one that means so much more. That is just a glimpse into what I am thinking.
So why do I do it? Why don’t I ask him to quit? This is a question that others have asked me honestly something that I have asked myself , (especially when I hear of many of the recent accidents). My answer is love. The love I have for him, my love for the sport and love for the community. There is something to be said about the airshow community, they are the most passionate excitable individuals I’ve ever met. Fans for example , they make the airshow come alive, they are a pilots true inspiration. Whenever I asked my husband why he does aerobatics, why does he engage in what some may call a risky sport. He’s told me time and time again that he does it for the fans. He also told me that as a young child he would go to airshows and get inspired by many performers. You never know if there is a future pilot looking up at him in the sky.
As for myself , sure his performance is breath taking but when I look up and see that is my husband up there in the sky, performing for hundreds and thousands that sense of pride is something I never forget.
“Sports, entertainment and aviation are three of the most exciting professions in the world; you are dealing with the same magnitude. John Travolta”
From the ground up ,shows are a form of entertainment. Sure, there is glamour and fame associated with it, but what many don’t realize is that there is so much more. As an airshow family there are sacrifices; monetary and emotionally that will be made. There are times that I will not see my husband days on end because I know he needs to practice, train and conduct meetings. There are also financial burdens and sacrifices that we as a family must also make. There are choices that must be made. Despite these sacrifices that I and he must make, the one thing that keeps me going, is love.
There will be times you begin to get frustrated and you will want to quit a million times to turn around and quit a million times again. The trick is to keep your mind and heart focused. We’ve also been blessed to meet a handful of airshow performers, wives and people involved in the industry who have not only helped by giving us advice but who have also given us hope. They always are looking out for one another and truly are a family. To those individuals, I thank.