Page 8 - World Airshow News Autumn 2023
P. 8

Greg Koontz: From the ACE

             You Can’t Always Get What You Want

                               T    he airshows flown way back   influence of competition flying had become apparent, and there
                                                                    I started in the airshow business in 1974, by which time the
                                    before my time were spectacles
                                    that gave the public a chance to
                                                                 lots. Competitors pushed precision and crisp moves, while air-
                               see live what was usually only seen in   was a little tension between competition pilots and airshow pi-
                               news reels or in movies. They were   show pilots preferred smooth flow and a stunt-style of showman-
                               opportunities  for the  military  to   ship. I think, when the differences finally melded together, pilots
                               show off their might and the build-  like Michael Goulian and Matt Chapman blended both styles, us-
                               ers to show off their products. In the   ing the best from each side. That made competition pilots more
                               1930s, most barnstormers were just   entertaining and airshow pilots less reckless. That’s a win.
                               ex-military  pilots  trying  to make   I now see the development of high-performance competition
                               a living with the skills they had left   aircraft is placing these aircraft into airshows at a high volume.
                               over from the big war. That era grew   You no longer need to be a builder to get into competition or air-
                               into air races that were spawned by   shows. Just buy the best airplane right off the shelf.
                               aircraft development, as they figured   I’m sorry, but I think most spectators at airshows can’t tell the
                               out how to get more and more speed.   difference between an Extra 300, MXS, Edge 540, or Gamebird.
          What could have been better entertainment than watching the   So, while having one of these super high-performance mono-
          early entrepreneurs compete to be the best? During it all, char-  planes at an airshows is exciting, having three there is redundant.
          acters like Roscoe Turner (who had a pet lion he called Gilmore)   The volume of high-performance monoplanes makes the indus-
          helped glamorize air racing.                           try over-supplied with the type, while the rest of the supply of
            At those amazing events, there was always the circus side of   available airshow aircraft offers the real variety.
          entertainment. Mike Murphy was one of the first to do a car-top   I’m just an old-school type of person who’s heart will always be
          landing, and he also put a set of wheels on top of an airplane so   in the old-style flying circus. I perform in all types of airshows,
          he could land it upside-down. Harold Johnson did a whole aero-  and I have to say I prefer the smaller, more personal shows. I
          batic routine in a Ford Tri-Motor, an early airliner! Flip-flopping   don’t get to fly with the jet teams as much as I’d like to, but I can
          airplanes (aerobatics) became an airshow standard as pilots like   see in the eyes of my audience where their excitement is glowing.
          Bevo Howard, Tex Rankin, and Frank Hawks tore up the sky    I recently flew in a huge military base show. There were
          with mostly early military biplanes.                   400,000 people over the three-day show. The Blue Angels were
            After World War II, airshows got more sophisticated. The Navy   awesome, and the civilian performers were very professional,
          developed the Blue Angels flying piston powered F8F Bearcats.   chosen for their reputation. There were just five of us there to bal-
          Later, the USAF in Europe started the Skyblazers aerobatic jet   ance out the large military offerings – a sailplane, a Red Bull act,
          team, which later evolved into the USAF Thunderbirds. As time   myself, and two high performance monoplanes. Although they
          marched on, many other aircraft used in the military were con-  were all great, you already know my opinion of having more than
          verted for airshow use.                                one monoplane when there is so much else out there to offer.
            A big change happened when Curtis Pitts designed a home-  But in all fairness, I think my act was out of place there. A
          built aerobatic biplane called the Pitts Special. It was first used   comedy act like mine is really a skit. With such a huge crowd,
          and made famous by pilots like Phil Quigley, Caro Bailey, and   most of the audience never figured out what was going on. Only
          Mary Gaffaney. (I performed with Mary at my first airshow in   the few people on the front fence line and who were paying atten-
          1974!) Specialized aircraft built for aerobatics changed every-  tion even got to see our comedy skit and the truck-top landing.
          thing. Art Scholl had the modified Super Chipmunk, Ed Mahler   Everyone else was oblivious! My point is, not every act, regard-
          flew the PJ-260, Duane Cole had the clipped-wing T-Craft, and   less of how good it is, works everywhere, every time.
          so on.
            Then came competition and the International Aerobatic Club   Greg Koontz is a full-time airshow performer and teaches basic
          (IAC). Many airshow pilots jumped into the competition side,   aerobatics at his Flight School/Bed & Breakfast called Sky Country
          and as it grew in popularity with pilots, many of the competition   Lodge. Greg is a former chairman of the ICAS ACE Committee,
          pilots saw an advantage to join the airshow side. It might have   holds an unlimited aerobatic waiver, and has been designated a
          been to enjoy the excitement of entertaining a crowd or, I think,   Master Certified Flight Instructor-Aerobatics by the National Asso-
          many competitors found the money they could make flying air-  ciation of Flight Instructors. Please send your comments/questions
          shows would help finance their competition hobby. In my opin-  to
          ion, this is when the airshow environment changed.

                                     8  Autumn 2023
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