If you’ve ever attended an airshow then you’ve seen how impressive airshow pilot performers can be! They fly through the air at great speeds while performing dazzling acrobatic tricks and incredibly intricate maneuvers, much to the delight of the crowds on the ground. Watching airshow pilots is awe-inspiring and exciting, and you might be wondering how these extremely skilled pilots developed their abilities.
The Journey to Become an Airshow Pilot
The journey to become an airshow pilot is not an easy one. In addition to having a true love for flying, those interested in becoming an airshow pilot need to follow several steps:
- Obtain a private pilot certificate. This includes logging a minimum of 40 hours in the air, and comes with several other requirements.
- Obtain a commercial license. For this license you must log a minimum of 250 flight hours.
- Go to aerobatic school. Here you’ll learn emergency maneuvers, basic aerobatics, high-performance aerobatics, and complex maneuvers. Aerobatic school comes at a steep price of around $8k and is only for those who are serious about pursuing their passion as an airshow pilot.
- Pass the Aerobatic Competency Evaluation (ACE). This includes performing a choreographed routine, competing in amateur competitions, applying to fly in small-town airshows, getting sponsorship, and then entering larger airshows.
The Life of an Airshow Pilot
As you can imagine, the life of an airshow pilot is exciting, fun, action-packed, and often glamorous. However, performing in airshows only takes up a small percentage of a pilot’s time, and the rest of the time is usually spent traveling to the next airshow location, submitting applications to various airshows across the country, signing contracts, completing insurance paperwork, applying for the necessary permits, and of course, keeping their certifications and aircrafts up to date.
Pilots who want to perform in airshows must join the International Council of Airshows (ICAS), and all members are required to renew their membership every two years. So behind the flashy routines in the sky, a lot of work goes into being an airshow pilot.
How they create their performance routine
Airshow pilots are performers at heart, and they love putting on a show. First they select their music, and this is important because music sets the mood for the audience. Perhaps they want something fast and dramatic, or maybe they prefer something a little slower but with periodic faster moments throughout. A typical airshow lasts for a song or two.
Once the music has been chosen it’s time to choreograph the routine, and this is where pilots can let their personality show. Some pilots prefer aggressive and daring routines, dipping close to the ground at impressive speeds, while others opt for smoother, sophisticated routines, performing daring yet classic maneuvers above a breathless audience. No matter what kind of airshow you see, we guarantee you’ll be impressed.