I just got inducted as a Legend in the World Acrobatic Soceity for my participation in Extreme Sports! In this case, “Acrobatics Society” doesn’t relate to airplanes . . . it relates to gymnastics, circus performers, high divers, etc., although my award in the “Extreme Sports” catagory did relate to my aerobatic flying. The event was held in Las Vegas at the Circus Circus Hotel and I got a chance to meet a lot of really fun and interesting people, including some from my High School days that started Miami Gymnastics and coached at different schools.
While I was building my first airplane my senior year of High School, I competed on our first year Gymnastic Team. Since I was learning how to fly at the time and flipping around in the gym, it only seemed natural to begin flipping around in the sky! After High School, I competed several years in college gymnastics. It was during this time I began to compete in airplane aerobatics.
My early college formal education was somewhat lack-luster because my interest was in working on my airplane, NOT studying. When I finished my airplane, I got serious about school and got accepted at Purdue University to pursue an Aeronautical Engineering degree. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a men’s gymnastic team. And while this was the end of my gymnastic career, and my formal education, it was when my aerobatic career really began to take off. I dropped out of school and, with no formal training, designed and built my own competition airplane, making the US Team when I was twenty-four years old!
While I realize I never would have gone to the top in gymnatics, it became a stepping stone to a great flying career! In two airplanes I designed and built myself with no formal training, I flew in six World Aerobatic Championships, winning twenty medals at the world level, becoming two-time US National Champion, as well as winning several invitational contests around the world.
So, while the award was for my aerobatic accomplishments in the sky, I was accepted into this prestigious group of acrobats because of my gymnastic background and am the first person in my type of sport to even be considered! What a cool honor!