By Barbara A. Schmitz
Pinch him. It’s alright. Kyle Fowler can’t believe it’s true himself.
Kyle only started flying aerobatic shows in 2016, but he was asked to perform this year at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 in his bright yellow 1986 Long-EZ with its delta wing canard design. To say he is excited is quite the understatement. He’ll be performing in the daily air show three times during AirVenture.
Kyle is from Alberta, Canada, and Oshkosh will only be his second U.S. performance. The first was in Arlington, Virginia, in 2016, and it was also his very first air show. But in 2017, he participated in Canada’s Arctic Aviation Tour, performing at 67 air shows across Canada’s Arctic.
“I’ve known what Oshkosh is and I’ve seen pictures, but it’s still sensory overload being here,” Kyle said, just hours after arriving Monday. “It was an amazing experience and I was taxiing in, it was hard to look straight ahead when I wanted to be looking all around.”
Still, Kyle didn’t expect to have any jitters for his first show on Tuesday. “I always treat a performance the same as a practice. I fly the same routine, do the same walkthrough; everything is the same except I’ll have an audience below.”
Kyle said he’s just an average pilot and notes that he doesn’t even fly an aerobatic airplane. “I chose the Long-EZ because it’s different, and it’s easier to market and get noticed. The Long-EZ is designed for cross-country flying, but since it was designed by Burt Rutan, Oshkosh is the perfect venue. Any airplane can do a loop and a roll, and if you add the smoke, noise, and then compact things, it looks a lot more aggressive than it is,” he said, adding that he doesn’t go over 3.5gs. In fact, he describes his act as a “high-performance glider show.”
Although being an air show pilot is still relatively new to him, Kyle already has a deep understanding of the industry. That’s because his father, Ken, has been an aerobatic pilot for more than 20 years, and Kyle began announcing for him at around age 12.
Kyle said he grew up doing a lot of flying, but didn’t earn his private pilot certificate until he was 20. “I was working on it at 16,” he said. “But then I found out that boys are supposed to have girlfriends and flying airplanes wasn’t that high of a priority anymore.”
But once he got the bug, he started adding ratings and flying more. “I now have about 1,000 hours as a private pilot in a couple dozen different types of airplanes,” he said. By trade, he is an auto mechanic.
He said other air show pilots have been encouraging as he starts his new career. Kyle explained that aerobatic and Red Bull Air Race pilot Mike Goulian came up to him at the end of the ICAS Convention shortly after he was invited to Oshkosh. “He told me about his first Oshkosh and gave me advice,” Kyle said. It’s something he hopes to do for other rookie aerobatic pilots in the future.