By Alisa Leverenz, EAA Communications Intern, EAA 1445784
As a young aviation enthusiast, I never could have imagined taking a once-in-a-lifetime aerobatic flight at age 21. Come to find out, I guess anything is possible at AirVenture. Steve Pollack, who was working as one of our media shuttle volunteers, and I were conversing about aerobatics. He told me he was a member of the IAC. Jokingly I shouted, “Oh my goodness can you take me up for an aerobatic flight?” Steve unfortunately did not have his airplane at Oshkosh, but he had a plan for my very excited self anyways. He told me, “Give me a couple minutes, I will be right back.” Steve came back from the IAC building with Todd Ashcraft’s phone number and said “give him a call, I think we can make something happen.” Sure enough, Todd called me before I could even comprehend what was going on and told me I was invited to go up aerobatic flying with him at 8 a.m. the next morning. Of course I said yes.
Flying in a Skybolt was something I have never done before. In fact, it was my first biplane ride ever. Friday morning came along and all my nerves somehow went away and I was genuinely so excited to have this opportunity. It was one of those moments where I took some time to reflect on how every decision I have ever made led me up to this point. Ever since I was 4 years old, aviation has been something I have been so passionate about. Everyone who knows me can attest to that. This experience was something I never could have imagined in all my hopes and dreams. I am grateful that Todd invited me to go flying with him and introduce me to aerobatics. All because of networking and talking with someone who happened to know an aerobatic pilot, my dream became a reality. As I was told before while discussing similar stories, only at Oshkosh…
Todd made sure I was okay with every maneuver we did. No one could have prepared me for my first aerobatic maneuver, though. When Todd told me we were going to start off with a barrel roll, I just took that and went along with it having absolutely no expectation whatsoever. This maneuver felt like it went by so fast and I could not really comprehend what just happened. Starting with the rotation and then all of a sudden you’re on your side and then upside down and then finishing out the barrel roll and sinking in your seat was something I knew would happen, but did not know how it would feel. All of my muscles tensed up in confusion and then eventually relaxed when I realized how incredible of an experience this was and allowed myself to let go. Even in the loop, that millisecond of looking up at the world below you while you are completely upside down, and your body is hanging in the straps — no one can prepare you for that feeling. When you start a spin and the airplane stalls out and then the left wing drops while you are pointed nose down to the ground, all that ran through my head was, “Holy crap, I cannot believe this is happening right now!” The weird pressures in my head, especially when Todd pulled up on the stick and my body glued to the airplane seat, was all so thrilling and intense, but in the best way possible. I was amazed by the amount of control that Todd had on the airplane. He allowed me to test the ailerons to see how sensitive the controls were, and sure enough I was greatly surprised with the results. This Skybolt was something special and incredibly fun to ride.
My favorite maneuver was a loop, but I absolutely loved doing hammer-heads, barrel rolls, spins, and of course the humpty-bump. When you are upside down for that split second and open your eyes to look at the world from a whole new angle, that was one of the most freeing moments I have ever experienced. Absolutely no fear, just complete blissfulness and an immense amount of happiness. I could image that’s why aerobatic pilots just cannot get enough of it. Heck, that’s the reason why I would do an aerobatic flight a million times over again.
If I could recommend one thing when it comes to people who love aviation like I do, it would be to take a chance to do new things and allow yourself to take opportunities that are out of your comfort zone. Even with all my mixed emotions from being excited to nervous, back to excited again, I would not change this experience for the world. I will forever remember my first aerobatic flight that sparked my love for aviation all over again.