June 4, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Skip Stewart has been named the 2013 recipient of World Airshow News’ Bill Barber Award for Showmanship.
Stewart is known worldwide for his innovative, high-energy airshow performances in his highly modified Pitts biplane. He grabs an audience’s attention with his spine-tingling tumbles, ribbon cuts, and knife-edge passes. He also has been an innovator with multi-dimensional theme acts like Tinstix and flying under a jumping motorcycle.
“I was shocked and surprised when I learned I won the award. It’s kind of interesting, because I felt like I deserved it in the past few years,” said Stewart. “I look at the list of past winners, and all of a sudden, it’s humbling, because it’s an elite group of people. It makes me feel somewhat unworthy.”
His original interest in flying came from his grandfather, who was an ag pilot. “The only avenue I had to pursue aviation was to build and fly remote control airplanes. Once I learned how to fly them, it was all aerobatics. I grew up thinking aircraft were for tricks,” Stewart said. “But when I was 14, I went to my first airshow and saw a man flying a plane he built himself. It was inspiring, and I realized that I’d need to focus so I could try and emulate what I had just seen.”
Stewart learned to fly while in college and almost immediately began to learn aerobatics. He worked for commuter airlines and corporate flight departments, and eventually saved up enough to buy his first aerobatic airplane, a Pitts S2A.
He started out in competition aerobatics before moving into airshows. After taking an airline job with a major overnight freight carrier, Stewart sold his Pitts S2A and bought a stock Pitts S2S, which, after numerous modifications over the years, became Prometheus, his 400-horspower-muscle biplane.
Stewart flies worldwide using two Prometheus biplanes to help facilitate his wide-ranging schedule. He has a new, custom-designed, all-composite biplane under construction.
The Barber Award began in 1986, and is awarded to airshow performers or teams that have demonstrated great skill and showmanship. World Airshow News and the friends and family of the late Bill Barber present the award annually.
The memory of a passenger who perished in an April 1945 airline accident continues to drive an effort to recognize notable achievements in aviation safety.
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