February 1, 2013
AOPA AV8RS Staff
As a boy, Sean D. Tucker dreamed of being Superman and flying through the sky. But since he had no super powers, he did the next best thing.
He became a private pilot.
Tucker, however, always worried he would stall the plane. To overcome that fear, he decided to take aerobatic lessons.
Anyone who has seen him fly is glad he did. Today, Tucker is one of the top aerobatic performers in the world. He has won numerous aerobatic competitions, as well as entertained more than 80 million fans in more than 1,000 performances at 425 air shows.
Tucker said he fell in love with the art form of aerobatics once he conquered his fear of stalling. He also learned to be afraid of nothing, but to respect everything.
It’s not by accident that he’s a great pilot. He practices — a lot.
“I practice at least 100 times after winter before I fly my first airshow of the season,” he said. “I usually practice three times a day. Very few performers practice as much as I do. But I believe luck comes to the one who is the most prepared and practice makes perfect. By being prepared, I get very lucky and very good. But I still keep practicing because I’m after perfection.”
Tucker said his routine is the same whether it’s a practice or performance. He first walks through his sequence mentally on the ground before he gets in the plane. And despite the 1,000-plus times he’s performed in the past, he still gets the pre-show jitters.
“If those jitters ever go away I’ll quit,” he said. “That would mean I am taking flying for granted, and you can’t afford to be nonchalant. You must always be on your game.”
The result is magic. “When I’m in tune with the airplane, it’s as if I’m dancing through the sky. It gives me a lot of joy, and I’m constantly striving to have that joy. It is very addicting.”
To teens aspiring to be pilots, Tucker gives this advice. “Invest in your passion and challenge yourself. I strongly believe everyone should try flying. It pushes boundaries and makes you become a bigger person with bigger experiences to draw on as a human being.”
When it comes to establishing personal minimums, you need a working definition of the term.
Veteran airshow performer Billy Werth teaches students to consider roads in case of emergency. On Aug. 10, he took his own advice.
If it’s been a while, try starting your next proficiency session by getting the weather with a pad, not the iPad.
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