After watching the aerial stunts of aerobatic pilots at the OC Air Show in Ocean City, Md., for the past couple of years, two spectators landed the best seat for this year’s show—the left seat.
Chelsea Remines, a 23-year-old who earned her private pilot certificate April 2, opened the show June 5 with Ocean Aviation Flight Academy Chief Flight Instructor Mike Freed in one of the school’s Cessna 172s. On June 6, 15-year-old Jessica Galuardi added to her 30 hours of flight instruction by soaring along the shoreline at a few hundred feet with instructor Richard Bartlett at the beginning of the show. More than 300,000 people lined the beach, cheering for the young women each day they flew along the shore.
“As she went by, the crowd erupted,” Freed said of Galuardi’s flight.
Ocean Aviation Flight Academy, a Cessna Pilot Center, is based at the Ocean City Municipal Airport, where the airshow pilots staged for the event. Freed worked with the show organizers to allow the school’s Cessna 172 to open the show as a way of encouraging spectators to learn to fly—a good move in his mind, considering two of his customers learned to fly after watching airshows.
Remines had never seen an airshow before Ocean City sponsored its first event three years ago, but that was all it took to pique her interest. She bought a discovery flight and was hooked immediately.
“I had to pay for college and flight training too,” said Remines, who just graduated from Salisbury University with a degree in Spanish. The Ocean City native and competitive surfer fit the airshow act in while in the process of moving to Florida where she plans to pursue her instrument rating.
“I’m the most wind conscious person around town,” she said, referring to her passion for surfing and flying.
The highlight of the airshow for the women wasn’t the fly-by. Instead, it was the behind-the-scenes look at how an airshow is organized and participating in the pilot briefing.
“I was really surprised at how welcoming and friendly the other pilots were,” Remines said, explaining that seasoned surfers aren’t too friendly to beginners.
Experienced aviators, including the pilots with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the Geico Skytypers, Rob Holland, Jack Knutson, and others, congratulated Remines and Galuardi on their accomplishments and wished them luck in the future.
“I got to see all the other performers, and I thought ‘Wow, I just did that!’” Galuardi said, quickly clarifying that she meant participating in the airshow, not performing aerobatics. Although, she reasoned, “it [aerobatics] would be cool to do one day.”
Despite the excitement, Galuardi said she viewed the flight as “just another lesson,” explaining that she logged the flight time and practiced landing with Bartlett. That’s an important focus for Galuardi as she works toward her anticipated first solo date July 1, when she turns 16.
Galuardi’s father had been encouraging her to learn to fly, and all it took from her was a hint of interest after watching last year’s airshow. He signed her up for a discovery flight, and she started training last summer. Her father quickly followed suit, also signing up for lessons, and now her two older brothers are also interested in learning to fly.
Freed is hoping the two women’s participation in the airshow—in a training aircraft—will serve as the spark for other spectators, just like the show did for them. It’s already drawing people to the airport. “We’ve had people walking into the flight school wanting to meet these two girls.” Maybe they’ll ask for an introductory flight as well.