Passionate aerobatic performer Yuichi Takagi will fly his first professional aerobatic demonstration during the AOPA Fly-In at Salinas, California, May 16. But the enthusiastic aviator has been flying competitive aerobatics since 2004. A flight instructor since 2000, he’s logged 6,200 hours, including 2,200 hours of aerobatic instruction. A protégé of Salinas-based aerobatic legend Sean D. Tucker, Takagi currently teaches at Tucker’s Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety in nearby King City.
As a teenager, Takagi read a book by a Reno biplane racer and airshow pilot, and was enthralled. “I’ve liked airplanes since I was a kid,” he said. In Watsonville, California, he learned basic aerobatics flying “an underpowered, 85-horsepower clipped-wing Cub. I still remember those days,” when the then-23-year-old taxied while leaning out the open door. “I felt real cool, like a movie star,” he laughed.
Takagi went back to Japan and trained as a mechanic, returning to the United States. “The big turning point was in 1999, when I got a green card and was able to stay in America,” he said. Working as both a mechanic and CFI, Takagi couldn’t afford to pursue aerobatics until he bought an airplane in 2002. “After I got my Pitts S-2B, my dream came true.”
He worked his way up in aerobatic competition. Since 2004, he has progressed from Sportsman through Intermediate and Advanced to Unlimited. “I’m always looking for my next step,” he explained. “I fly at the top category, so my next goal is to fly in airshows in my Pitts S-2S, and show people my passion for flying and aerobatics.”
Because his Pitts does not have the vertical capabilities of an airplane like an Extra, Takagi’s performance will include many complex maneuvers—including torque rolls and tumbles—in a short period of time. “I’m going to show my energy, and not the airplane’s energy,” he said. “I hope it’s going to be a fun sequence.”
The modest pilot said he’s grateful for the support he’s had in getting to where he is today, citing Rich Perkins at Attitude Aviation, who taught him good basic skills, and Tucker, who has been “a huge help” in developing his skills. Takagi—who for three years also flew cargo in Cessna Caravans for a FedEx feeder—also is glad he no longer has to work as both a mechanic and a pilot. “Now I use my mechanic skills to fix my airplane,” he said.
Takagi, 43, said he is the only Japanese pilot flying airshows in the United States. “I want to tell people it’s not unique—anybody can do it. I did it!” he said. Takagi has other shows scheduled this year in California; this September, he plans to compete for the first time in the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships, held in Denison, Texas.
AOPA has the latest Salinas Fly-In information, including the seminar schedule and an updated exhibitor listing. Learn more and RSVP for AOPA’s Salinas Fly-In today. Pilots planning to fly in need to download AOPA’s Pilot Information Packet, which includes the fly-in procedures. Also, watch helpful tips and part of the arrival route in this Air Safety Institute video.