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Airshow legend Sean D. Tucker’s next move

2018 to be year of change for iconic aerobatic pilot

Legendary aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker, known to thousands for his 40 years of airshow sky-dancing routines, will soon be hanging up his 13-minute solo set for a seven-ship formation routine. Tucker gave AOPA a glimpse into his future during EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, before leading his protégé Cameron Jaxheimer in an aerobatic practice routine.

Sean D. Tucker performs his signature triple ribbon cut during EAA AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Photo by David Tulis.

“I absolutely love this job but my gut is telling me there’s another chapter,” Tucker confided, as he paced the ramp before climbing into the red Oracle Challenger III.

Hovering sideways in the biplane about 20 feet above the runway for the show-ending triple ribbon cut is a fan favorite. However, Tucker cited formation flying’s eloquence as one of the reasons he is shifting away from a solo show that has included nearly 1,300 performances, an estimated audience of 135 million, and more than four decades of competitive flying.

He told AOPA that he planned to recruit some of the best pilots in the world to join him in an aerial formation routine to be performed very close to an airshow’s center line in an effort to keep aerobatic fans engaged the entire time rather than making them look off-airport for rejoins, breakaways, and other maneuvers.

“I’m absolutely looking for a Snowbird-like experience” he said, referring to the Canadian demonstration team that won the hearts of AirVenture airshow attendees in 2016 during a jet aircraft performance above Wittman Regional Airport.

“I want it to be slow enough to keep it in their face but powerful enough to have a magnificent formation” experience for crowds gazing into the sky.

The energetic Tucker kept most of the details close to his chest but revealed that the new venture would start with a five-ship combination, and he ultimately would work the routine into the seven-ship spectacle.

He is the recipient of AOPA’s 2017 R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy, the founder of the nonprofit Bob Hoover Academy for at-risk California high school students, and the chairman of the EAA Young Eagles program.

Tucker hoped his team-approach idea to "share the beautiful joy that we call the sky” would inspire the next generation of aviators to pursue aviation as a career.

Cameron Jaxheimer, 22, visualizes maneuvers on the ramp with Team Oracle aerobatic performer and mentor Sean D. Tucker during EAA AirVenture. Photo by David Tulis.
David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Aerobatics, Public Benefit Flying, People

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