Patty Wagstaff Interview
(Patty Wagstaff Aerobatic School)

She is a six-time recipient of the “First Lady of Aerobatics Betty Skelton Award. In July 2004, she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and was the recipient of the National Air and Space Museum’s Award for Current Achievement in 1994. She also received the Airshow industry’s most prestigious award, the “Sword of Excellence and the Bill Barber Award for showmanship. Recently she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Air Force Association.

We are speaking about the one, the only Patty Wagstaff.

Q – I see you have a corporate sponsor.
A - Yes, but, I don’t have a major sponsor at the moment. So, I’m sponsoring myself with my aerobatic school.

Q - In the past, you’ve had sponsors like Goodyear Tire Company.
A - Well, I still do. Goodyear Tire supports me, Bose Aviation Headsets, Alpine Watches, National Parachute, Champion Aerospace, MT Propeller, Concorde Battery and Lord Corporation.

Q - I understand you need corporate sponsors to keep this show of yours on the road because it’s expensive.
A - That’s for sure.

Q - What does say Goodyear Tire Company get out of it? After you leave the city do they see an increase in tire sales? Or, don’t you know?
 A - Well, I hope so. That’s kind of the point. Its Good Year Aviation Tires is what it is. They help us a lot keeping our plane flying. People have a lot of choices. They can buy the other brand. So, I think when people see their name on our airplanes hopefully it will at least put the idea in people’s heads. That’s kind of what part of it is, subliminal messaging. When they go to buy tires they’ll remember that.

Q - The reason we have air shows is to promote flying?
A - That’s one of the reasons. It’s just really good all-around entertainment. It’s family entertainment. Air shows attract kids. They attract older people. They attract men, women. It’s just an awesome family entertainment value. It’s a really inexpensive day for people, probably less expensive than going to the movies. You can have a whole day of fun and entertainment. For the performers it’s what were good at. It’s what we like to do. Doing airshows keeps our airplanes flying. The big thing is where exposing people to aviation in a really positive way. There aren’t any other places where people can get that exposure to aviation. You can’t walk to the airline and walk around in touch it and get in the cockpit. You can do that at airshows. There are a lot of planes on display, military planes. People can get really close to airplanes. They can smell them. They can touch them. They can talk to the pilots in a way you can’t do anywhere else.

Q - Are the planes you fly built to do all the aerobatic maneuvers you put them through?
A - Oh, totally. These planes are very specially built-their super strong. They’re a very light-weight. Very maneuverable and very powerful. There made in Germany. The plane I flying is an Extra. It’s made in the Extra factory in Germany and then shipped over to the U.S. All of the Extras that come to the U.S. go to Southeast Aero in St. Augustine, Florida where I’m based and that’s where my aerobatic school is. So, it’s great. I see the new planes coming through. I see the people when they come to pick them up and talk to them. I flown an Extra for a long time. I’ve had a number of different models with them. It’s an amazing, strong, safe airplane.

Q - Should something go wrong do you have a way out?
A - We all wear parachutes. It’s required that we wear parachutes during airshows and when we’re training we wear them. I’m not planning to use it anytime soon but, it’s there if I needed and I have seen people bail out of planes mostly home built aerobatic planes. There is that, but my feeling is I want to fly the plane all the way down. If I lose an engine that’s not a big catastrophe. I can land somewhere even if I have to land on the road which I’ve never had to do. I feel like it’s pretty safe.

Q - I guess we can safely say flying is in your blood. Your father was a pilot he let you take control of a DC-6 plane. You have a sister Toni. Does she fly?
A - Yeah. She also flies. She flies for a major airline. That’s what she wanted to do. She’s been flying for the airline for the airline for a long time. So I guess it’s in our blood.

Q - After your performance at an air show, you no doubt sign autographs and pose for pictures. What kind of questions are you being asked?
A - Oh, I get a lot of the regular questions don’t you get dizzy? (Laughs) or, do you get sick? My answer is pretty simple; no I couldn’t do this if I got sick. They want to know a lot about how I train and how did I get to the point where I can fly low the way I do. I get a lot of really good questions to. I get some of the basic ones. Sometimes I think people just really want to talk to you and so sometimes they come up with a question sometimes quickly that doesn’t mean a lot. It’s just a way for them to open up a conversation.

Q - Has anyone ever come back to talk to you and said you inspired me to take up flying and now I’m a pilot?
A - Absolutely. It’s fantastic. I’ve been doing it long enough so I’ve seen that a number of times. All airshow pilots have seen that. Sometimes there flying in the military. Sometimes there flying for the airlines and sometimes their older. Sometimes they’re not kids. They went to an airshow. Especially with women who may be they’ve raised a family and the husband is out doing things and after their kids got out of school they have some free time and they take up flying. That’s really fantastic.

Q - You have the school where you teach people to fly or aerobatics or both?
A - Well, we don’t teach the basic flying and they have to be either a student pilot or a pilot to come see us, but then will teach them the real flying, really doing aerobatics and learning how to get out of trouble and learning how to do rolls and loops. That’s when the real fun comes in. But, it’s the kind of thing I think people should learn, right from the beginning when there student pilots. I believe everybody should be taught this kind of stuff. Good airman ship. We really focus on that. So, we like it when we get student pilots coming through.

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