Magazine Jul/Aug 2013 Where Eagles Tread

13 July 2013, 14:20
56665 |

Where Eagles Tread

Between the carbon fiber wings and steel tube fuselage, bolting in the sky at a speed of 260 miles an hour, beats the heart of a champion. Fasten your fears – you’re about to enter the danger zone. Insert Top Gun soundtrack, and press play.

Children tug their mother’s hands – “Look mommy, up in the sky!” – and a mighty voice projects over the sea of faces at Andrews Air Base. “High above is a man who’s dedicated more than half his life to the pursuit of excellence in extreme flying. He’s a former U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, Red Bull Air Race extraordinaire, and one of America’s most decorated aviators – from Boston, Massachusetts – Michael Goulian!”
Cue the high-octane music, as 3,000 feet away a propeller pierces the western sky over Maryland. Goulian’s Extra 330SC, the world’s newest custom-built premiere aerobatic aircraft, dips down and tornadoes toward the crowd at a roll rate of 420 degrees per second. Several revolutions later, a crisp snap roll to the right boasts the sleekness of its wingspan. An even crisper snap to the left displays the supremacy of the pilot’s skills. Right again, then left, and back to center. Momentum thrusts the 1,200-pound-plane spiraling down at unearthly speeds to the center of the crowd’s view. The faint-of-heart look away.
Hats fall off and ice cream scoops topple to the ground. Spectators swiftly turn their heads from one side to another.
Goulian is up again, maintaining speeds of 220 to 240 miles an hour. He looks out the cockpit toward the left wing, setting it on the horizon, and then follows with a series of razor sharp point rolls. As he ascends, he battles the forces of gravity with all 350 horses of the plane’s Lycoming Thunderbolt engine. He checks the altitude; he’s reached 2,000 feet. The plane rolls backwards – now it’s upside down.
The music stops. Thousands are silenced by the image of a plane on its stomach – some close their eyes.
Just then a white smoke spurts out of the tail and simultaneously the high-pitched voice of Steven Tyler, aka The Demon of Screamin, shouts “Ya...Livin’ on the edge!” The music’s on high blast, it’s the cool Aerosmith (before Steven Tyler was an old lady on Idol – that Aerosmith) mixed with even cooler aerobatics. The crowd goes wild. Pure aerial insanity ensues. This is the Goulian Aerosports experience, and it’s just getting started.

Twelve minutes of that and kids beg their parents for flying lessons; they all want to be like Michael Goulian. His air shows have reached mythical proportion.
A story was published in The Salt Lake Tribune about an 11-year-old-girl who witnessed her hero in aerobatic flight at the National Championships in Nevada, and said, “As soon as I saw that, I knew it was what I had to do.”
Goulian is an aerobatic pilot. Imagine fusing the movements of a trapeze artist with the speed of a Formula-1 racer – but up in the sky. Only a handful of civilian pilots successfully make a living in this chosen profession. A master of modern aerial maneuvers, Goulian’s performance style is uniquely edgy, complex and aggressive.
“I fly my heart out,” confides Goulian. “It doesn’t matter if people know planes or not. My hope is that they see a person in that machine giving it everything he’s got. If they can recognize that, then that itself brings about a certain type of emotion.” The excitement is amplified with carefully choreographed music, which he and his team believe enhance the spectator’s experience. “At the end of the show, we want people to be amazed. I want the whole crowd to be giving each other high fives. We make it as beautiful as we can so that at the right time of the day, if we catch somebody on the right emotional level, there might even be a tear in their eye.”
Michael Goulian is made of the right stuff – legendary stuff. A competition pilot at 17, National Advanced Champion at 22 and Unlimited Champion by 27, he represented the United States at the World Aerobatic Championship on three separate occasions. Before he was 30, he literally wrote the book on advanced aerobatics. Recently, he joined an elite group, becoming one of only seven aviators in history to be awarded all three of the air show industry’s top honors: the ICAS Sword of Excellence, the Art Scholl Memorial Award and the Bill Barber Award.

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