Julie Clark, “Taking Aviation by Storm”

By Ed Downs

Julie Clark behind the controls of her Beech T-34 Mentor, Free Sprirt. (Dave Swartz)

“Taking Aviation by Storm” is what editorial folks call a “tagline.” But the simple “tagline” definition leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to Julie Clark and the aviation businesses that she represents through sponsorships and endorsements. The fact is, Julie does “Take Aviation by Storm” in a way that is unique in the airshow industry.

It would be hard to find an aviation enthusiast that does not know the name of Julie Clark, or fail to recognize Julie’s famous Beech T-34 Mentor, painted in the colors and theme of Air Force One. The 2017 airshow season marks Julie’s 41st anniversary as a performing pilot and 38th year as a solo aerobatic act for her company, American Aerobatics. Julie Clark officially began her airshow company then named, Julie Clark’s American Aerobatics, in 1980. Julie and the entire Smokin’ Mentor T-34 aerobatic team have had a terrific 2017 show season and look forward to an exciting 2018 schedule.  With 38 years of solo aerobatic airshow flying and more than 33,000 accident-free hours in the air, 11,000 hours in her T-34 alone, Julie and her beautiful T-34 Mentor have become the icon of airshow performances. 

Julie’s airshow routine takes her beautifully restored T-34 “Free Spirit,” to the limits of its operating capability. Julie’s T-34 demands exceptional skill to perform aerobatics, and Julie’s experience has honed her coordination and responsiveness in a delicate balance. Her unique and patriotic presentation, “Serenade in Red, White and Blue,” is breathtakingly choreographed to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” or “God Bless You Canada.” To enhance her routine, multi-colored wing-tip smoke trails her every maneuver.

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Editorial: Pilot Report by a Newbie

By Ed Downs

The Dromida Drone was a learning experience for this writer. (Courtesy Dromida)Like it or not, drones (Unmanned Aerial Systems) are becoming a major player in the National Airspace System.  This writer decided last year to add one more pilot rating to the list I now have by becoming an FAA UAS pilot.  Sure enough, I visited www.faasafety.com, took the UAS pilot training course, fought my way through the IACRA process (electronic 8710 form) and presto, I was a drone pilot … sort of.  Yes, I had the plastic in my pocket, but had never actually flown a drone.  Leaving that small detail behind, In Flight USA reached out to drone manufacturers, inviting them to submit news announcements that might help us provide the most current information to our reader base of contemporary (real?) pilots. In Flight USA is even attending the Drone World Expo, being held in San Jose in early October.  But, the results of our outreach have been mixed, as the gaming and business world of drones has been slow to pick up on the fact that they are a part of the family of flying machines, mixing in with airplanes stuffed with people.  But that suddenly changed, about two weeks before this October issue went to print.

An e-mail announcement from Hobbico Inc. suddenly showed up. Don’t recognize the name?  Hobbico is the largest distributor of model products in the world, with more than 400 brand names and some 60,000 products. Do the names Revell Model, United Model, Tower Hobbies, Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, or Hobby Lobby ring a bell?  Yep, this employee-owned company holds a leadership role in the world of drones, ranging from toys to professional commercial versions.  The announcement addressed a new, low end, drone that probably falls into the “toy” category, but seemed to have some of the features normally reserved for the big guys. With a Wi-Fi connected camera that take photos and videos (direct to an app on your smart phone), hand controller, 3D goggles and all the accoutrements needed to fly (including spare rotor blades and even a small screw driver), my interest was piqued.  With an MSRP of $89.99, this intrepid aviator figured, “how about getting hold of this critter and actually learn how to fly a drone, from the perspective of a pilot report.”  Thus, began a trip into the world of technological humiliation, ending with an enlightenment about the world of drones that exceeded my expectations.  Yep, an old dog can learn new tricks.

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