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Wednesday
Oct112017

Cover Story: 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.

Julie has received an astonishing number of awards for her performance skills, contributions to the airshow industry, community work, and overall promotion of the aviation industry. To be sure, Julie’s impact on aviation, flying safety, and promotion of aviation opportunities for the youth of America speak very well to the truth of “Taking Aviation by Storm.” But in preparing this article, an interview with Julie led to an unexpected side of Julie’s contributions to flying. 

Julie offered a comment that introduced a subject that is seldom discussed, “Sure, I am proud of the recognition I have received over the years, and internally grateful to the individuals and organizations that have honored me for expressing my role as a professional pilot in a form that is actually a personal passion, not work. Those wishing to learn more about me and my remarkable team can do so by visiting www.julieclarkairshows.com, but there is a side to my career that I would like your readers, and my fans to give some thought to.”

Julie continued, “My airshow career and the ability to help others enjoy the thrills of both watching and participating in aviation would simply not have been possible without the sponsors and endorsements that have supported my airshow business. Running an airshow business is incredibly costly and in need of the best equipment and services in the industry. I sometimes wonder if fans take the time to look past the smoke and noise and see all of those companies that have their names on my T-34.” 

Julie brings up a good point. A count will disclose that in addition to Julie’s primary supporting company, Tempest Plus, there are some 23 other companies that have their products and/or services discreetly displayed on the T-34. Tempest has been with Julie for two years, and according to Julie, “John Herman, President of Tempest, is a great guy, and the products sold by Tempest are paramount in helping me meet my demanding flight and show schedule. I do not accept sponsorship or endorsements from a company unless I have personal knowledge of that product or use the product.  My wonderful T-34 has supported me for my entire solo acro career, and “Free Spirit” gets nothing but the best.”

Julie is justifiably proud of those who have supported Julie Clark Airshows. Frequently, her life depends on the reliability of those products. Julie personally flies her T-34 to each performance, often making side trips for public-service appearances, in both industry settings and community functions. As Julie points out, “airshows and public appearances are events that have a time stamp. I need to be there on time. I fly long distances at very high altitudes, and IFR gets the job done. My T-34 does not have to stand up to just the few minutes that are spent flying a specific show routine but needs to serve as company-corporate transportation, with all the reliability and endurance one would expect of an executive transport. I also give many promotional rides in the T-34 every year; reliability and passenger safety are vital.”

Julie has worked with a number of sponsors over the years. In all cases, these products and services have become a part of Julie’s everyday life on the show circuit. Tempest keeps Julie flying with engine accessories and components that keep the T-34’s powerplant powerful, economical, and reliable. But other companies have also played a significant role such as 19 years of sponsorship with Mopar, five years with Chevron Aviation Products, two years with Juice Plus and now, two years with Tempest. Avidyne, Good Year, Concorde Battery, Bose headsets, and L3 Avionics Systems (just to name a few, see Julie’s website for more details) provide endorsements and products all installed in the T-34. 

When it comes to sponsorship, Julie adds, “We have a shared trust. These great companies trust that I will represent their products in the best way possible, and I trust that their products will keep me and my fans safe, given some of the most demanding circumstances one can imagine.” The bottom line is simple, when shopping for aviation products, start by visiting Julie’s website and look for those companies that Julie trusts.  You cannot get a better recommendation.

But there are two sides to the commercial sponsorship story of airshow flying. How do companies choose a performer and justify their investment? A call to John Herman of Tempest offered some interesting insights. Like many business decisions, John’s was based in part on the gut feel that Julie is the right person at the right time. John commented, “Julie Clark is a performer I have admired throughout my entire career in aviation. I worked with Julie while with another aviation company and had noticed the personal effort Julie put into a business relationship. Julie does not just show up at an event, fly, and then disappear. She is a real pro at the public events, which accompany a show and always visits the pavilions of venders who support her. Tempest has several locations around the country and deals with many products. We know that Julie will help us with morale-building visits and performances that the entire Tempest team will have an opportunity to see. We view Julie Clark as a true force in aviation, the perfect person to represent our motto, Taking Aviation by Storm.” 

When asked about how Julie can increase Tempest business, a clear vison and understanding of the aviation support industry became evident. John responded, “Tempest is an interesting company, both selling and, through contracted services, producing manufactured products. In keeping with our mission statement of exceeding customer expectations of quality and service on all products, we have taken engine components to a new level of lifespan and reliability. But, the name Tempest, does not describe exactly what we do, as would a business called “Bill’s Auto Repair.”

“Most aircraft owners pride their choice of aircraft based on many factors, one of which is having an engine with a high TBO. Good idea, but most owners do not know that many engine sub-components and accessories, like the vacuum and hydraulic pumps, fuel system components, electrical and filtration products, ignition components, and monitoring systems vital to engine operation do not share their engine’s TBO. This is where Tempest comes in, with custom-manufactured products that have increased the service life of many engine system products. We are the guys who can help our customers reach TBO and fly with a level of reliability that is unparalleled. Julie is a mechanical pro and can really talk the path she walks on almost a daily basis. The bottom line is, if Julie uses it, so should you. This is a format that works, because Julie makes it work.”

The world of airshow performers is much more than just racking up the Gs and turning on the smoke. Bills must be paid and families supported. In Julie’s case, there are thousands of miles of travel, multiple public appearances, and trust placed in a plane that is a lot more than just a show queen. Thanks, Julie, for giving the readers of In Flight USA an inside look into your world.

For more information about Julie Clark Airshows and Tempest, visit www.julieclarkairshows.com and www.tempestplus.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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