Thursday, September 22, 2016

Want to become a stunt pilot? Ride some roller coasters

Salinas – Loops, rollovers, corkscrews, dramatic dives at more than 250 mph.

To get close to experiencing what stunt pilot Michael Goulian does for a living, short of buckling up next to him, you would probably have to spend a lot of time on a hanging roller coaster.

“The very new latest and greatest roller coasters, where you don’t feel any rattling … would most closely resemble going for a ride,” Goulian said. You “would think the airplane is really bumpy and shaky, and it’s exactly the opposite. It is unbelievably smooth.”

Goulian will be one of several performers at the California International Airshow Salinas, this weekend at Salinas Municipal Airport.

Goulian, 48, has competed in an array of races and aerobatics competitions internationally. He won the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship in the Unlimited Category — the highest level of difficulty — in 1995, in addition to winning a silver medal in that category in 1992 and 1993. He has competed in the Red Bull Air Race multiple times and won in Budapest in 2009. He has also received the Art Scholl Showmanship Award from the International Council of Air Shows in 2006.

The dream of becoming an aerobatic flyer started, on all things, a sick day. Staying home sick from school one day, Goulian watched “Cloud Dancer,” a 1980 film about aerobatic flying and competition starring David Carradine and Jennifer O’Neill.

Goulian had begun flying lessons at age 15, after working in the airport of his father’s flight school. His father, wanting to foster an appreciation for hard work, dropped off Goulian at the maintenance hangar, had one of the mechanics get Goulian a broom and left him to his first day of work for the summer.

“After the first summer of being at the airport, I just realized that there was nothing else I wanted to do in my life,” he said.

What he enjoys most about performing is the opportunity to “fly with emotion” in such a way as to inspire the audience.

Goulian’s routine features a complex array of stunts, including gyroscopic maneuvers that only became possible 15 to 18 years ago. These “tumbling” maneuvers resemble cartwheels, accomplished by using the powerful spinning of the propeller. He likened it to flicking a spinning top, causing a 90-degree change in direction. For Goulian, the top is a propeller spinning at 300 rpm with 350 horsepower behind it and he controls the tumble with precise movements of the plane’s nose.

His aircraft, an Extra 330SC, is one of the most versatile aerobatic aircraft available. Manufactured and tested in Germany, the plane’s combination of engine power and lightweight carbon fiber wings provide the maneuverability necessary for Goulian’s stunts.

The plane’s propeller, unlike those of other planes, is made of Kevlar. This provides a lightweight, strong, yet flexible propeller that does not transmit the impact of forceful maneuvers into the engine.

Goulian recommends those interested in pursuing aviation to be persistent and dedicated: “Be single-minded and focused. The journey is part of the reward.” And take plenty of roller coaster rides.


No comments: