Wilhelmine Peers and Evan Peers
Special to the Sun

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July 2, 2014
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‘Women in Aviation’ take to the sky at Truckee Tahoe AirShow & Family Festival

You’re at an airshow and you mention the name Patty. You do not have to say more.

Everyone knows you are referring to Patty Wagstaff. Her accomplishments as an aerobatic pilot are second to none. As a celebration of Women in Aviation, the Truckee Tahoe AirShow & Family festival is welcoming Patty Wagstaff this July 11-12.

We met up with Patty at her flight school in St. Augustine, Fla. She was preparing for an evaluation flight with Kiki, an aerobatic student from Austria. Patty is on her iPad, feverishly staying on top of everything. Her two terriers are settled next to her.

In her office is a framed poster of Women in Flight today, which introduces and honors several women pilots— aerial entertainers, an astronaut, a flying octogenarian, a search and rescue officer and of course Patty Wagstaff as an aerobatic pilot.

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Patty grew up in and around airplanes. Her father was an airline captain. Her sister became an airline captain. But that was not the kind of flying Patty had in her heart. Then she went to her first airshow, and her fate was sealed. She knew right away, “That’s what I want to do!”

She always knew she wanted to set herself apart from others, by flying an ever increasing array of newer and better planes and taking her aerobatics to ever higher levels of performance. She is also a flight and instrument instructor and is rated and qualified to fly many airplanes from World War II fighters to helicopters to jets. She earned a spot on the U.S. Aerobatic Team and became a champion in these Olympic-level competitions, earning her multiple gold, silver and bronze medals.

Patty is the most decorated female aerobatic pilot. Her skills are based on years of training and experience. She is the recipient of the “First Lady of Aerobatics” Betty Skelton Award. She was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and she is particularly proud of receiving the airshow industry’s most prestigious award, the “Sword of Excellence” and the “Bill Barber Award for Showmanship.”

Her airplane, the Goodrich Extra 260, is on display in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. as part of the Pioneers of Flight Gallery. To top it all off, she was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Air Force Association.

WHO’S YOUR HERO?

Asked about her heroes, she immediately answers, “Bob Hoover. I really admire people who don’t just fly well, but are charming, handle situations graciously and who behave well under pressure.”

Patty herself has internalized these qualities. She shows few frills, but through gallant interactions she exudes a sense of pride, sharing not just her knowledge but also her passion.

Patty’s smooth, aggressive style highlights the precision and complexity of modern, unlimited hardcore aerobatics. She does not need to advertise. Flying and continuously reinventing herself is sufficient to turn heads. She is sought out by airshows nationally and internationally. She has flown in countries across five continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. She is planning to fly Australia next year. “Which leaves only one more continent — Antarctica,” she laughs.

SOME LIKE IT HOT

From 2010 to 2013 Patty flew for Calfire as an Air Attack pilot. In one of those years she was protecting the Truckee territory while based out of Grass Valley.

CalFire pilots fly both the OV-10 Bronco and the S-2T Tanker out of 13 different bases, helping keep California safe from fires and supporting firefighters on the ground. This required a whole different set of skills she would teach pilots: “it’s all about energy management and low level flying - much like aerobatics.”

Patty has recently opened her own flight school, partnering with Southeast Aero to create the Patty Wagstaff Aerobatic School, which will focus on precision aerobatics and corporate unusual attitude and upset training using the Extra 300L and the Super Decathlon airplanes. Patty Wagstaff says excitedly: “Starting an aerobatic school gives me and my instructors a chance to pass on our experiences and help create more skillful and safer pilots.”

Patty’s outlook on life is that it is full of new experiences and adventure. Time permitting, she rides horses, she is an avid reader, and she writes articles for aviation magazines. What keeps her grounded is practicing yoga. Looking at the future she says: “I’m not just going to sit back and retire. I don’t know what that means!”

The Truckee Tahoe AirShow & Family Festival’s “Women in Aviation” themed-event will welcome women from both near and far. Meet Patty Wagstaff and inspiring women from aviation at the Truckee Tahoe Airport on July 12, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The event and parking is free.

Gates open at 9 a.m. with a no host breakfast.

Opening Ceremony starts at 11:15 a.m. at the main stage.

Featured festival activities include a kid’s fun area with games, music, puppet show, face painting, arts and crafts; a Vendor Village, Food and Beer Garden, Speaker Forums and free flights for kids ages 8-17 on Sunday, July 13 (must sign up in advance at the AirShow).

The pre-event Honorary Dinner under the stars July 11 at the Airport will shock guests with an aerial-filled “teaser” air show from some of the top performers in the world. Keynote Speaker, Wagstaff, a six-time recipient of the “First Lady of Aerobatics” Betty Skelton Award and world-renowned performer will address guests with a presentation on women in aviation.

Dinner cost is $50 per person. Tickets can be bought at the Truckee Tahoe Airport or online.

For more information, visit http://truckeetahoeairshow.com.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jul 10, 2014 12:17PM Published Jul 2, 2014 06:00PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.