“The ground doesn’t discriminate.  Male or female, when you’re an aerobatic pilot, you only have one chance in an air show to perform your maneuver.  If it isn’t done perfectly, you could die,” states Jacquie Warda in her usual down to earth manner.

Warda knows of what she speaks.  Better known to air show spectators across the country as Jacquie B., the gregarious female stunt pilot and her EXTRA 300 stunt plane recently visited Global Aviation.  Jacquie performed several times during this year’s Oregon International Air Show which was held July 26-28th at the Hillsboro Airport (KHIO).   We took the opportunity to interview her during one of her few free moments.

(Note: this interview has been edited for brevity)

Q:   How did you get into this line of work?

A:  “For the longest time, I didn’t fly.  I grew up in a traditional household where everyone figured that I would get married and have a family.  Even though I went to air shows with my father as a kid, there was really nothing in my upbringing to suggest this career path.  I didn’t even play sports in school–I took ballet.  After I graduated from high school, I went into the workforce.  Although I dreamt of flying, I didn’t believe that I could do it.   As a result, I didn’t get my pilot’s license until the age of 32.  It was my husband, David, who finally encouraged me to become a stunt pilot, at the age of 50!”

Q:  There are roughly 450 stunt pilots in the United States today.  About five of them are female.  As a late comer to the aviation stunt world, and a woman, what has been your key to success?

A:  “I credit my success to a lot of hard work, tenacity and a supportive husband.  When I decided to do this, I knew that I was going to have to treat it as a serious business, especially since I was going into it later in life.  And as a Type A personality, I expect nothing short of excellence.  Consequently, I fly at least five to six times a week, and sometimes two to three times a day.  I do leave one day a week open so that I can clean my house.  But frankly, my husband David does most of the things around our home and he maintains my aircraft too.  He’s amazing!”

Q:  So what does your typical day look like?

A:  “It’s really important for me to be physically fit and to maintain my G tolerance, so I workout daily.   When I fly, I may practice one maneuver up to 30 times.  Or, I may go out and just pull G’s.  The later is key because I generally pull between five and eight G’s during each performance.  And, G tolerance can go away within two weeks if you don’t practice.  At 8 G’s, the last thing I want to do is pass out!

At any rate, each flight is usually 20 minutes in duration, which is about twice as long as my act.  That’s because I can only carry a small amount of fuel and I’m physically tired afterwards.  The goal is to build on my skills, work on my timing, and commit the maneuvers to muscle memory, because when I perform, I’m busy thinking about wind conditions and the crowd line.

I also run 99% of the business—including marketing and sales.  While David does most of the airplane maintenance, I’m really a crew of one, which is unusual in this work.”

Q:  What are your plans going forward?

A:  “I’m heading down to perform in Mexico this fall.  The air show industry has really blossomed there, but they have to import their flyers because there are only two to three stunt pilots in the country.  I also have about ten irons in the fire for next year; several of them are overseas.  The international markets are very lucrative.”

Q:  Aren’t there a lot of challenges to performing internationally?

A:  “There can be.  Many of these countries don’t have the same rules that we have in the United States, so there’s a lot of ‘self policing’ that gets done.  Fuel can also be an issue because the fuel in Mexico, for example, is different from what I use here at home.  And, since I only have one aircraft, if I have to ship my plane, I can’t practice.

This actually happened to me when I performed in Dubai.  My plane was on a boat for two months and it arrived in the country only two weeks before the show.  After we assembled it, I had to get my G tolerance back up and practice maneuvers.  Luckily, it didn’t take too long to get re-conditioned.”

Q:  You’re about to celebrate your 60th birthday.  What will you do once you retire from flying? 

A:  “Hopefully that doesn’t happen too soon.  I love my job and I can’t even imagine retirement right now.  But, when the time comes, I do hope to remain relevant in the aviation industry.  I love air shows and could see myself working on them in some capacity.  I also enjoy mentoring young women.  I have been doing some motivational speaking and I really enjoy it.  I think women have a lot to offer and I want to encourage them to live life to the fullest.  I can attest to the fact that it’s never too late to start.”

To learn more about Jacquie visit:    http://www.jacquiebairshows.com  

© 2012 Global Aviation. All Rights Reserved.