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HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I was the 2011 World Aerobatic Championships. The weather had created a few delays and all of the competitors were anxious to get back to flying. I was the first American pilot scheduled to fly the unknown. My time slot approached and I walked over to my Extra 300S. As I strapped in, I was surrounded by my teammates. Canopy close. Engine primed. Ready to crank up the engine and go!
There is an unspoken etiquette when a pilot is about to start their engine. You let the pilot focus on the task at hand. No distractions. Add the third round of the World Aerobatic Championships, this rule is considered unbreakable.
Standing off my left wingtip was Rob Holland, who today has won more World Freestyle Championships than any other pilot in aerobatic history! Rob slowly waved his arms for me to stop as he walked towards me. This got my attention. I was confused. What was wrong? What possibly could be so important that he was interrupting me at this moment?
I abort the start and open my canopy.
With a look reminiscent of James Bond, the Sean Connery version, but without the accent. Rob calmly said, "We are all counting on you."
I was uncharacteristically speechless at that moment and said nothing.
As he helped me close the canopy, he added; "Fly good, don’t suck!"
As I taxied for takeoff I kept trying to figure out what that was all about. Even as I climbed up and waited for my turn to fly. I was distracted by those events seconds before I was going to start my engine. Moments later I heard the chief judge’s voice over my radio "Contestant 34 the box is yours."
I dove into the box and flew a pretty good unknown sequence. I didn’t win, but I didn’t suck either!
When I landed Rob was the first person to meet me. He was smiling as he walked up to the plane. I open the canopy and he said "I’m sorry. I would never do that to anyone else, but sitting there before your flight you look like you were going to have a heart attack!" We both laughed.
- Tim Just