I was heavily influenced as a teenager by my dad and his brother into taking more than a passing interest in aircraft and flying. We would often go to Air Shows and aviation themed movies, make model aircraft, etc. So when at 16 I was given the autobiography of Chuck Yeager to read I couldn’t put it down. It was then I made the decision to pursue the career of pilot, one thing I knew was that I didn’t want to be an airline pilot.
Prior to finishing school I used some savings that I had earned doing a paper run and other casual jobs to do a short gliding course. Two things came from this, first, I became totally addicted to flying and was sure I had made the right decision to become a pilot. Second, I met Enzo Iacono, not only would he come to be one of my best friends, but we would also fly together in formation for over 20 years now.
After finishing school in 1990 I would start my powered flying training in your typical Airline oriented school, while I enjoyed this I knew it was not really the school for me. After gaining my RPL and basic aerobatic endorsement in a C152 I found the Sydney Aerobatic School (SAS) and decided to continue my training there. They had training available through to Commercial (CPL) but also had a high focus on Aerobatics and some great aircraft to fly.
Primary training was done in a Robin 2160, still one of my favourite aircraft to fly. The school also had a Pitts S2A and S2S for advanced aerobatics and a SIAI Marchetti SF260 that was for Commercial training and adventure rides. I was fortunate enough to fly all these aircraft while a student and employee.
In 1994 I achieved my CPL, this coincided with the owner of SAS purchasing the Red Baron scenic flight business. I was offered work flying the company Pitts as a Red Baron pilot, we also incorporated the SF260 into the Red Baron offerings so my typical day flying often had me in the Robin, Pitts and SF260 all in the same day. Enzo was also flying at SAS at the time and we decided to to our formation ratings together and design a simple air combat flight that we could sell through Red Baron. This proved to be very popular and we amassed hundreds of hours doing these flights and consolidating our formation flying skills.
In 1997 I did my Instructor Rating and started teaching aerobatics and basic flying training.
In 2000 when the Sydney Olympic Games were being hosted I had the opportunity to fly the Cessna Caravan for the NSW Police Service. The role was aviation security and in a time before 9/11, it mostly consisted of stopping unwanted aerial advertisers gate crashing Olympic events. Most of the time we were intercepting Pilots who had not paid enough attention to the Restricted Airspace and had blundered in inadvertently. It was a great job for a couple of months and allowed me to experience turbine aircraft for the first time as well as flying outside the training school/joy flight environment.
In 2001 I left aviation to travel and found myself living in London working in the film industry. I worked with stabilized remote heads both on set and in the workshop assembling them. I found this work deeply satisfying as well and spent four years in London doing this.
In 2005 however, I returned to Australia as Enzo and I had secured a Red Bull sponsorship for my Pitts S2A. I also purchased the Red Baron business from my old boss and in 2006 purchased SAS as well.
Since purchasing Red Baron my team and I have grown the business to include 2x Robin 2160, 2x Pitts S2a an Extra 200, Extra 300L and we are about to take delivery of an Extra 330LX. Red Baron is the premier aerobatic flying school and adventure flight company in Australia.
Over the 10 years working with Red Bull I was able to travel the country performing displays at Red Bull events, as well as doing publicity stunts for the company as well. In 2016 Red Bull canceled the contract and this opened a new chapter in my career as I was able to refocus on training and formation flying again.
Just a little side note: I had wanted to get in the military initially but was not able to. I was however given the chance to fly an A37b Dragonfly for about 25 hours for some friends of mine who were operating one for adventure flights. By far one of the most exhilarating aircraft I have ever flown with an initial climb rate of 10000 ft/min and a top speed of 420kts.
I am very excited to be competing at the Formation Aerobatic Championships in Zhengzhou this year and believe that Team Red Baron can perform to a high standard. It’s an honour to be flying with some of the great names in formation aerobatics and I can’t wait to enjoy the spirit of the competition with such a great crew.