Pilot Sean D. Tucker Barrel Rolls Back into Cleveland National Air Show

Sean D. Tucker [photo: Peter Tsai]
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If you are anywhere near downtown Cleveland this weekend, you are sure to hear planes buzzing overhead at the annual Cleveland National Air Show.

One of the highlights is the aerobatic stunts of pilot Sean D. Tucker. He has been showing off his barrel rolls since becoming the U.S. Aerobatic Champion in 1988.

[photo: Christopher Mezzavilla]

When he first began flying, he was terrified he'd somehow stall his plane and send himself crashing to the ground.

"I would panic at the controls. When you panic at anything it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you are doomed," Tucker said.

[photo: Christopher Mezzavilla]

His flight instructor encouraged him to try aerobatics to get over his fear.

"When I did my first roll I was scared to death.  I went, 'wow they still fly even when you're upside down!'  And that became the journey, that's what lit my fire," he said.

Now, Tucker's a living legend, performing forward flips, alley oops, double hammerheads and the triple ribbon cut.

[photo: Scott Plummer]

"My job is to thrill the audience, my job is to inspire the audience.  My job is not to traumatize the audience.  I do not want to scare them, I want to thrill them," he said.

Following more than four decades of aerobatic stunts, and despite his rigorous physical training, the G-forces have taken their toll.

[photo: Peter Tsai]

"My body is pretty well shot.  My wrist is wrapped because I've no ligaments around this [right] arm.  All of my cervical vertebrae are kind of stuck together now from being extruded," he said.

This season will be Tucker's last as a solo performer as he plans to lead his own performance team next year.

[photo: Emmanuel Canaan]

Meanwhile, his beloved Oracle Challenger III bi-plane is headed to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

But not before he thrills the audiences this Labor Day weekend at the Cleveland National Air Show.

Sean D. Tucker



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