So there we were, behind schedule.
The gusting winds had grounded the hot air balloons, skydivers and paragliders.
The crazed windsock threatened to rip itself off its pole and blow away altogether.
The morose crowd packed the ramp.
Buddy Lopa, our untiring “Voice of the Fiesta” Program Director, kept apologizing for the wind.
We were stressed! The airshow was dying.
That’s when our aerobatic pilots, Bill Wright and Meynard Halili, walked up to the operations tent and asked what time they could start their engines.
I‘ve written written about Meynard Halili here before. Former cigarette vendor. Now a successful business owner.
Learned to fly at 40. Earned his FAA PPL, CPL, ATPL in one fell swoop. Rotary and fixed wing CFI, MEI, glider, powered and unpowered aerobatics, CFII, … .
Owner of Airworks flying school. The only aerobatic instructor in the Philippines.
Bill Wright used to be a helicopter mechanic. He became a pilot, flew all around Southeast Asia, then settled in the Philippines after retirement.
He now owns an airplane factory here that manufactures the Vans RV-4 aerobatic airplanes.
Bill’s own RV-4 has an erupting volcano painted on its tail.
The airplane was buried in ash by Pinatubo’s eruption. Bill dug it out, restored it and named it “The Phoenix”, after the bird that rose from the ashes.
It looks almost like a P-51 Mustang.
Bill and Meynard tore up the Fiesta sky with a rigourous 30-minute aerobatic display in the Bill’s RV-4 and Meynard’s Super Decathlon, twice a day, every Fiesta day.
They whipped through Cuban and lazy eights, hammerheads, spins, rolls, loops, immelmans, and ripped past each other in an opposing pass break they had never displayed before.
They flew thirteen sorties at the Fiesta — that’s seven hours of gut-wrenching aerobatic flight in four days!
They have been a part of the Fiesta for a long time and are one of the crowd favorites every year.
Buddy, our Program Director, ran a commentary that went thus:
“That’s an immelma… no, a Cuban Eight, … into a wingov… no, that’s a lazy eight… ,” as I whispered to him what I thought Meynard was doing 🙂
The pilots’ radio chatter belied the intensity of their maneuvers.
“Do you see me, Bill?”
“Oh ya! What are you doing in that cloud, Meynard? Zooming up to you now. Nice closure rate there, huh?”
I did Meynard’s Basic Aerobatics Course last year, 10 hours of aerobatic flight training in that same Decathlon. In my mind, I could see and feel every control input he was making in that airplane.
I fell hard for aerobatics.
Pure stick and rudder flying, absolute precision, sucking every ounce of aerodynamic capability from the airplane. Every control surface in motion, plus P-factor, torque — all in play.
Straight and level is for wimps. Real pilots do it upside down!
From the ground, I watched the Decathlon longingly, close to tears of envy.
My hands and feet moved unbidden, in sync with Meynard’s every maneuver.
Left rudder to the floor, stick forward, then to the right, top rudder and stick neutral, then back… .
I need to get back in the air. Upside down.
I look forward to their performances every year. They, by themselves, are the best aviation act in the country. I wish they never stop aerobatics, flying or simply being great friends.
Meynard Halili and Bill Wright with Gigi, Skydiving Events Director
Photo Credits: All aerobatice sequence photos by Princess, other photos by Carlo, Darrel and Jaime Unson (pass cursor over photos for individual credits)
Posted from Kuala Lumpur, March 4, 2008.