As he kicked off this year’s airshow season at SUN ’n FUN, he also kicked off his 30th anniversary of performing in airshows.
Goulian’s first airshow flight was a home affair at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, where he’d learned to fly. Thirty years later, his calendar includes flying his Extra 330SC at airshows across the country.
“Flying and racing amazing planes around the globe is something I never imagined possible when I was a kid. But now that I have been living this dream for many years, I feel lucky and privileged to be doing so, and I never take any flight for granted,” he said.
The former U.S. National Aerobatic Champion says he approaches each flight like it’s a competition.
“I want it to be as well-executed as I’ve ever done it,” he said. “It’s like I’m trying to win the national championship every time I fly. Right now, I have the 2017 Unlimited Compulsory program pasted up on my instrument panel in my Extra. And that’s what I’m flying. During the off-season while I’m practicing, all the precision and aggression stays with my flying. And then once Spring rolls around, I get back to, ‘Okay let’s start tumbling the airplane and doing all of those things that airshow spectators love.’”
“We change the music every year, and then we also change some portion of my flying every year,” he said. “So we arrived at SUN ’n FUN with a new 2017 airshow.”
To ensure safety, he begins practicing the new routine in March, flying three times a day.
“We fly the same thing day in and day out, because it’s all numbers,” he explained. “You need speed, and energy, and altitude. Once you’ve got those plugged into your head, it becomes second nature. It’s almost like you’re in a groove.”
Even so, with airshow flying, every day — indeed, every flight — is different, he said.“Every 10 second increment is different,” he said. “You’re thinking a hundred times a second, ‘Am I in the right position relative to where I want to be? Does the airplane have enough energy to do what it’s doing, or is it a little bit unhappy? If it’s a little unhappy, how do I get that energy back? Am I a little low? Do I have plenty of altitude?’ That’s what an airshow pilot’s doing every second. There’s just no driving the airplane around the sky.”
Performing at SUN ’n FUN also means performing in front of a lot of teenagers who are fascinated by aviation. What advice does this veteran airshow performer have for them?
“You’re gonna be great at what you love to do,” he said. “Figure out what it is that you love to do and do it. And then give it all of your energy and don’t look back. There’s gonna be bumps in the road and there’s gonna be hills to climb, and that’s what makes it special and that’s what makes it fun when you finally get there. You know, if it was easy, everybody would do, and it’s not supposed to be easy.”