Kyle Franklin has been named the 2017 recipient of the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship.
Kyle is a second-generation airshow pilot and a second-generation Bill Barber Award winner. His father, Jimmy Franklin, started flying airshows in 1967, was the recipient of the 1989 Bill Barber Award, and is one of the true legends of the airshow business.
Jimmy and Kyle are the second father and son to receive the Bill Barber Award. Bobby Younkin (2004) and his son Matt (2012) were the first.
Kyle grew up around airshows and began flying the family’s Super Cub when he was only 8 years old. At age 14, he began wing-walking for fun, and in 1997 began his professional airshow career when he started wing-walking on his dad’s Waco Mystery Ship.He transitioned his wing-walking to the famous Franklin Jet Waco a few years later, making him the first jet wing-walker. Kyle also began working on his low level aerobatic card and began flying an occasional comedy routine in the Franklin’s Super Cub and an aerobatic act in one of the family Wacos.
Sadly, a July 2005 airshow accident claimed the life of his father, but Kyle knew he wanted to stay in the airshow business. He continued the Super Cub comedy act and motorcycle-to-airplane transfer, and in 2008, he brought back the Franklin Waco Mystery Ship, creating Pirated Skies, a Waco aerobatic act built around a pirate theme, complete with Kyle in full pirate garb. In 2009, he added wing-walking to Pirated Skies.
In 2013, Kyle introduced Dracula, a custom-designed, custom-built, one-of-a-kind biplane powered by a 500 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R985 that evokes the lines and sound of a Waco, while being smaller and more maneuverable like modern high-performance aerobatic aircraft. He built his act around a vampire theme, with unique costumes and storyline.
Today, Kyle offers the Cub comedy act, the motorcycle-to-airplane transfer, and Dracula to airshows from coast-to-coast.
The Bill Barber Award for Showmanship began in 1986, and is awarded to airshow performers or teams that have demonstrated great skill and showmanship. World Airshow News magazine and the friends and family of the late Bill Barber present the award annually.
The Bill Barber Award for Showmanship will be presented on Tuesday evening, July 25 during EAA AirVenture at EAA’s Theater in the Woods.