Beyond the Crowd Line
I have been around flying my entire life, but not just any type of flying, more specifically, air show flying. For me, being raised in a family of pilots and attending air shows was nothing less than a dream. My father, Wyche T. Coleman Jr. is the person who first caught the aviation “bug” in my family. My dad quickly progressed in aviation and found a new passion for aerobatics. In the late 1980’s his passion and dream became a reality when he met aviation and air show legend, Marion Cole. Starting in a Decathlon my dad began to learn from one of the greatest aviators of all time. With the help of Marion, my dad paved the way for our family in aviation and the air show world. Meeting Marion before I was even born, not only changed my father’s life, but also impacted my future as well. Marion became more than just a flight instructor and mentor for my father. He soon grew to be part of the family. He was at the hospital the day I was born and all of my greatest childhood memories include the great Marion Cole.
Those great childhood memories also include flying. I loved to fly as a child. It is all I have ever wanted to do. I remember begging my dad and Marion for rides in the Decathlon. All I ever wanted to do was be at the airport either flying or watching my dad and Marion fly. Even when I was not at the airport, all I thought about was flying. At school, I day dreamed about flying in the big blue sky. At night, I dreamed of flying in air shows, performing in front of huge crowds, and traveling around the country from city to city like an air show gypsy.
My older brother Wyche T. Coleman III came along 10 years before me and got to live the dream just like my father. As soon as he became old enough to fly, there was no question that his flight instructor would be—Marion Cole. Marion did not teach just one Coleman how to fly, but he taught all three of us how to fly. Marion was the mentor and coach for two generations of Coleman men.
Around the age of ten-years-old, Marion Cole became my personal flight instructor. I started taking lessons in the front seat of the Decathlon. Marion’s teaching style was like no other. He was so good at keeping me confident even when I knew I was not doing that great of a job. At the time, I was just a young kid, and I did not really understand the experience I was getting with Marion Cole was once in a lifetime. I did not know then that learning from Marion would create the path that would lead me into my dreams of becoming an air show pilot. The skills Marion instilled in me were of great importance then and still are today.
My teenage years were different than most. I did not spend my summers sleeping late and playing video games all day. Instead, I was up every morning at the airport helping my brother, Wyche T. Coleman III, practice. Helping my brother on the air show road quickly became my favorite thing to do. Just from hanging around and listening to all of the other performers talk about their personal experiences, I was able to learn a lot about aerobatics. My brother quickly progressed through the air show ranks by catching the attention of another air show legend, Sean D. Tucker. Sean took my brother under his wing and taught him to fly a Pitts. In 2003, my brother was invited by Sean D. Tucker to be a part of a group of young aerobatic pilots known as The Stars of Tomorrow. I think this opportunity was just as important for me as it was for him. Once again, I went on the road to help my brother. The experiences and memories I got from being around all of the Stars is something I will never forget. These experiences only encouraged me to work harder to achieve my goals. Just like Marion, Sean D. Tucker soon became part of the family and yet again, a relationship formed by a Coleman before me impacted my life more than anyone could ever know. Sean D. Tucker soon became another great mentor of mine.
On June 22, 2006, I turned 16 years old. I was more excited about being able to solo that day than I was about getting my driver’s license. I went straight to the airport where Marion signed me off to solo in the Cessna 150. Once I was safely back on the ground, I put my parachute on and strapped in the Super Decathlon. I took off, climbed up, just as Marion had briefed me to do, and then I dove it down to start my aerobatic routine. That birthday was by far the best one yet. I soloed a plane before I could even legally drive a vehicle alone. Once I could solo, the aerobatic training began.
In early 2007, I was invited by Sean D. Tucker to stay at his place in California and fly aerobatics for the summer. When school let out for summer break, I packed my bags and loaded them into the decathlon. I was still 16 at the time, and could not solo all the way from Coushatta, LA to King City, CA, so luckily for me, my older brother made the trip with me. As we arrived in King City, CA at the Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety, it felt much like coming home. I had already been to King City several times in the years past to receive aerobatic duel in the Extra 300L from instructor Ben Freelove, but this time was different. I was there to get real coaching in the Decathlon to prepare for the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship.
In the first few days of practicing in King City, I met air show performer Bill Stein. I literally had to beg Bill to coach me just once, but once was all it took. For the entire summer, I was getting coached by some of the best and I loved every minute of it. I had to leave King City to go back to Coushatta, LA to get my Private license, so on June 22, 2007, my 17th birthday, I officially became a private pilot. I immediately returned to King City the very next day and continued my training. Bill Stein continued and still continues to be a big part of my air show flying career.
After flying the Decathlon for several years, my coaches and I decided it was time to move up into something with more performance. When that time came, I knew exactly what I wanted—an Extra 300. I had wanted an Extra 300 since I was about five years old. As a young child, I watched Michael Goulian fly his Extra 300S, and from that time on, I knew that plane was what I wanted. As a five-year-old, watching Mike fly his Extra was just something I fascinated over. Little did I know, Mike Goulian would become my coach and mentor in my very own Extra, the Extra 300L.
In present day 2012, I am in my third year of flying air shows in my Extra 300SHP. I am still having a blast and living my dream. I have been very fortunate and very lucky so far with aviation. I have had the best instructors, mentors, and coaches that anyone could ask for. My first instructor, Marion Cole, passed away in the Spring of 2011. Marion was passionate about teaching people how to fly and even more passionate about teaching people how to fly aerobatics. After he passed away I decided the best way to continue his legacy was to start a scholarship in his name. With the help of my father and Bill Stein, we founded the Marion Cole Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is available through International Council of Air Show Foundation. If you or someone you know would like to apply or donate to this scholarship, you can go to: http://ww.icasfoundation.org/scholarships_marioncole.htm. With this scholarship, I hope people are able to live their dreams, like I am able to live mine now. I am currently living the dream I have had since I was a little boy. I get to fly all around the country to fly in air shows and perform in front of huge crowds as the country’s youngest air show pilot. I could not have reached my goals if it wasn’t for the support of my father, my family, my friends, my mentors and coaches - Sean D. Tucker, Bill Stein, and Michael Goulian, and my sponsors- Champion Aerospace, Sennheiser USA, Skytec Starters, Concorde Batteries, Nflight Cam, Scheyden Precision Eyewear, and Oregon Aero. Thanks to everyone who believed in me and helped me to make my dreams become a reality.
Brought to You by Wayne Gauldin