From Beginner to Air Show Pilot
By Spencer Suderman
Spencer Suderman flies his Pitts biplane as an air show performer, but how did he get there? Spencer began his flying career right side up. That all changed after becoming acquainted with CP Aviation’s Super Decathlon. You can see from his videos that he has come a long way from spin training
For me the allure of aerobatics began in early 2000 when I called CP Aviation in Santa Paula [California] and inquired about spin training. Within a few weeks, I was strapping into the front seat of a Super Decathlon for my first lesson, and little did I know that this would change my life.
I will never forget the feeling I had the first time we rolled the airplane; a voice inside my head yelled, “More! Don’t stop now!” As I continued to pursue this new-found passion and advanced from the Decathlon into a Pitts years later, I sought ways to video the experience to not only share with others but use as training aids for my own emergency maneuver training called the Be-A-Safe-Pilot program.
The video equipment available to the consumer in the early to mid part of this decade wasn’t intended for use in action sports, so it wasn’t easy and required a bit of craftiness to “kludge” together equipment that could get the job done. Around the same time, I started to transition from competition aerobatics to air shows, and the ability to obtain quality in-flight video became a competitive advantage—which I relentlessly pursued. Today we live in a world of high-definition (HD) video over the Internet and self-contained helmet cameras designed for action sports which play nicely into filming aerobatics both from the pilot’s perspective and other unique points of view around the plane. The ability to easily obtain HD footage has furthered my air show career, “thrill flight business,” and my newest venture, competing in the Aerobatic Racing Challenge.
With modern video tools in hand that include HD helmet cams, handheld HD cameras on the ground, digital editing, and websites like YouTube which not only deliver video but facilitate searchability, it has become easier than ever to share the experience of flight with anyone anywhere.
In addition to flying air shows, Spencer gives upset and spin training out of the Camarillo Airport in Ventura County, California, as part of Torgoen Academy. Spencer stays involved with the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) as a member of IAC’s Chapter 38 in Northern California.