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Meet a Member - Robby Coats

Decathlon
Robby Coats, IAC #435451

By Gary DeBaun, IAC 4145

  • Occupation: Entrepreneur and all-around good guy, currently full-time student
  • Chapter Affiliation: 288
  • Age: 28
  • E-mail: robbycoats@gmail.com

Gary DeBaun (GD): The standard first question, Robby, how did you get started in aerobatics?

Robby Coats (RC): Well, I never thought I'd be doing it. I had always imagined I'd like to own something like an Extra when I was quite a bit more successful, but I never imagined I'd be flying competitively, and certainly not at my age. I would never have gotten involved in the IAC had it not been for Eagle Sport Aviation in Daytona. Nearly four years ago, ESA introduced me to aerobatics and completely changed my life. It is my life. I came to Daytona to study aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle, but now I truly feel like I get up and go to class every day so that I can fly with ESA and compete in the IAC. Competitive acrobatics is something that I will pursue with my whole heart for the rest of my life.

GD: So I have to ask, how did you get the nickname "Hollywood"?

RC: I got that name at Nationals in 2011. Practically every pilot in the IAC takes friendly jabs at my golden flowing locks (jealousy if you ask me); and I enjoy a long, hot shower, but that doesn't go over too well at a contest in a hotel room with more guys on the floor than in beds, trying to get ready for a flight brief in the morning...and you know you have to brush hair like this...and my sunglasses are in operation like a tower, from sunrise to sunset. I wasn't around when it actually happened, but it's my understanding one of our mutual friends, Chris Rudd, in a moment of brilliance called me Hollywood (probably in an intensely focused discussion about my Norse god-like mane), and it stuck like glue. One day I was Robby, the next everyone was calling me Hollywood. As far as call signs go, I couldn't ask for a better one.

GD: When and where did you fly your first contest? What airplane did you fly and how did you do?

RC: My first contest was actually the National Championships in 2010 as a primary pilot, and I flew our beloved Pitts S-2B, 260AB. I had a second-place flight, but overall ended up last of four pilots, though only by fractions of a percent. For a pilot so critical of his ability (as most are, I think), it was bittersweet. The experience changed me forever, and it means the world to be a part of this family. I never realized how small and familiar the aerobatic community really is.

GD: I see you are taking some pretty heavy subjects at Embry-Riddle, so what is your major? What are your future aspirations?

RC: Far too often I'm up all night studying aerospace engineering, and learning to hate every second of it! My aspirations are simple: I am going to walk on the moon, maybe even Mars. Maybe just skip the moon entirely. But not before I spend some time in an F-16...

GD: What other things interest you besides aviation?

RC: There are other things? Seriously, though, I live, eat, sleep, wear, breathe, and bathe in quantum physics. At any given time, there are three things on my mind: flying, quantum physics, and women. Probably in that order. Oh, and surfing, I love to surf...but I'm going to make a bold leap and throw that in with quantum physics, because it's all about waves.

GD: What category are you currently flying in and do you have plans on moving up anytime soon?

RC: More than one season in Sportsman is way too long, but I haven't moved up just because my school schedule keeps me too busy to practice. But I'm not unfamiliar with the Intermediate figures, and I think you can expect to see me there this time around.

GD: When you arrived at the Nationals last year, you did not get a practice slot. Did that have any effect on the way you flew?

RC: Yes. Pilots should always take advantage of a practice flight; every aerobatic box is different. You have to feel it out, fly around in it for a minute, and establish all your references. In fact, I rarely get a practice slot; and my first flight is always awful, and my last flight is always superb. If I could just get that awful flight out of the way first, I'm sure I would be a much bigger threat.

GD: Who do you most admire in our sport and why?

RC: There are many people in the IAC whom I admire; it's hard to say. But if I think about it, I can't escape that it's actually my fellow pilots in ESA. They are some of the youngest, yet most experienced pilots around, and it is such a fantastic experience to be able to train with and learn from some of my closest friends. Our involvement in the IAC is such that we are all mentored by the greats, and we all learn from each other. I don't think this happens anywhere else in the world, and I think the sky is just the beginning for each and every one of us. Oh, and Jason Newburg blew my mind at Wings and Waves, and that Pitts is one of the sexiest airplanes I've ever seen!

GD: What is your favorite contest and why?

RC: It has to be Nationals; it was my first contest and my first exposure to the IAC. I ran all over a huge airfield, saw the most amazing examples of precision flying and aerobatic airplanes, met some lifelong friends and mentors, ate some great food, and not to mention spun toward the earth (among other things) over three enormous runways with a tower and spectators. It was a dream come true, and it's a contest I just can't miss.

GD: Are you going to stick around after the Nationals this year for the WAC?

RC: TBD...

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