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Aerobatic Flight Changed Ivanoff's Life

Nicolas Ivanoff is not only a world champion aerobatic pilot, but also a competitor in the Red Bull Air Race. Sponsored by Hamilton Watches, Ivanoff will be performing at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Friday.

By Barbara A. Schmitz

  • Aerobatic flight changed Ivanoff’s life
    Airshow pilot Nicolas Ivanhoff
July 22, 2015 - As a child, Nicolas Ivanoff never thought about flying aerobatics.

“I wanted to be a race car driver,” he recalls. “But I also built small model planes that hung on the ceiling in my room. I thought it would be nice to fly one of them someday.”

Since he was better in mathematics, however, he first tried engineering. But then someone told him he could go to the national school to be an airline pilot. “I tried this national school, but I didn’t succeed. So I knew the other way to become an airline pilot was to become a private pilot, a flight instructor, and then a commercial pilot.”

He was already a private pilot when someone asked him to take an aerobatic flight. His answer: No.

“I told him I didn’t want to be sick,” Ivanoff recalls. “I told him aerobatics was not for me.”

But the next day, and the day after that, the man asked him to take an aerobatic flight.

“The fourth time he asked, I said, ‘Sure,’” Ivanoff says. “It was getting boring, and I knew he wasn’t going to give up.”

To his surprise, Ivanoff didn’t get sick. “When I was in the plane, I said, ‘Wow.’ It was crazy. I was so happy inside. When he stopped the flight, I said, ‘No, I want more.’ That flight changed my life.”

By the early 1990s, Ivanoff started flying competitions and flight instructing. He later joined the French aerobatic team and was a member of the French team that won the World Aerobatic Championships in Toulouse in 2000. He continued to rack up national and world titles in the years that followed until he retired from competitions in 2013.

Today, Ivanoff concentrates on flying in the Red Bull Air Race or air shows. He took fourth in the Red Bull competition in 2014, and with four races left in the 2015 season, he currently is in ninth place. “I hope the second part of this year will be better than the second part of last year,” he says. Last year, he took two podium finishes in the last three races.

Ivanoff says it can be difficult to switch gears from air racing to air shows. He spent five days training before he came to Oshkosh, which is one of his favorite shows.

“To be in Oshkosh is always a dream,” says Ivanoff. “When I arrived, I was like a child. I know how huge it is, but it is always amazing. There are more planes at AirVenture than total in France. It’s kind of like an air show party. Pilots are here to enjoy the fans; it’s not a contest between the pilots to be the best. It’s just a big family reunion.”
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