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Greg Shelton Receives Bill Barber Award
By Katie Holliday-Greenley, EAA Copy Editor
July 23, 2018 - On Tuesday, July 24, Greg Shelton will be presented with the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship having been announced by World Airshow News as the 2018 honoree last month. Past recipients of the award include air show favorites like Sean D. Tucker and historical figures like Bob Hoover, so Greg will certainly be among the greats.
“I was surprised — I didn’t expect it,” Greg said of getting the news that he had been chosen to receive this award. “It’s an honor. … It’s an honor that they would pick me for the award. The previous Bill Barber Award recipients — I need to thank them. … I need to thank my original wing walker Ashley Battles … and then my current wing walker, Ashley Shelton. She needs to be recognized, too.”
Greg’s fascination with aviation began when he was a child as his father was a U.S. Navy pilot and his childhood home in northern California was near a fire bomber operation. He began taking flight lessons in the early 1980s in a Piper J-3 Cub, but his heart was already set on flying aerobatics.
“I think the first time I soloed away from the airport, the first time they let me leave the pattern, I tried to loop my Cub. I did loop it — it wasn’t very pretty,” he said with a laugh.
Before he’d finished his certificate, Greg bought a Starduster Too to allow him to pursue aerobatics and soon after bought and restored an AT-6, which ultimately led to his entry into the air show world.
“[A friend] … had an AT-6 and had sold some air shows and had an engine failure and couldn’t do the shows,” he said. “He asked if I wanted to do it so I did, and I was hooked from then on.”
Greg performed in the AT-6 for 16 years before he sold the Texan to make room for his current favorite air show plane: the FM-2 Wildcat. His other favorite airplane, if he had to choose one, would be his 450 Super Stearman that he began flying wing-walking routines in, which he said have had a great impact on his success.
Now, after nearly 30 years in the air show business, Greg said his best advice for aspiring pilots is to master the basics.
“I strongly recommend that they get some tailwheel time in an airplane they can’t see out of,” he said. “Get some spin training and some aerobatic training if they can, even if it’s just a little bit.”
He also added that with air show aerobatics, it’s important to “walk before you run,” and to be proficient in aerobatic flying before flying in front of an audience. As for those who want to fly aerobatics for fun, Greg’s advice is short and sweet.
“Just go do it!” he said with a laugh.
Tuesday’s presentation will be held at Theater in the Woods from 7 to 7:45 p.m. Shelton is scheduled to fly at approximately 5 p.m. in his Wildcat.