February 8, 2018 - One of the more distinctive air show performances highlighting EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 may be that of Kyle Fowler’s Long-EZ routine.
Kyle, who is based in Alberta, Canada, grew up watching his father, Ken, perform and has been performing himself for three years.
“I followed him around at air shows as a kid, I announced his performances,” Kyle said of his dad. “I grew up in the industry. It’s just an extension of the family. I knew this was an industry I wanted to be in.”
When Kyle decided it was time to get into air show performing himself, he knew he needed to catch attention somehow. Performing in a Rutan Long-EZ, known more as a sleek homebuilt commuter aircraft than as an aerobatic one, certainly did the trick.
“Starting out I was a rookie pilot, I needed to be unique,” he said. “I couldn’t just buy a Pitts. I looked around and found the Long-EZ. It’s such a unique airplane. I started doing air shows with it. I obviously rode my dad’s coattails a little bit.”
Dennis Dunbar, EAA director of AirVenture air show operations, said that it was Kyle’s interesting performance airplane that drew his attention and ultimately helped land Kyle a spot at AirVenture.
“The industry is so inundated with Pitts, etc. and this allows us an opportunity to bring in young talent,” Dennis said. “Also, it’s pretty cool that his airplane is one so many of our members can relate to.”
Although a Long-EZ can’t perform some of the aerobatic maneuvers that spectators may be used to, Kyle still expects to put on an entertaining show that will be different from the normal aerobatics performance.
“The airplane wasn’t built for aerobatics, it was designed as a long-distance commuter, but it’s still more than capable of doing the aerobatics we want to do,” Kyle explained. “It’s similar to a high-energy glider routine.”
Interestingly enough, while Kyle has a bit of experience in the air show world — participating in the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour in 2017 — he’s never been to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, even as a spectator. While he’s not exactly concerned about performing before thousands of people, he knows Oshkosh will be different than anything he’s experienced previously.
“The pressure of flying into Oshkosh is going to be interesting,” he said. “Michael Goulian has been kind enough to take me under his wing and mentor me a bit. I’ve got a great mentor to help me out with my first time at Oshkosh. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. He’s going to show me the ropes of Oshkosh. It’s exciting, it’s intimidating but I don’t have any concerns.”
Despite not having the experience of other air show performers, Dennis is confident in Kyle and knows he’s a level-headed performer.
“We don’t typically bring a three-year experienced performer into Oshkosh,” Dennis said. “He’s been raised in this industry. He’s got a great head on his shoulders. He doesn’t feel the need to do a circus routine. Those were the factors that made us bring in this new person to the event.”