Jacquie “B” Warda doesn’t fit the mold of the typical female pilot.
The 51-year-old California resident is one of only a handful of female air show pilots, which means she is at home flying upside down and close to the ground.
“A lot of women fly, but not very many of them want to fly that low to the ground,” said Warda. “I really wasn’t sure I was going to like it either until I got started.”
Warda, who also enjoys golf and surfing, is one of the civilian pilots who will be flying today and Sunday at Springfield Air Rendezvous. The air show is at Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. The the U.S. Navy Blue Angels also will be featured.
This year marks only the third season that Warda has been flying in air shows. She said her love of aerobatic flying began back in 1986 when she still was a student pilot and a friend took her up in a Pitts aerobatic plane and flew upside down.
“I was just instantly hooked,” Warda said. “I had never had an aerobatic ride. I didn’t know anything about aerobatics. I just knew I wanted to fly.”
After getting her pilot’s license, it took Warda 11 years to work her way up to the high-performance Pitts airplane that several air show pilots fly.
In 2000, Warda was able to buy her own Pitts, a 1986 Pitts Special named “The Red Eagle.”
Warda comes from a flying family. Her father, brother and two uncles are pilots, but none of them fly aerobatics.
“My mother kind of watches me fly between fingers,” Warda said as she held her hand in front of her eyes. “It’s kind of hard for her to watch me fly. My dad thinks it’s great.”
During the air show, Warda will fly a solo routine and a joint routine with another Pitts pilot, Skip Stewart.
This year’s air show also will include flights by several military planes. In addition to the Blue Angels, a Marine Corps Harrier and an Air Force F-15 Eagle will fly in the show. An F-15 also will fly in the historic Heritage Flight with two legendary warbirds, the P-51 from World War II and the Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom.
David A. Wolf, a medical doctor and a NASA astronaut who has flown on the space shuttle, is the honorary chairman of this year’s Springfield Air Rendezvous. He watched the three planes fly during Friday’s media show. He said the variety of aircraft in the Heritage Flight is typical of the air show.
“Air Rendezvous is one of the best air shows in the country. It’s run very well. There is a great variety of aircraft. We just watched three generations of aircraft fly by, the P-51, the F-4 and the F-15. That represents 50 years of aviation history in one flyby,” Dr. Wolf said.
Dr. Wolf is an Indianapolis native. In addition to flying on shuttles Columbia, Atlantis and Endeavour, he also spent 119 days about the Mir space station.
“I love the whole area,” Dr. Wolf said of the Midwest. “It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I’ve been around (the world) about 20,000 times.”
Dr. Wolf, Warda and the other pilots will be available to chat and sign autographs during the air show. The air show announcer will announce when they are available.
This year’s show will feature several static displays of military aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and the gigantic C-17 transport.
Unlike previous years, helicopter rides are not being offered at this year’s show.
Gates for the air show open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The show will begin about 9:45 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. both days.