Air shows are a great place to go if you want to see some incredible flying machines and aerobatic feats by talented pilots. Usually, these pilots are mature and experienced men, so you can imagine my surprise and excitement when one of the best aerial performances from the Little Gransden Show came from a 27-year old female pilot named Lauren Richardson.
Lauren Richardson is the owner and pilot of a Pitts Special biplane, registration G-BKDR. At 27 years old, she is one of the youngest aerobatic and display pilots in the United Kingdom and world. But don't let her age deceive you - she's also one of the most naturally talented and accomplished pilots!
Many air show pilots linger behind the scenes, rarely interacting with the crowd - but Lauren believes in being approachable and goes out of her way to meet and greet with spectators and aviation enthusiasts. She also brings a unique, dynamic, and stylish flair to her performances, all with the goal of being more than just "your average air show pilot."
Lauren started flying only 6 years ago when she got her private pilots license. At the time, she thought aerobatic pilots were "utterly mad" (her words!) and had no intention of ever trying anything remotely aerobatic. About two years later, she changed her mind after a ride in a two seat Pitts Special (the same plane she flies now, but with one seat). The flight was supposed to be straight and level so that she could enjoy flying in one of these fine aircraft, but the pilot she was with decided her experience flying in the Pitt should include just one quick loop. That was it - she was hooked.
Since her first aerobatic experience was in a two seater Pitts, it was only natural that she would grow into flying and owning a Pitts Special. You could say the girl in her took over - the plane was just too pretty and fun looking - she just had to have it!
Looking back at the 2014 flying season, Lauren said her experience at Little Gransden was probably her favorite; it's her "home" airfield and her parents had a chance to see her display. But that wasn't the only fond memory from 2014 - during the Cleethorpes Show she ended up signing autographs and posing for pictures with the crowd. At one point a little 9 year old girl told Lauren that she wants to become a pilot because she saw Lauren's display. For Lauren, experiences like that make all the hard work that goes into preparing these shows worth every bit of sweat.
Lauren likes to create interesting and engaging displays at the shows, so she's got lots of work planned for the off season to bring some new tricks to her 2015 performances. But Lauren isn't willing to spill the beans on those new tricks yet, so stay tuned for a new "Top Secret" performance next year!
For Lauren, seeing hundreds of thousands of people looking up at her during the displays is the most rewarding part of flying, and she loves to meet and greet with the audience after a performance to absorb their energy, excitement, and encouragement. The rest of us, looking up from the bleachers with our mouths agape, can barely wait to see what tricks and performances she'll bring us next year.
To learn more about Lauren and the Aerobatic Project, visit her website at theaerobaticproject.com. You can also check out pictures and videos she's posted on her Twitter and Facebook page. Many thanks to Lauren for taking the time to chat with me for this "Behind the Quick Shot" post!