Sean D. Tucker Interview

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This article with photos is the second of three parts written by Kevin Burke, who was fortunate to witness Sean D. Tucker’s flying prowess closer than most! The 2018 air show campaign will be Mr. Tucker’s final solo aerobatic season

Kevin…. I have read that the aircraft you have in mind for the new team is called the Game Bird. What made you choose that aircraft?

Sean…. I saw the airplane fly at Oshkosh last year and I was impressed in terms of its performance, and also part of the thing I want to do with this team is do Executive Leadership Development Training, taking our sponsors customers clients like we do in the Extra,( Oracle’s 2 seat aerobatic plane) and take them in the formation and talk to them about trust and communication and clearly briefing, and share that experience with flight but not just on an aerobatic ride but with four other airplanes.

The Game Bird is more ergonomic. I can put a big guy like you, (Kevin, the author, 6’3, over 250 lbs) in the front seat of that airplane and you will fit. And I like the looks and it’s unique.

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Kevin… Would Oracle still be the sponsor?

Sean…. Oracle is committed to 2019 for half the team so it’s my job to find the other partners to build the other half. If we only have half the team it’s me and Johnny D, John Degennaro doing a two ship formation, but the goal is… I’ve hired a worldwide sports marketing agency to help me find other sponsors to make this happen. If we start with a two ship and end up with a three or four I’m good. If we only end up with a two ship that’s what it is, but the goal is to have, I would love to have a four ship for next year, build to 5, ultimately do 7 just to make it complicated.( Laughs.)

Kevin… Obviously you’ve been doing this for years. I’ve been watching for almost as long. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, they have their set positions but the Breitling jet team, they had pilots that would swap positions. What’s your take on that?

Sean…. First of all the Blues are only there for 2 years. It takes two years to learn a position. I really love flying the wing on an airplane formation, but I need to lead the team because I’m the most experienced, to get them in the right place. I would love to eventually find a new lead, find another position and eventually, what my goal is, I want to build it, the team, and when I’m no longer capable and somebody else deserves that position I’ll get out of the cockpit and manage it. You have to be there because you’re looking for excellence in execution, especially on a team. You have to be there with understanding it’s all about the team and how the team looks it’s not just one guy. When I got the Collaborators together, (A four plane formation team consisting of Sean, his son Eric, Bill Stein and Ben Freelove) it was very heartfelt but I couldn’t put my entire time in it because I was a solo performer. I need to stop being a solo performer so I can put full-time energy into this. It’s another dream of mine and I want to fulfill on that dream.

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Kevin…. The last time you and the Blue Angels both performed at Rhode Island air show I heard their ground crew talking earlier in the day on their radios about a really bad crosswind. They were talking about minimum parameters for the diamond taking off in a crosswind. All I was thinking about was you coming up next and doing the ribbon cut with that same crosswind. Do you have minimums in your head or in a standard where you can say, “guys that cross when is just too bad today”? Do you have it set or is it just by feel?

Sean…. Well, number One, I have minimums on every figure. I don’t mind taking a figure out if it’s not working. That’s why I normally go out and practice before even my teaser in the morning to see how my body is doing, what the airplanes doing. I have not cut ribbons at times when it’s too strong of a crosswind. You know, this is just entertainment, cutting ribbons is part of my act, but I can take that out for safety reasons and I’m good. I would take that I would take it out in a heartbeat.

I think it was two years ago. I finished the season with a show at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida and I said to my team, “If you don’t see me wearing prescription glasses next year don’t hold the poles for the ribbon cut!”… (Laughs).

It came to the point where I couldn’t see the poles well enough. I said I’m not doing this unless I can see them well enough. I went and got my eyes checked and sure enough I needed distance glasses! It’s just a little correction but it works!

Certainly we have minimums and if I’m not feeling well that day, because that’s pretty extreme when you’re cutting ribbons and if I’m not feeling well that day I won’t cut them. If I miss the ribbons, and I’ve missed the ribbons before inverted, so what?? I’m not going back and trying again. It’s just entertainment. It’s just part of the ACT. So I don’t put pressure on myself, it’s not a big deal. You start putting pressure on like you have to do it… That’s a deadly environment down there; I’m 20 feet off the ground, upside down at 250 miles an hour. You don’t put any pressure on yourself, any undue pressure.

It’s only happened a couple of times in my career where the wind was just crazy. But I had to try it to see where those limits are, now I know where those limits are but that’s a pretty strong wind and 15 knots crosswind is not a strong wind. But if I’m not having a good day I won’t do it.

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Kevin…. Have you thought about, with this new team, colored smoke?

Sean…. Yes. The Patriots (a civilian team flying L-39s) use colored smoke and it’s a dye which is not bad for the Patriots because they’re always going one way,- one direction, but when we’re flipping and spinning, this dye, you don’t get it off your airplane when it gets on there it’s on there so if I have a red airplane and red smoke, okay. The airplane I’m using now is fabric-covered. Colored smoke would be fun. That would have to be downstream. It’s all about budgets and funding, finding the right chemicals so it doesn’t hurt the paint. We’re working on the Game Bird, but I don’t care what the airplane is I want to fly it. I want to make this team whatever I can afford.

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