Friday, September 16, 2016

Michael Goulian: Pilot wraps art and athleticism into one

Elite aerobatic pilot Michael Goulian will perform this year at the Salinas Airshow Sept. 24-25

Before Michael Goulian dons his helmet, puts on his gloves and clambers into the cockpit of his high-performance aerobatic plane, he puts his ear buds in, turns the music up and wanders off alone for a few minutes.

It’s during these pre-flight rituals -- meditations, really -- where he will mentally fly every twist and turn of his 12-minute aerobatic routine. It’s during these ground sessions that Goulian becomes one with his carbon fiber and steel tube-constructed stunt plane.

“I use this time time to focus and to go through each maneuver in my mind. It helps my performance,” Goulian said.

Goulian, 48, considered one of the very best aerobatic and air racing pilots, is coming to the California International Airshow Salinas next weekend at Salinas Municipal Airport.

“Salinas is always a favorite stop for us. It’s just so well organized and managed and the fans -- well, there’s nothing like the Salinas fans,” Goulian said.

Goulian, of Winthrop, Mass., will fly his powerful 400 horsepower Extra 330SC stunt plane over the skies of Salinas, joining a number of aerial actsin the show including the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds flight demonstration team.

Goulian said that he learned to fly before he could even drive a car and soloed a Cessna 150 on his 16th birthday in 1984.

He began his aerobatic training in 1985 during his pilot study. While earning his living as a corporate airline pilot, Goulian worked his way toward the top ranks of airshow display flying and competition aerobatics. He became a U.S. National Champion in the Advanced Category at age 22 -- making him the youngest pilot ever to have won that competition.

In 1992, Goulian became the top-ranked U.S. male aerobatic pilot and silver medalist in the Unlimited Category, an achievement he repeated in 1993. In 1995, he became the U.S. National Champion in the Unlimited Category. He was a member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team in 1994, 1996 and 1998.

In 2006, Goulian was awarded the prestigious Art Scholl Memorial Award for airshow showmanship by the International Council of Airshows (ICAS).

Goulian has been married to wife, Karin, since 2000. Together they have a daughter, Emily, born in 2006.

Salinas Airshow Executive Director Bruce Adams said aviation experts agree that Goulian is among the very top elite when it comes to aerobatics and racing.

“But what sets Mike apart from the rest, is that with all his success and fame, he remains an extremely humble and grounded family man, and is one of the nicest and most genuine person you will ever meet,” Adams said. “Mike considers Salinas to be one of his two favorite shows in the U.S., and flies his heart out every time he is here.”

Jim Skillicorn, director of air operations for the Salinas Airshow and a corporate pilot himself, agreed.

“Mike delivers a high-energy, crowd-stopping performance but yet is one that seems so natural and smooth,” Skillicorn said.

For his aerobatic exhibitions, Goulian flies the German-made Extra 330SC -- an aircraft he and other airshow pilots think may represent the virtual state of the art.

“This is the best aerobatic airplane I have ever owned,” said Goulian, who added that the difference between the 330SC and his former air show plane, the Extra 300SHP, is its wing design which increased his maneuverability and roll-rate while in the air.

Goulian says that in order to get the most out of his airplane, he has to remain in top physical shape. So when he’s not in the cockpit, he can found on a road bike or in the gym. He says he’s already logged some 200 miles on his bike this month.

But in the end, it’s all about making the experience of attending an airshow a great one, he says.

“In the 12 minutes I have, my goal is make you see the power, the art and the physics of the flying I’m doing. My goal is to evoke an emotion out of my fans. If I’ve done that then I’ve accomplished my job.”

Joining Goulian this year is a great lineup of aerial performers. Here’s a list of pilots or acts in the show on Saturday and Sunday.

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

Parachute teams -- The U.S. Army’s Golden Knights team and the Liberty Jump Team which honors the paratroopers for World War II.

Anna Serbinenko

Metal Mulisha Motocross team

Monster trucks

A variety of World War II-era warbirds will be on hand -- some on static display, some flying

“Wall of Fire” show center explodes into flames

Pilot Mark Peterson in his Dornier Alpha Jet.

Folks, a final thought: We’re all very lucky to have an airshow in our town -- and not just any airshow but one that has established a national reputation for excellence and one that the best pilots actively seek out to fly.

The fact that this airshow is put on by a nonprofit, is organized by hundreds of volunteers and has given millions back to local charities should all be enough to capture your attention and civic support.

But while I think that’s all good the true gift of the California International Airshow Salinas is much more subtle but no less profound. It comes during that that moment when a plane streaks past and a child looks up into the sky and says, “Mom, Dad -- I’m going to do that, too, one day. I’m going to learn how to fly.”

It’s at that moment when all the hard work of these tireless volunteers pays off and the simple but often life-altering inspiration that is flight takes hold.

To buy tickets or find out more about your airshow, go online to:

Michael Goulian’s Extra 330SC at a glance:

Wingspan: 24.6 feet
Engine: 350 HP Lycoming Thunderbolt
Propeller: Hartzell “Claw” composite
Construction: Carbon fiber / steel tube fuselage
Top speed: 250 mph
Stall speed: 60 mph
Roll rate: 380 degrees/second
G limits: Plus / Minus 12


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