By Zinnia Kilkenny, IAC 437244
Photos by Jaybird Aviation
ZK: Take us from your first aerobatic lesson to your first contest.
ML: Flying and being a pilot have been my passions for as long as I can remember, but the opportunities to pursue my interests, unfortunately, eluded me until later in life.
I grew up in South Africa in the mid-90s, when military service was still compulsory, so I chose and was accepted into the Air Force. However, while first attending university after high school, military service became voluntary, which opened up a slew of other paths. I decided to move abroad after finishing grad school – opting to forgo military service and the Air Force. Flying then dropped off my priority list, and life took a different path.
The nagging desire to fly returned, and I decided to no longer push it off and pursued completing my pilot license. My initial flight training was in a Citabria, and since I had a capable aerobatic pilot as an instructor, part of my training was flying aerobatics. We would go out, and instead of doing S-turns or turns around a point, we would perform aerobatics. I did so for fun for quite some time until I met Ross Ferguson and Marian Harris at my local airport pilot association. They introduced me to competition aerobatics, which always seemed challenging to get into. However, with their help and guidance, I signed up for my first contest and started to train to compete.
ZK: I interviewed your daughter Kamryn in last month’s column. She shared what it was like competing alongside you as a student pilot and placing one position ahead of you. Could you share with us what it was like for you?
ML: I am fortunate to have had some additional motivation. She also started flying and showed a keen interest in aerobatics and started training with us. Even though she does not have her pilot’s license yet, she can participate in contests with her CFI, and so our friendly rivalry started. During our first contest, Miko started a competition within the contest: a battle between two pilots facing off. Kamryn and I were thrown into the ring, aerobatics box, to duke it out. After the first flight, she had a solid lead, and I knew I had a formidable opponent, which honestly came as a bit of a shock, not just to me but to everyone interested in the face-off. With that, I had to dig deep and try to claw my way back. In the end, she placed one position ahead of me: a proud moment for both of us. It always helps to have someone pushing you; providing that little bit of additional motivation to improve. Now I need to work to secure at least one victory early in her aerobatics career as I may not have another opportunity.
ZK: What contests will we see the father-daughter duo attend this year?
ML: Our next contest will most likely be Redlands Aerobatics Cup in early September, where there might not be an official face-off, but we will continue our battle, for now anyway, while I still have a fighting chance.
ZK: What's next?
ML: I have no immediate plans for doing anything big. My goal is to continue to fly aerobatics, improve my skills, and see my first year in competition aerobatics through. In addition to aerobatics, I also enjoy formation flying, where I hold a Wing Card, and I am currently looking at getting into some tactical flying in the near future.
I’m looking forward to the opportunity to slow things down in a J3 Cub looking for whales and sharks along the coast.
Flying brings me a lot of joy, whether it is performing aerobatics or hanging out in the hanger with Kamryn. I am happy that I ended up pursuing flying again and now have Kamryn to share my passion.