Above: Eddie and Evan
There are many treasures along our coastside, but one of my favorites is our local aerobatic pilot Eddie Andreini. What’s so unusual is that Eddie is considered one of the nation's top air show performers, who was awarded the highly coveted Sword of Excellence by the International Conference of Air Shows, yet so many of us coastsiders don’t know about him.
So I met with Eddie at his hangar in Half Moon Bay to learn his story. Eddie has been performing in air shows for almost 30 years and has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. Eddie went for a ride in an airplane that belonged to a friend of his dad in Half Moon Bay when he was about 15 years old, “and that was really neat and I kept wanting to go again and again,” he says.
Eddie learned to fly in Half Moon Bay when he was 16 years old, from Frank Silvestri, a former World War 2 P-47 fighter pilot. Eddie says, “Frank owned West Coast Aviation and one day I got up enough courage and talked to the flight school to learn how to fly. So Frank said 'okay' and took me up for my first lesson. And that was it!”
“I’d always worked and I’d saved up enough money from working on my dad’s farm and doing odd jobs like driving a tractor and helping friends fix up cars after school and weekends. My dad taught me the value of work and how to make money. When I was in high school, I bought my first airplane, an L-2 Taylorcraft, with a couple of friends, but it ended up I was the only one who got a license. My mom was okay with me flying, but not my dad. He thought it was crazy risky. When I bought the airplane, my dad threatened to ‘chop the airplane up’ if he ever found it. He offered my best friend Jo-Jo $75 if he’d tell him where the plane was, but Jo-Jo never did.”
“I bought a BT-13 with a partner named Jim Williams and he’d been a crop duster and was quite an aerobatic pilot. He was probably one of the best pilots I’d ever known. So whenever we’d go up, it was strictly aerobatics! If we went 100 miles away, we did aerobatics the whole way. So I got really comfortable with it and learned I really liked it. I was learning from a great pilot. So the next thing I know, he was doing shows with the Stearman before I was, and pretty soon a guy asked me, ‘Hey, how would you like to do a show?’ And it was really neat!”
And almost 30 years of performances at air shows followed. Eddie has had many airplanes over the years, flown many more, and loved them all. He was really hard-pressed to pick a favorite plane, but over the years he kept coming back to the Stearman. Currently he flies what is probably the most heavily modified Stearman in the United States. It’s a 1944 PT-13D Boeing Stearman, and he can do absolutely amazing twists and turns in the air with it, yet it’s a very comfortable cross-country plane. Eddie loves it because it is so challenging to be graceful with it when flying at the edge, and yet it’s a beautiful machine.
Eddie also has two beautiful Yak- 9 fighters. The finest Russian WWII fighter, it was originally produced from 1942-1948, but Eddie’s were made new in 1996 from the original jigs. With its American V-12 Allison engine power, it can actually outperform the famous P-51 Mustang at lower levels. I like Eddie’s Stearman and his amazing talent with it very much, but the grace and power of the Yak are for me!
Eddie has developed an impressive reputation as a dedicated aerobatic performer, a consummate professional, and one heck of a great guy. Although Eddie could talk for hours on the wondrous capabilities of his airplanes, he says what he loves most about performing at air shows is coming back to Earth. “There is always some small child who you know just became passionate about flying because of what he saw my plane do. Or even an older person will tell me that my performance really went deep into his or her heart and touched him in an unexpected but so meaningful way,” Eddie says. “That, for me, is what keeps me flying.”
Here is a video we took of Eddie last year at the Santa Rosa Air Show in his Yak-9U Barbarossa:
Eddie had his planes on display along with many other amazing aircraft April 27 at the Pacific Coast Dream Machines at Half Moon Bay Airport.
Below: shots of Eddie flying his Yak-9 and his Stearman Biplane.
Photo above: Eddie Andreini and the author Evan; below are shots of Eddie flying his Yak and his Stearman.
Story by Evan Isenstein-Brand with a lot of help from Timothy Brand
April 19th, 2008
my dad shot these two!