At the Golden West Fly-In and Airshow a particularly amazing aerobatic performer really wowed the crowd with her performance. I'm really glad to have been able to interview her. Here's our interview - I hope you like it!
Hi Evan, my name is Melissa Pemberton, it changed, it used to be Andrzejewski, and this is my husband Rex Pemberton. He is the skydiver coming in the wingsuit and we’re going to do a display with Rex skydiving and I'll be rolling behind him in the Edge. And then I go up do and my regular performance in the Edge 540. Rex has to be nice to me before I do my display!
Melissa and Rex Pemberton
Were you interested in flying as a kid?
I was, I was very interested. I didn't know I was going to grow up and fly aerobatics but my grandma is a pilot and I grew up flying with her. We actually called her “Grandma Airport” but her name is Mary Lou, but to all her grandkids, like 20 of us, it was “Grandma Airport”. She had a little Cessna 150 Aerobat, I'm sure you've seen those, hers could do basic aerobatics so loops and rolls. So we’d go out to grandma's house and we’d go flying and do a loop and a roll in it and that's what got me interested in.
So my grandma was great, and you know I went to college for aviation, and I continued to pursue my interest in aerobatics until I got into the competitions and started flying for the US Aerobatic Team and then got into flying airshows.
Are your parents supportive of you flying?
They are. My parents are the most supportive people in the world! If it wasn't for them, there's no way I would be doing this. They helped us with getting the plane, they help me going to school, with getting involved in aerobatics, and my dad's been very helpful in helping to manage all the stuff for the past seven years now. My husband now has stepped in and taken over and the two of us are trying to let my parents play a little more and sit back and enjoy the aerobatics and we take over the management side of things, but they have been very supportive.
The mighty Edge 540
When was your first flight?
My first flight, I can't remember because I was too little. It would have been when I was a baby but I can tell you about the first one I remember. I probably was in preschool and I wasn't tall enough to see out of the airplane so my grandma set me up on some pillows and we took off and I started to cry! I was so scared I never knew before that we were actually flying. I remember going to go flying and I always thought we would go for a ride and taxi around on the ground. I actually remember thinking this. Eventually I got over the fear of the fact that we were actually flying and I went back to enjoying it.
So how do you like performing in the aerobatic circuit?
I love performing in the air show circuit. The air show circuit is a really fun way to share what we do with other people and hopefully inspire people so that it'll get more people involved in the flying, and airshows, and keeping the sport alive. Flying aerobatics, especially being in a single seater airplane, I don't have many ways of sharing it with people. In a way it's a very selfish sport because it's something that you do for yourself, so I love having a place to go and share it and hopefully inspire.
So how does it really feel to just twist and tumble around in the sky?
You know a lot of people think of it as a roller coaster ride, but I'll tell you it feels nothing like a roller coaster. It's amazing. I guess it's the same as people think that skydiving is going to feel like you're falling but it's not. It's all flying. It's fast, its fun to have a sense of speed and when you pull the G’s, you really feel that. You feel the positive G’s on your body pushing you into the seat. The negative G’s you feel almost feels like it's pulling you apart.
Yeah, I really like it when it pulls your eyes and your mouth down, it feels really powerful.
It feels good. And the tumble is surprisingly one of the most gentle feeling maneuvers because your pretty much at zero airspeed and you're just pretty much going end over end. It’s amazingly comfortable.
The snap rolls on the other hand are what really start to make you tired. When I practice, I practice a lot of snap rolls, especially for the competitions and if I fly snap rolls for about 15 minutes, I'm going to be pretty tired for the rest of the day.
So why did you choose the Edge 540 as your plane?
That's a great question. The Edge is for me the next progression of airplanes. I was flying a Pitts and the Pitts was a great plane for competing through intermediate, but when I started competing in advanced, it was pushing the limits of airplane. And for the airshows it was nice to have something a little more high-performance and at the time that I was getting involved in aerobatics, the Red Bull Air Races were starting and they were flying in the Edges. So I thought I would get the plane that opens the most doors for me, that I can have the most opportunities available, and it's made in America. It's good to have a US-made plane if I have to have anything done to it, it's here. It's also easy for someone like me to push around because I'm not that big and I'm not that strong and it's a plane that I can take care of and maintain pretty easily.
Do you like the Edge 540?
Uh huh! The Edge is my dream plane. That's the best way to describe it. I've been out in Germany this past week, flying in a different plane that has less power in it, it was a great airplane, but when I got home this week to fly this airshow, and I got back in my Edge and I put my throttle forward, and I felt the power, and I got in the sky, and I got to fly through my airshow, it reminded me how much I love this airplane. It's a dream machine.
So, can you please share some cool flying stories with us?
Yeah, let's see, flying stories ……. I'll give you some recent stuff. As I said I was just out in Germany doing some training. Aerobatics is a neat community. It's not very big even on a worldwide scale. I flew over to Germany, met up with my coach, got to meet up with pilots from Switzerland, Germany, from all over Europe and fly together and it was a really cool experience. It's cool to see that our sport is the same everywhere that you go, and there all friendly people and they're fun people to fly with. I love getting in different airplanes because I feel that to me the pilots I really look up to are the ones that can get into any airplane in fly it well. That shows really amazing experience, and that’s somewhere that someday I hope to be. So the opportunities to get into different aerobatic planes and learn to fly them, it's exciting to me.
Trying to think of an actual story and it about flying but it's hard to do because there's so many that's all I do. Every day is a story about flying.
But I can tell you a little bit about Rex and I are doing. That's been a pretty fun experience. It's trying to find something new to do at airshows. It's always a big challenge out there and Rex and I are both skydivers so we thought, what's something new that we could do that involves both of us at the shows? So by bringing Rex in his wingsuit, where he gets about a 3:1 glide ratio, so instead of falling straight out of the sky, he can fly along the flight line. Today you'll see us turn around and fly back along the flight line. So with me circling behind him, that's going to be a really cool adventure, really fun putting together this new routine with aerobatics, airplanes, and skydivers together performing. It's had good feedback, and I think those are some of the fun things to do. Do something new to try, go out and do it, hope it works well, and do it all safely. That's the main thing so that you can do it all again the next day!
Have you had any close calls?
I haven't actually. I've actually had a very controlled environment to learn how to fly in. It's not like the people that started out in the air show business. Now with ICAS and the IAC and all these organizations around us, we have mentors taking us through step-by-step. I think other people have had to learn lessons the hard way and it's good because now as the new generation comes up and gets involved with aviation, we can really learn aerobatics in a controlled and safe environment.
So something kind of out of the picture, we heard from a friend that you are from Pacifica, is that true?
That is! We actually just moved from Pacifica to get closer to the airplane. But when Rex I came back from Australia we moved straight to Pacifica and lived there for a year and a half and loved it.
I do too, I live there!
Do you! Oh no way! That's very cool. We lived over on Pedro Point. So we were neighbors. We were probably shopping at Safeway together! Small world! We lived a block away from Gordon Bowman Jones the airshow announcer. That's very cool, that's a very good place to live. Do you like going to the beach there?
Oh yeah, usually it's foggy there!
(photo courtesy of my good friend Clark Cook)
Melissa is a really nice person and really fun to interview. Her husband Rex is really cool too. She has a great personality and is also an incredible aerobatic performer. It's no surprise that she's going to the World Aerobatic Championships!
If you ever get the chance to watch her fly, you have to do it!
Interview by me. Pictures by me and my dad. 7/15/09
Here's Melissa's 2010 schedule. Look at all the cool places she's going!
|January 30-31||Ilopango Air Show 2010||San Salvador, El Salvador|
|February 5-6||Southwest Airshow Networking Convention||Miramar, CA|
|February 25-27||European Airshow Convention||Hasselt, Belgium|
|April 9-11||Moffett Field Airshow||San Francisco, CA|
|May 5||MCCS JAPAN 2010||Iwakuni, Japan|
|May 22-23||Women’s Technical Day||Pecs, Hungary|
|September 1-9||17th FAI European Aerobatic Championships||Touzim, Czech Republic|
|September 11-12||California Capitol Airshow||Sacramento, CA|
|September 19-24||US National Aerobatic Championships||Denison, TX|
|September 24-26||Chico Airshow||Chico, CA|
|October 8-12||Fleet Week San Francisco||San Francisco, CA|
|Possible Airshows in Spain |
Keep Checking as We Finalize These Bookings
|July 18||To Be Announced||Vigo, Spain|
|July 26||To Be Announced||Gijón, Spain|