All right Mike, were you into flying as a kid?
I was. My family owns a flying school called Executive Flyers Aviation and it's in Boston. My dad started it in 1964 so I started washing airplanes and doing all that good stuff when I was about 14 years old.
How did you get into flying Mike?
Well for me it was part of a being in the family you know, I was playing sports as a kid and when it came time to earning some money and making a living so to go flying that just came naturally. It was one of the things that I did.
When did you get your pilots license and how old were you?
I got my pilot’s license and when I was 17 years old. I soloed on my 16th birthday in a Cessna 150. I got my pilots license when I was 17 and have been flying ever since.
Yeah, flying is a great sport. How did you get into Red Bull Air Racing?
You know, the Red Bull Air Races are interesting. It's an amazing sport and in 2003 they did an air race in Reno Nevada and they were looking for good pilots that were airshow people that could participate in had a competition background and so forth. So they invited me to fly and I went to Reno, fell in love with the sport and I thought it was very cool. I didn't fly in 2005 and then I started full-time in the series in 2006
Can you tell me something about the Red Bull Air Races?
Sure. I think what a lot of people don't know, probably don't realize is that 250 people are involved with the Red Bull Air Races. So that's from the catering people, to all the people that put up the control tower and put up all of the hangers, do all of the marketing and the website, etc. and those 250 people travel with us all over the world. So even though there are 15 pilots, there are 250 people behind them making the sport happen, which is amazing.
Yet it's pretty amazing. Red Bull Air Racing looks pretty hard but also pretty cool. Is it fun to do?
Yeah, the flying is the best part of the whole sport. The flying is unbelievable it's very challenging. It's probably harder than flying an airshow is but its hard work and its smallest part of what we do. When I go Red Bull Air Race on a weekend, in fact I'm leaving Salinas here on Tuesday and on Wednesday I take off for Budapest Hungary for the next race, so when I get there to Budapest, I'll be there for about eight days and I'll probably have done about 30 minutes of flying total and that's about it. So when people ask what it's like to be in a Red Bull Air Race pilot, it's not very much flying is the answer, but the flying that you do is absolutely spectacular.
Yeah because I've seen it on TV and it's not at all like Reno air races. You're racing against the clock.
Yeah, each race is about a minute and 30 seconds long. So we get about an eight minute practice session then a six minute practice session and then we start to qualify and race.
Would you like to race at Reno someday?
I'm not sure I would want to go race at Reno. It's just such a different sport, it's an amazing sport and I love it. The equipment is amazing. If I wanted to fly and Reno someday it would be because I wanted to fly one of the very cool race planes I’d really only want to fly one of the unlimited race planes.
They’re so cool!
They really are in the engines are awesome
Mike, you just won the Bill Barber award congrats! Can you tell me about that and about how you got it?
Sure, the Bill Barber award is given to an air show pilot that has really shown a lot of dedication and a lot of showmanship over a great amount of time and has contributed something to the sport that is of the historical nature and things like that. So I was very honored to get that award - really because it's chosen by your peers. The past recipients choose the next recipient and that's what makes it so special. There's really no politics involved in it at all. Either you good enough to get it or you're not and that was really a great reward and I was lucky to get that for sure.
How did you get interested in flying aerobatics and airshows?
Aerobatics for me was, I was watching a movie called Cloud Dancer which was not a very good movie but it had good flying. The funny thing, is I’m here at an airshow now with Gene Soucy and Geno was one of the characters in that movie, one of the guys I watched flying. I like to tell them that all the time it makes him feel old! But I saw that movie and I just fell in love with the idea of doing that and just continued day after day of trying to get to that goal and just not stopping.
No really that's what it takes. I get e-mails from people all the time asking me how do I get to the next level and the truth is you have to give up everything that you've ever wanted to get there otherwise you won't do. l I think it's just a little bit of a test and I've done a lot of things. I didn't go away to college because I needed to be near my airplane. I didn't get married until I was 30 something years old. I didn't have a child until it was almost 40. I gave up flying airliners and Gulfstreams and in the military or whatever, just to achieve this goal. So you know that's the one thing that people need to know about this, is what it takes. You can't be great at everything. You can be great at one thing and everything else will suffer; your financial life, your personal life, your work life, everything that you do. You can't be a surgeon and an airshow pilot together. You can be one or the other but you can’t be both and a lot of people think that they can do all of that stuff and then wonder why they can’t get there. Well it’s because you have to be single-minded and focused on what you want to do.
How do you like being sponsored by Castrol? It must be a really cool company to sponsor an airshow pilot like you?
Yeah Castrol is amazing. The cool thing for me is that they have the dedication to racing and all things going fast and technology which is really a lot of fun. We’re here in Salinas this weekend because Castrol helps sponsor this event, helps sponsor me and get me out here. Without the sponsor there’s no way that you could run a very professional aviation team and organization. You know we have support airplanes, we have marketing people, we have crew chiefs, we have a ferry pilot, and all of this stuff. So you know, just to be able to get from Oshkosh on Monday to Salinas on Wednesday and ready to practice on Thursday is a huge task, more than I could ever do by myself. So Castrol is the reason I get to do stuff like that. Not only Castrol but I've got Lycoming building the engines for my airplane, Hartzell puts the propeller on the front, and Oxford Aviation paints my airplane, and we just got a bunch of really really great partners that make this all work.
Yeah that's necessary. If you could fly any airplane and existence are that ever existed what would that airplane be?
The SR 71
It is a great plane
Yeah that would be the one to fly. Space Shuttle first and that one second probably
Can you tell me about your plane and is it the same one you race in Red Bull?
A lot of people think that it's the same plane but it's not the same plane. The Red Bull plane is an Edge 540 that is very highly modified just for racing. It is really a racer and we look at every single little piece of that plane to save weight, to save drag, to do everything and in the Red Bull Air Races, it’s about 80% airplane and 20% pilot. In the airshow business, I'm flying my new Extra 330 SC and that is 80% pilot and 20% airplane, so it's just the opposite. So if I were to fly my Extra the Red Bull Air Race, I would be miles behind the last-place guy. It's not a racer, it's really in airshow plane. So I don't fly one airplane in both events.
Can you share some cool flying stories with us - you know exciting - something cool?
A lot of people ask me what's the coolest thing that I've ever done in an airplane and I've been lucky to do a lot of cool things but one of the ones that was probably the coolest thing was when I was in Budapest for the first time in 2006. That's the race that starts and finishes under the chain bridge.
Oh yeah I think I saw that on TV!
Yeah and that bridge is only 23 feet off of the water so it's not like you have a lot of room. I had never obviously flown underneath a bridge before and just the anticipation leading up to flying underneath the bridge is pretty scary! But that was one of the fun things and now I look forward to it when I get there and that were going spend the week flying underneath the bridge.
Yeah, it seems really exciting and hair-raising flying right underneath the bridge!
Yeah it's crazy but the funny thing about it Evan is that you don't actually know when you're going underneath the bridge because you're looking straight ahead and you don't even see the bridge come over your head. All you can tell is that there is a shadow that goes over the top of the airplane and you know you've gone under the bridge but obviously you're not looking at the bridge – it’s like driving a race car, you don't want to look at the road you want to look at the next turn ahead and it’s the same way in a plane.
Yeah, I see what you mean there. Well thank you so much for the great interview!
Oh, it’s my pleasure. It was very cool and hopefully will do this again in a couple years my friend
Meeting and interviewing Mike was really fun. Many of my flying friends said he is a super nice guy and I sure found that to be true! I can't wait to run into him again!
Check out Mike Goulian's website! It's full of really neat stuff!