Sean D. Tucker
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Sean D. Tucker (born 1952) is an American aerobatic pilot who performs in airshows worldwide for Team Oracle. Tucker is recognized as a leader in the aviation industry and has won numerous aerobatic championships throughout his career. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008, and currently resides as chairman of EAA's Young Eagles program.
Tucker, a native of Eagle Rock, California, earned his pilot’s certificate at age 17. Tucker's father, William, was an aviation industry lawyer who had learned to fly as part of his job. Tucker started out as a cropduster, eventually starting a cropdusting business in Salinas, California. In order to overcome his fear of crashing, Tucker took an aerobatics course, through which he "found out you could roll an airplane upside down and it wouldn't fall out of the sky." He has been flying airshows worldwide since the mid-1970s and is considered by many to be one of the world’s premier airshow performers. Tucker's favorite stunt is the "triple ribbon cut", where he uses his plane to cut three ribbons suspended between poles from three different angles. Despite once having a fear of flying, Tucker has flown more than 1,000 performances at more than 425 airshows, in front of more than 80 million spectators.
Team Oracle states Tucker has been named one of the Living Legends of Aviation, is the recipient of the Crystal Eagle Award, was an inductee at the 2001 USAF Gathering of Eagles, and was named one of the Living Legends of Flight.
To endure the extreme physical demands of his acrobatic flying routine, Tucker maintains a rigorous physical training schedule, working out more than 340 days per year in a routine of jogging and weightlifting on alternating days. His other physical activities include heli-skiing, cave SCUBA diving, and golfing. When asked about flying airshows, Tucker has said, "I like to think that I bring the fans’ dreams of flying into the plane with me and there's nowhere I’d rather be than in the cockpit. That’s why I train so hard to keep a finely tuned edge."
Tucker’s self-proclaimed goal is to "share the magic of flight with Team Oracle’s guests by inspiring and thrilling them. I want them to go away saying that the airshow was one of the most engaging days of their lives."
In 2013, Tucker was appointed Chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) program Young Eagles, which introduces and educates children aged 8 to 17 about aviation. It has given flights to over 2 million children around the world.
Awards and recognition
- EAA AirVenture Freedom of Flight Award - 2010
- National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) – 2008
- Living Legends of Aviation Award – 2007
- Crystal Eagle Award by the National Aeronautics Association – 2006
- Named one of the 25 “Living Legends of Flight” by the National Air & Space Smithsonian – 2003
- Inductee in the USAF Gathering of Eagles – 2001
- Honorary Thunderbird, Blue Angel, Snowbird, Smoke Squadron
- World Airshow Federation Champion – 2000
- International Council of Airshows Sword of Excellence – 2000
- Undefeated Champion of the Championship Airshow Pilots Association Challenge – 1998–2001
- General Aviation News and Flyer Reader’s Choice Award for Best Male Performer – 1997
- The Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award and The Bill Barber Award for Air Show Showmanship – 1992
- U.S. National Advanced Aerobatic Champion – 1988
Tucker's airplane, the Oracle Challenger III biplane, is claimed to produce more than 400 horsepower, and weighs only 1,200 pounds. The Challenger III is equipped with a unique set of wings that use 8 ailerons instead of 4. The tail on the airplane is modeled after the tail used on high-performance radio control airplanes.
Tucker's first major accident occurred in 1979, when he had to parachute out of his crashing stunt plane.
In 1993, as he was climbing out of the parked stunt plane he used at the time, a Pitts S-2S biplane, a runaway aircraft on the ground collided with the stuntplane. Tucker escaped unscathed, but damage to the wings on one side of his $150,000 stunt plane took ten days to repair.
In 2006, the elevator (pitch control) system in one of Tucker's aerobatic aircraft broke, forcing him to bail out. Tucker sustained minor injuries and the aircraft he was flying was destroyed. He still performs, and has since participated in the 2007, 2012, and 2013, and 2015 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in and airshow.
In 1997, Tucker started the Sean D. Tucker School of Aerobatic Flight, with the stated aim of setting and spreading the standard for aviation safety in aerobatics and aviation at large. In 2004, through a partnership with the Tutima Watch Company, the school became the Tutima Academy of Aviation and Safety. The Academy, located in King City, California, offers a variety of courses including stall/spin recognition and recovery training, aerobatic proficiency training, a low-level aerobatic mentorship program, and formation aerobatic flight training.
- "Sean Tucker". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- Yakov M. Hirschon, "The World's Top Stunt Pilot", ZMAN, September 2012, page 90.
- "Stunt Pilot," Boy's Life, April 1994, page 19.
- "About Sean Tucker". Retrieved 2007-11-04.
- "Stunt plane crashes after control stick breaks". Retrieved 2007-11-04.