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Article: Sean D. Tucker, Aerobatic Pilot Extraordinaire


Sean D. Tucker, Aerobatic Pilot Extraordinaire

As a pilot, I always enjoyed going to airshows to watch all the exciting flying activities, and to meet fellow pilots.

One of my favorites was Robert “Bob” Hoover whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport. He was flying his iconic yellow P-51 Mustang that day, and he put on an incredible show.

The pilot community is a tight-knit group, and one of Bob Hoover’s best friends was another airshow performer Sean D. Tucker.

In 1999 I saw Tucker putting on an aerobatic display at the Cleveland National Airshow and was really impressed by his flying skill. So, naturally, I wanted to learn more about him and his career.

The Early Days

Sean earned his Private Pilot Certificate at the age of 17, the son of an aviation industry lawyer who was also a pilot.

But Sean had a fear of crashing! No wonder, his first flying job was as a crop duster, so no surprise that he might worry about crashing!

Tucker knew he needed to overcome this fear of crashing, so he decided to take aerobatics flying lessons.

Suddenly he discovered that you could even roll an airplane upside down and it wouldn’t fall out of the sky!

He was hooked!

Since the mid-1970s he has been flying airshows worldwide and is considered to be one of the world's premier airshow performers.

His First Sponsor

As Tucker’s skills grew so did his notoriety. One of his earliest mentors was Bob Hover, a legend on the airshow circuit.

It also caught the eye of the owners of Randolph Engineering, Inc. who had been looking for a way to advertise their line of sunglasses.

Randolph was competing with the American Optical Company and their famous Original Pilot sunglasses but needed a boost to their product line.

Being very interested in aviation, Sean Tucker’s success on the airshow circuit brought him to the owners of Randolph Engineering, Jan Waszkiewicz and Stanley Zaleski.

This was Tucker's first sponsorship, so he painted Randolph Sunglasses on his aircraft for everyone to see.

Sean D. Tucker standing in front of his Pitts Special he flew when sponsored by Randolph Engineering, Inc.

In the above image note the 23K Gold E.P. Aviators with the American Gray glass lenses.

The sponsorship of Randolph Sunglasses lasted just 3 years, from 1993 through 1995, when in 1996 he transitioned to MCI under the 1-800-COLLECT and 10-10-220 brands until his start with Oracle in 2001.

Tucker flying his 10-10-220 Brand Aircraft

He flew for Oracle for 20 years, and his last Oracle aircraft was the Oracle Challenger III.

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 and Oracle Challenger III Video

In 2021 the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum was scheduled to receive the Oracle Challenger III, to be displayed at the entrance to the “Thomas W. Haas We All Fly” general aviation gallery.

Over the years Sean Tucker has attained recognition for his aerobatic flying skills,

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 in 2003 was National Air and Space Museum'snamed one of the Smithsonian  25 Living Legends of Flight.

He is one of only a handful of civilian performers who have been allowed to fly close formation with the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds.

Bob Hoover Academy

In 2013, Tucker and his son Eric founded the nonprofit organization Every Kid Can Fly.

This was a program to inspire at-risk and low-income teens in the Salinas area to learn about aviation and take STEM classes through the Monterey County Office of Education.

As each student progresses in the program they earn the privilege of taking the aviation ground school and flight lessons up through solo flight.

The goal of this program is for the teens to learn the skills and develop the confidence to enable them to improve their lives and futures.

In 2017 it became known as the Bob Hoover Academy.

Tucker provides aviation resources - including a dedicated flight instructor, aircraft, fuel, and hangar facilities.

The academy was named after famed aviator Bob Hoover - a World War II pilot, airshow pilot, and mentor to Tucker.

In 2018, both Harrison Ford and Redbird Flight Simulations donated substantial resources to the academy.

Tutima Academy

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 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.

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