The new U.S. Unlimited Men's Team, who will compete in the World
Aerobatic Championships in Florida next year, are pictured with Kirby's
Zivko Edge. (L-R) Kirby Chambliss, team captain; Steve Andelin; David
Martin; and Mike Mangold. Team member Robert Armstrong is not pictured.
Photo was taken at the U.S. National Championships in Denison, Texas
September 29, 2002. Photo by LeeAnn Abrams
By Geri Silveira
There's only one word for
a pilot like Kirby Chambliss:
"Wow! Look at him
"Wow! He's going
When you hear the
"W" word at an air show, it's probably because Kirby Chambliss is
doing a spectacular aerobatic maneuver, such as the "Cobra,"
where he pulls up to vertical just a few feet off the ground. How does
Kirby, 2002 U.S. National Aerobatic Champion and air show star, fly so
darned well? "Quality practice, not quantity," says Kirby, a
smile on his boyish face, "That said, I normally fly three times a
day, four days a week as I get close to an important competition."
That adds up to only about four hours of flying a week, but remember, Kirby
is flying the most difficult aerobatic in the world, pulling in excess of
+9 and Š6 gs. Kirby's quality time flying his Zivko Edge 540 has really
In September, he won the
National Championships making him the 2002 U.S. National Champion, reprising
his win in 1998. That's big news in the aerobatic world. And, even bigger
news, Kirby's #1 position made him Captain of the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic
Team that will compete in the World Aerobatic Championship (WAC) in
Lakeland, Florida next year. "This is a great honor for me,"
comments Kirby. "I am extremely proud to represent my country, and I'm
hoping for great success for my teammates and myself." Dig a little
deeper, and you'll find the dedicated competitor in Kirby. "Of course,
I absolutely want to be the World Aerobatic Champion."
Kirby has some pretty
stiff competition in that department. First, there are the world-class
competitors like Russian pilot, Mikail Mamistov, winner of the 2001 WAC.
And then there's the considerable competition from his own teammates,
Robert Armstrong, second place finisher behind Mamistov in 2001; David
Martin, Gold Medal winner in the Freestyle event at the WAC 2001; Mike
Mangold, up-and coming pilot, who took second place at this year's
nationals; and Steve Andelin, 2000 National Champion. Even though there are
still a separate titles for men and women (we do not make that distinction
in this country), the women team members are not to be taken lightly: Debby
Rihn-Harvey is a tough and experienced competitor with 10 WACs to her
credit; Julie Mangold finished 8th in the Nationals; Chandy Clanton is a
talented young pilot who shows great promise; Marta Meyer is an experienced
competitor; and Vicki Cruse has made the unlimited team after only five
years flying aerobatics!
As team captain, Kirby
will be responsible for helping the newer team members who lack world
experience. "I'll be the glue that keeps everybody together and moving
in the right direction," he explains. And that direction is to win a
team Gold Medal and the World Championship title. So what's the big deal
about the WAC contest? Well, it's the "Olympics" of aerobatics.
Held every other year in locations throughout the world since 1960, the WAC
awards individual men's and women's world titles and national team titles.
The best unlimited aerobatic pilots in the world compete in a series of
aerobatic flights, including two compulsory sequences and one freestyle.
The next World Aerobatic
Championship, which will take place in Lakeland, Florida June 25 through
July 4, is the first time the contest has been on home ground since 1996.
This gives the U.S. team a distinct advantage. For one, the team doesn't
have to transport their aircraft to Europe, which is time-consuming and
expensive. For another, the team doesn't have to endure jet lag and extreme
fatigue, which could cause health problems. (Ask team member Robert
Armstrong about that. He almost missed qualifying in 2001 due to a
severe-but fortunately, short-term-illness.) Like all the U.S. Unlimited
team members, Kirby trains with a professional coach. In January, he will
work with Sergei Boriak, his coach for the last seven years, and just
"FLY, FLY, FLY." (The capital letters are Kirby's.) Like any
sport, becoming an aerobatic champion is a big commitment. "When you
are trying to be the best in the world at anything," Kirby reflects,
"it has to be your life. It has to be the most important thing."
For Kirby, flying has
always been a priority. He earned his private pilot's license at 17, got his
commercial rating at 19 and was a corporate pilot by 21. By the time he was
24, Kirby was working for Southwest Airlines-at the time their youngest
pilot. He was also the youngest captain for Southwest when he was promoted
in 1988. He enjoys all kinds of flying, but the contest in Florida is his
His Zivko Edge 540, a
single-place aerobatic monoplane with a 330-hp Lycoming IO-540, Hartzell
3-blade composite prop, and 420 degree-per-second roll rate has a paint
scheme that's as incredible as his flying. Kirby has about 22,000 total
hours with 3,000 in aerobatics. In addition to his current championship,
Kirby has won five medals in his aerobatic career, including a Gold Medal
in freestyle flight making him the 2000 Men's World Champion (Freestyle)
and a Bronze Team Medal in 2001.
Besides his work as an
airline pilot, Kirby finds time to wow audiences at air shows around the
country. "It's fun, and it's different from competition. Demanding,
but in a different way." He recently flew in the Copperstate Air Show
at Grande Valley Airport south of Phoenix, Arizona. Next year, Kirby plans
to fly 10 of the larger air shows in the country. Kirby literally lives
aerobatics. He's a resident of Flying Crown Ranch south of Phoenix,
Arizona, where he has an aerobatic box right outside his door.
He also has the support of
his wife, Kellie, who shares his love of aviation-she flies the family's
clipped-wing Cub and a Cessna 180. Many corporate sponsors have recognized
the talents of Kirby and his team, including the Team's very first sponsor
AeroShell, along with Hartzell Propeller, Textron Lycoming and Champion
Says Paul Royko,
AeroShell's general aviation technical manager, U.S., "We have a
powerhouse of a team this year, and we're looking forward to the Florida
contest." With nine dedicated teammates, the home field advantage, and
the leadership of team Captain Kirby Chambliss, the gold is definitely
within reach of the U.S. Team. For Kirby, the only word to describe winning
the Team and Individual Gold in Florida next year in Florida would be-you
guessed it-" Wow!"
Kirby's website: http://www.chamblissaerobatics.com/