|Thursday, November 10 2011 @ 03:33 PM MST
"FLY IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT". Those were the words printed on a sticker staring me in the face as I was strapped into the *such language*pit of Rob Holland's Veteran Home Loans MX2 aircraft Tuesday. Having read that, with a parachute strapped to my back, I knew I was in for the ride of my life.
SEE MORE OF MIKE KILLIAN'S PHOTOS HERE
FLYING WITH ROB HOLLAND AT THE COCOA BEACH AIRSHOW • YOUTUBE
PART 1: FLY WITH 920TH RESCUE WING AT COCOA BEACH AIRSHOW • YOUTUBE
PART 2: FLY WITH 920TH RESCUE WING AT COCOA BEACH AIRSHOW • YOUTUBE
PART 3: FLY WITH 920TH RESCUE WING AT COCOA BEACH AIRSHOW • YOUTUBE
PART 4: FLY WITH 920TH RESCUE WING AT COCOA BEACH AIRSHOW • YOUTUBE
Holland, a world champion aerobatics pilot with multiple championships under his belt, was one of the many performers in central FL for the 2011 Cocoa Beach Air Show Nov. 5-6. The 3rd annual event has become hugely popular among the population along Florida's space coast, & this year was no exception. And when our Senior Staff Photographer & writer Mike Killian was given the chance to fly with him, he jumped at the opportunity.
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"When I was young, 7 or 8 years old, my dad brought me to an air show. I saw people flying upside down and that was it, I was on a mission from that point on to someday do air shows. I've never had a 'Plan B'; it was always my goal to fly", said Holland.
Rob has been flying for over 18 years, having logged over 10,000 hours of flight time in more than 162 types of aircraft. He's flown air shows professionally since 2002, making him one of the youngest pilots on the air show circuit today. His name has become synonymous with high performance aerobatics, continually pushing the envelope of the most advanced aerobatic aircraft in the air show industry and showcasing maneuvers you never believed an airplane could do.
"I don't consider myself a stunt pilot. A stunt is trying something new and not knowing what the result will be," said Holland. "I know what the result will be, it's practiced, it's choreographed. Every move has an out - it's about the illusion of danger, not the reality".
Rob's $380,000 ultra high-performance MX2 aerobatic airplane, built by MX Aircraft of North Carolina, is tiny, lightweight, and pushes 385+ horsepower while boasting a structural profile that can pull plus/minus 16 G's. With a roll rate of 400+ degrees per second, the all carbon fiber aircraft can pretty much do whatever Rob wants it to in his quest to redefine the word 'aerobatic'.
His advice before our flight? "Look around, enjoy the view, and just have a lot of fun. There's no way to describe it, you have to experience it, and your about to. I'll try not to beat you up too bad. I'm gonna flip it end over end, do some rolls, fly upside down, slide it sideways across the sky, maybe fly it backwards???"
Backwards? I didn't know an airplane could do such a thing, but apparently when it's Rob Holland flying it can. After all, he IS the 2008 Advanced World Aerobatic Champion, 2008 U.S. National Unlimited Freestyle Champion, & the 2011 U.S. National Champion, not to mention he won the 4-minute freestyle routine in Italy in 2011 also. Needless to say I was in good hands.
Temps were in the 70's, skies were mostly clear, and I was more than ready to go. Mike Ganor, Rob's on-site operations Manager and show announcer, made sure to point out one slight detail to me before we took off, "If you hear Rob yell EJECT EJECT, you better unstrap your seatbelts & jump out, because the canopy will be off & Rob will already be gone". With that said, & after replacing a faulty headset, off we went.
We accelerated down the runway at Merritt Island Airport to nearly 175mph in a matter of seconds before Rob pulled back on the stick and we went vertical right off the bat, pulling 4 G's before leveling out and heading to our airspace about 1,000 feet off Cocoa Beach's Alan Shepherd Park.
We did flips, rolls, flew upside down, and tumbled end over end - pulling 7 G's before all was said done. Photographing the view for our readers while pulling G's is not easy, at all, matter of fact it was much more difficult than I thought. But Rob's team hooked me up with 3 GoPro HD cameras to shoot stills & video during the flight - 1 on each wingtip & 1 in the *such language*pit - so I did end up with plenty of great imagery despite not doing so well with my DSLR. We even buzzed by the crowd who gathered at the airport watching us fly on our way back, pulling upwards of 6 G's in a tight 180 degree turn over the runway before finally touching back down on solid ground.
No roller coaster ride anywhere even comes close, the flight is a pure adrenaline rush to it's max. It's no wonder why he loves his job so much, and the view from his office isn't too bad either. I instantly fell in love with it, and will never look at an aerobatic flight demonstration the same way again. I just hope get to do it again one day!
For more information about the annual Cocoa Beach Air Show including a list of performers, times, dates, location, etc, please visit www.cocoabeachairshow.com.
For more information about Rob Holland and the team at Ultimate Air Shows, including bio's, show schedules, photos, and videos of his acts around the country please visit www.ultimateairshows.com.
(Mike Killian / The Spacearium)