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Air show pilot set for a more grounded life

Matt Chapman performing aerial acrobatics during the 2019 Wings Out West Air Show at the Prescott Regional Airport Saturday Oct. 5. (Jason Wheeler/Courier)

Matt Chapman performing aerial acrobatics during the 2019 Wings Out West Air Show at the Prescott Regional Airport Saturday Oct. 5. (Jason Wheeler/Courier)

Taking to the skies above the Prescott Regional Airport, aerobatic pilot Matt Chapman performed his final Wings Out West Air Show Saturday, Oct. 5.

It was also his second-to-last air show ever, since Chapman is retiring at the conclusion of the 2019 air show season after 37 years of air show flying — the last 13 of which were spent representing Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“They’ve treated me so well, it’s such a great institution to represent,” he said.

“I’m sure there are things I’m going to miss about the air show business and working with Embry-Riddle and meeting the young kids that come out here and are pursuing an aerospace career, but it’s the right time for me to retire, and I know it’s the right time. I’m comfortable with that position.”

Chapman said he got into air shows when he was 14 years old. He and his dad would fly radio-controlled model airplanes and one day, his dad came home and asked him if he wanted to go to an air show, Chapman said.

From that day on, he wanted to be an air show pilot, he said.

Chapman said he’s still flying for American Airlines which will keep him busy.

He also restores airplanes — he’s currently working on a Piper J-3 Cub and a German biplane — and is still a huge model airplane flier, enjoying the large scale remote controlled aircraft, he said.

“I’ll get to some events I’ve always wanted to get to,” Chapman said.

He said he’s looking forward to spending some time at home, too. This time of year he’s never home, and it will be nice to relax and do the things he’s wanted to do over the years, Chapman said.

Chapman flew solo during Saturday’s show as well as in formation alongside Bill Stein and Rob Holland in a team known as “The Force.” It was possibly the team’s last show together. Stein and Holland also flew solo, performing aerobatic demonstrations, as did Kent Pietsch.

The 2019 Wings Out West Air Show held a tribute to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion as well, with a lot of World War II era airplanes featured in the show along with a reenactment of paratroopers landing in Normandy by The Liberty Jump Team. Retired Lt. Colonel Dave Hamilton, the last living Pathfinder pilot who flew on D-Day, was the guest of honor.

Katherine Garmon said she though the 2019 Wings Out West Air Show was impressive. She really enjoyed when Pietsch glided down and landed without the use of an engine while being trailed by smoke that changed colors, Garmon said. Dimitra Tsamis, an alumna of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, also enjoyed her time at the event.

“I always love an air show. There’s never a bad air show,” Tsamis said.

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