Luke Aikins, a member of the Red Bull Air Force Jump Team set to perform at the upcoming Great State of Maine Air Show, became a professional skydiver because his World War II fighter pilot grandfather didn’t get a chance, at least until after the war.

“My grandpa got shot down in the war in his P47 airplane and had to crash land in allied territory,” said Aikins. “He tried to jump out but couldn’t get the cockpit open. When he came home from the war, he and a buddy always talked about that day and what it would’ve been like to jump out during World War II.”

Aikin, a third-generation skydiver and pilot, said his grandfather went to a skydiving club in the 1960s to finally curb his curiosity and fell in love with skydiving. He later opened his own skydiving club, a family business still in operation today. Sixty years later, Aikins said the skydiving he does with the Red Bull Air Force team “isn’t my grandpa’s skydiving.”

“When my grandpa did it, you jumped out and everyone is amazed you live,” he said. “Now, we jump in the squirrel wingsuits and fly through the air. You feel like you’re a superhero zipping across the sky. We jump with smoke canisters on our feet so everyone can track us across the sky.”

Since his first skydive at age 12, Aikins said he has jumped about 20,000 times. He joined the Red Bull team in 2006. He now skydives professionally and coordinates skydiving sequences for movies like “Iron Man 3,” “Godzilla” and “Black Widow.”

In addition to the Red Bull Air Force Jump Team, the Great State of Maine Air Show will feature the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, a Navy flight demonstration team that performs aerial acrobatics, as well as solo aerobatic pilots.

The show will take place at the Brunswick Executive Airport on Sept. 4 and 5, with gates opening at 8 a.m. and events kicking off at 11:30 a.m. Air performances are scheduled until 4:30 p.m. on both days.

Day passes are $45 for adults and $35 for children ages 4-12 on Saturday or $40 for adults and $30 for children on Sunday. Kids 3 and under get in for free. Premium box seats are $75. Tickets can be purchased by visiting greatstateofmaineairshow.us.

Although crowds all over the world have seen his stunts in films and other events, Aikins said air shows like the upcoming Brunswick show are “near and dear to my heart.”

Michael Wiskus, a professional aerobatic pilot, will fly his Pitts Model 11 airplane in the Great State of Maine Air Show next month. Photo courtesy of Michael Wiskus

“We do a lot of demonstrations around the world, but I always like air shows because the audience is there to watch you and are aviation enthusiasts,” he said. “They’re there to see what’s new and what’s out there.”

This will be Aikin’s first time skydiving in the Great State of Maine Air Show.

Like Aikins, Michael Goulian, one of the solo pilots in the air show, became a professional aerobat — someone who performs dangerous stunts in an airplane — because he comes from a family of pilots. Before becoming a full-time professional aerobat, he worked as a flying instructor at his parents’ flight school, then flew a corporate jet.

“Aerobatic flying has been something I’ve done my entire life, but have done for a living for the past 20 years full-time,” said Goulian. “I was an athlete as a kid growing up and I was very competitive. As I started to go into the working world, I wanted that competitive itch scratched. The aerobatic competition was the way to do that. I feel like I’m at my best when I have a goal and I’m competing for something.”

Goulian, who has appeared in the Brunswick air show three times, said he hopes his performance, which includes everything from making his airplane twist, somersault and fly upside down, inspires future generations of pilots to explore what’s possible.

The Red Bull Air Force team skydives at their 2021 Training Camp in Los Alamos, California, USA on 5 April, 2021. Michael Clark

“With enough passion, dedication and training, you can do amazing things with your life no matter what that chosen skill may be,” he said.

Mike Wiskus, another aerobat performing in the show, said an air show performer is what inspired him to become a pilot.

“I went to my first air show when I was 10 and that flipped the switch for me,” said Wiskus.

After watching the show, Wisus said he rode his bike to a nearby airport and asked to work there, but the owner said he had to wait until he was 15. When he turned 14, he rode back to the airport and told the owner he was 15 and they hired him to wash airplanes and clean the hangars.

“The hardest part was telling the owner of the airport when I turned 15 that I wasn’t 16,” said Wiskus.

At 15, he started flying lessons and earned his pilot’s license on his 17th birthday. Over 30,000 flying hours later, Wiskus said the thrill of flying hasn’t worn off.

“It has been a career more than I’ve ever dreamed,” said Wiskus. “The moment I strap the seat belt on, everything comes alive. There are so many variables and putting them all together is challenging to make each air show the best, but I love it. This is who I am and this is what I love.”

He said his favorite trick to perform is a forward somersault, which includes making his airplane complete one and a half forward summersaults, then hover in midair before nosediving toward the ground.

Wiskus performed in Brunswick alongside the Blue Angels seven years ago. He said he’s excited to perform in Maine again because “I loved the countryside, the people and the food. I think I gained 10 pounds last time.”

Like Aikins and Goulian, Wiskus said he hopes the air show inspires the audience to consider what’s possible and inspire future generations of pilots and aerobats.

“We may be going through a lot in this country right now, but don’t stop dreaming,” he said. “Keep pursuing your passions because that’s what keeps us alive.”

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