A member of Waterloo Warbirds since day one, Steve is a dedicated member of our marketing, IT, and ground crew teams, helping support the organization's growth both on and off the ramp. Steve sat down with us to share his experiences as a founding member of the team, walk us through the many hats he wears, and offer advice to fellow aviation lovers looking to take their passion to the next level.
When did you join the team and how did you find out about us?
I already knew Derek [Hammond, President and founder of Waterloo Warbirds] through our mutual involvement in another aviation organization, and I was there when he founded the team. In fact, I was in the car when we were originally talking about the idea. I’ve been part of the team since the very first day.
What is your role with the team?
I’m part of our marketing, communications, and IT team, and also serve as Deputy Crew Chief. On the marketing/communications/IT side, I design and run our whole website and membership system, run our customer database, and coordinate the larger marketing, communications, and IT teams. As Deputy Crew Chief, I’m our Crew Chief’s right hand. When he and I are both present, we divide up the work on the ground and each take charge of the team that’s responsible for each aircraft. When he is absent, I oversee all ground crew and airplane servicing activities. Having that person to coordinate those things on the ground really allows pilots to focus on their passengers and flying the plane, because they know we are taking care of fuel, any day-of maintenance, and ensuring anyone working in different areas on the ground is doing their job correctly and safely.
What first got you interested in aviation?
Growing up, we lived under the approach path of the Region of Waterloo International Airport, so I could go outside every day and see the airplanes fly low over the house. My parents also took me to air shows, and those two things together really got me interested in aviation. As I got older, I started being able to go to shows myself and find ways to get involved, and this is where things led to. It’s no great shock that I ended up with a home of my own underneath the same approach path!
What is your favourite or most memorable aviation experience?
The accumulation of all the flight experiences I’ve had - from World War 2 bombers to propeller flight trainers to jet trainers to jet fighters - has given me a whole new perspective on piloting and flying, and that’s what really stands out. I’ve gotten to understand how everything on the ground and in the air come together to make a smooth flight. I’ve also been surprised to find that propeller and jet planes, and old and new planes, really feel more similar than you would think when you’re in the air, because you can’t really judge how fast they’re going, and they don’t really feel or sound as different in the air as they do on the ground. Getting to have that broad perspective, and getting to see how far things have come while also seeing how similar they’ve remained, is a really unique experience.
What is your most memorable experience with the team?
I like getting to meet and interact with everyone at air shows and events, and getting to see the incredible excitement of people of all ages when they get close to the jets and ask questions. My favourite shows are the ones where we have some sort of ground display and aren’t cordoned off from the general public, because we get to be immersed in the show and interact with everyone.
What is your most memorable flight experience in one of our jets?
The first time I got to fly aerobatics and see the world upside down from above was pretty cool. Next to that, some of the flyovers we’ve done really stand out, like being able to fly over a football game or be part of a magazine photoshoot as part of a formation of jets.
What does it feel like to fly aerobatics?
It's a feeling like nothing I've ever experienced before. You feel one with the airplane because you're strapped in really tight. It’s not like a roller coaster where you wiggle around and feel yourself hanging in the restraint. You really feel part of the jet and that’s such a cool experience.
What advice would you give someone interested in aviation?
Seek out ways to get involved with it. If you have a museum nearby or any sort of club nearby that you can be a part of, go for it! You don't need to be a pilot to be involved in aviation, which is something I think a lot of people think. You can join an organization and turn wrenches, clean floors, and climb the ladder that way like I did. By being involved in organizations like that, you start to have opportunities come your way, you get to meet people in the network, and you can find areas that interest you more than others, which can help steer your path toward the area of aviation you’re most passionate about.
I've seen aviation lovers come from all walks of life, but when you get everyone in a room together, it almost feels like family.