The midday heat radiated off the airstrip, making it feel more like summer rather than the early days of fall. Anthony Oshinuga sat in the small patch of shade offered by the top wing of his red Pitts Special biplane. But for Oshinuga, it was less about seeking shelter from the heat and more about preparing himself mentally and physically for what he is about to do.
Throughout the week, pilots from across the country have completed stalls, rolls and other deft maneuvers in the air as a part of the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field.
“What I generally like to do is keep my space from people,” Oshinuga said on Thursday, going over his preparations for flight. “If I am going to fly alone I want to be by myself and just close my eyes, and visualize my sequence in my head — visualise where I look, and where my visual cues are going to be.”
While he daylights as a pharmaceutical engineer in California, Oshinuga said his passion has always been in the air.
“When you say you do it professionally, people think you do it for work,” he said. “I don’t do it for work, but I would love to fly to the point I get paid to fly, but I don’t want to fly commercial airlines. There is no comparison between a commercial bus and a hot rod Ferrari Pitts.”
Oshinuga’s love of aircraft started at a young age after his father took him out to an airport in Austin.
“So what he did was he took the car to the edge of the airport, turned it around and watched airplanes take off and land,” he said. “So at the age of 5 I thought, ‘OK, that’s really cool.’ “
From there, he continued to explore and learn about aircraft. At 10, Oshinuga built a working radio-controlled model airplane. Oshinuga got his pilot’s license in 2007 and started flying aerobatics three years later. “It is very expensive so I was only able to fly a couple times a year, and go to maybe one of two contests a year,” he said.
When it comes to aerobatics, Oshinuga said it takes a special skill set that’s different than that of commercial pilots, who often have computer assistance. Instead of using mechanical and other assistance, an aerobatics pilot must rely on his or her own skills, endurance and experience to control the airplane even in high-precision maneuvers.
“You’ve got pilots and then you got pilot pilots,” he said, emphasizing the later. “You are pure flying it. You are flying it 100 percent of the time until the engine stops.”
In 2014, Oshinuga traveled to Denison to compete in his first U.S. Nationals contest, where he took fourth place in the primary division. During his flights, Oshinuga flew in a rented Decathalon airplane.
Now, Oshinuga is competing in the more advanced sportsman category with his own airplane. Thursday’s flights come just one week after Oshinuga took second place in his division at the Reno Championship Air Races.
As a relative rookie in the sport, Oshinuga said he has taken advice and inspiration from others who have been flying competitively for decades. “All of the heartache we are going through now, they have been through in the past,” he said.