Rob Holland is one of a very few full-time airshow pilots. Obsessed with aerobatics from a young age, he holds a number of competition titles, including 2008 Advanced World Champion, 2011 U.S. National Champion and 2011 World Freestyle Champion. He can be seen flying solo and pairs acts at airshows around the world.
Planning the flight and flying the plan…Every maneuver has a set altitude and airspeed—we call them gates. If you don’t hit those gates, you don’t do it. If I do a tumble I know that I need to be 1,300 feet or above because in a worst-case scenario it takes 900 feet to recover. And what are the chances I’m going to do the recovery absolutely perfectly? It’s really important to obey those rules that you set for yourself, the go or no-go for each maneuver.
Airshow life…I’m just infatuated with it, after all these years. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and it’s all that I want to continue to do. My hobby is my job, so when I’m at work I don’t have to shut it off and concentrate on other things. All day long, all I do is think about and do aerobatics.
Normal doesn’t mean boring…I enjoy all flying, whether it’s a Cessna 152 or the MXS. If the wheels come off the ground, it’s fun for me. My hangar mate has a clipped-wing Cub, and it’s a blast. To putter around at 60 mph with the doors open—you’ve got to love it.
Public persona…I’m not the adrenaline junky people assume I am. What I do in the airplane is probably pretty extreme, but to me there’s a discipline to it. Mastering that discipline and trying to be as perfect as I can—that’s what I’m after.
Advice for students…Find an instructor that will teach you how to fly an airplane, not how to operate one. Look out the window, feel the airplane, feel what’s going on, and fly it. I see too many people that are taught to operate an airplane like a hunk of machinery. They’re not making the airplane an extension of themselves, and they’re going to get in situations they’re not going to be able to fly out of.