I have met – and even worked with – some great military pilots, but yesterday I met one of the best civilian pilots in the world. His name is Sean D. Tucker, holder of just about every non-military aviation honor ever made. He performs in airshows all over the country and can make his Oracle Challenger bi-plane do the impossible. Don’t believe me? Watch this video.
He is the only non-military pilot authorized to fly in formation with the Blue Angels. He has been named a Living Legend of Aviation, and is in the National and International Aviation Halls of Fame. And he still flies at age 60.
He was here to talk to severely wounded and injured veterans in the Wyakin Warrior program. He talked about pursuing your passion, and what it takes to get to the top (hint: it takes practice and hard work). He was really there, though, to inspire the veterans to accept no obstacle, and never focus on what they and other believe they cannot do. In aviation vernacular, he advised the warriors to “fly all the way into the wreck”; to keep flying – keep trying – even if it looks as if you won’t make it through.
He recounted several near-death experiences he lived through by fighting through the mechanical problems or laws of physics until he emerged alive and unscathed.
In one of the most remarkable videos I have ever seen, he showed a recording taken from the cockpit when his propeller fell off (you read that right). In the aircraft with him was a first-time flyer out for her maiden aviation experience.
That he was able to land at all was breathtaking. But what captured me was the way he handled his passenger who was on the verge of hysterics. He calmed her down with smooth conversation, reassuring her that everything would turn out fine; all the while compensating for a sudden shift of the aircraft’s center of gravity, finding a suitable landing site, and touching down at over 150 miles per hour – all without a propeller. He reminded me of the best Commanding Officers under whom I served – when things got bad, when chaos hit its crescendo, the good ones became calm and almost soothing. Sean Tucker did that in that jaw dropping video.
He is an incredible pilot, but an even more incredible human being for finding ways to give back to the millions of fans he entertains, as well as to those who served and sacrificed serving their country. He is our hero of the week.