She started flying to push her own limits and yet has achieved so much more. Patty Wagstaff has made a name for herself as one of the finest pilots in aerobatics and competition flying. Today, in her Extra 300S, she flies one of the most thrilling, low-level aerobatic routines in the world.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’m still enjoying it,” Wagstaff says. “I can’t think of anything that would match it. When I think of the alternatives and of what else I could be doing, it’s hard to know what could possibly substitute for this—what else is this exciting and has this much intensity.”
Her breathtaking performances give spectators a front-row view of the precision and complexity of modern, unlimited hard-core aerobatics, setting the standard for performers the world over.
Born in the U.S., Wagstaff moved to Japan when she was 9, where her father was a captain for Japan Air Lines. Her cross-cultural academic career began in Japan, took her to Southeast Asia and Europe and then through a six-year work-study program in Australia.
She moved to Alaska in 1979, where she began flying. Her first lesson was in a Cessna 185 floatplane. Since then she has earned her commercial, instrument, seaplane and commercial helicopter ratings. She is a flight and instrument instructor and is rated and qualified to fly many airplanes, from World War II warbirds to jets.
The first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, a title she claimed three times, Wagstaff is also a past International Aerobatic Club Champion. The six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team is also a six-time recipient of the First Lady of Aerobatics Betty Skelton Award. She’s trained with the Russian Aerobatic Team and flown air shows and competitions on five continents and in such exotic places as Russia, Argentina, Iceland and Kenya.
Wagstaff has won many awards for her flying and is particularly proud of receiving the air show industry’s most prestigious award, the Sword of Excellence, as well as the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship, and is the 1996 recipient of the Charlie Hillard Award. In March 1994, her airplane, the Goodrich Extra 260, went on display in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Patty Wagstaff Airshows, Inc. is based in St. Augustine, Fla. During the off-season, Wagstaff engages in such diverse projects as stunt flying and coordination for the movie and television industry. She’s a member of the Screen Actors Guild, the Motion Picture Pilots Association and the United Stuntwomen’s Association.
She has demoed airplanes for companies such as Raytheon, flying their new military trainer, the T-6A Texan II, in air shows, and recently has been in Africa working with the Kenya Wildlife Service giving recurrency and bush training to their pilots in Kenya.
Wagstaff was enshrined in the Women in Aviation International Hall of Fame and the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997, and in the National Aviation Hall of Fall in 2004.