Most people think that being an airshow pilot is all about aerobatics. The truth of it is that I feel more like a professional VFR-only ferry pilot in my Edge 540 aircraft. For the 10-30 minutes of aerobatics that I get to fly at an airshow or aerobatic competition weekend, I first have to fly my airplane cross-country to get there, sometimes across entire continents! Just last year I flew from Florida to Martinique and then island hopped across to Mexico and then back to California. I had a show in Panama City and a show in Alaska.

I travel all across North and Central America to get to the airshows and one thing that my coach always tells me is to do what it takes to be on time! With a VFR only airplane that can only fly for 3 hours at a time that sometimes means leaving early to allow for weather delays. When flying outside of the United States and Canada we do not always have the advantage NEXRAD or detailed weather briefings. It is not uncommon to be expecting VFR conditions and then find yourself 100 feet off the deck flying up a beach in Mexico in the rain.

As a professional airshow pilot (or VFR ferry pilot, however you want to look at it), the avionics in my airplane make all of the difference when it comes to getting to my destination on time and safe. My magnetic compass and attitude indicator, which relied on a gyro did not do well with the extreme aerobatics.

With the package of instruments installed by Sarasota Avionics, I have been able to navigate more efficiently and more safely. The Garmin aera 796, paired with ADSB traffic and satellite NEXRAD, helps me to be more aware of my surroundings and also helps me to navigate away from poor weather and pop-up TFRs. The Aspen and Garmin are independent systems with their own backup batteries that, in the event of an electrical failure, will continue working to guide me to my destination and provide an artificial horizon in the event of an emergency.

When island hopping across stretches of open water with an engine that is pushed to its limits during aerobatics, it is crucial to be able to monitor it at all times. With my engine monitor I can watch the CHT and EGT of all 6 cylinders, my oil pressures and temperatures, fuel pressure and fuel flow – and so much more! This gives me the security to know what is happening in my engine.

I first met the crew from Sarasota Avionics at an airshow and instantly got along with them! If you take the time to visit their booth at Oshkosh or Sun’n Fun, you will have the chance to learn what real customer service is about. They installed the best panel for me that any aerobatic airplane has ever seen, and used space that I didn’t even know existed in the Edge! As a member of the US Unlimited Aerobatic Team, and full time airshow pilot, I go to the friends and people that I trust at Sarasota Avionics for all of my avionics needs.

- Melissa Pemberton

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