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High flyer on a roll

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

Guy Westgate is “the luckiest guy on the planet”.

After stumbling upon the hobby – that is now his job – he knew he had found his true calling as a pilot.

“I went through school doing all the subjects I thought I should do, not what I really had a passion for,” he said.

“Then I chose aeronautical engineering at university because it is a really broad based degree and I couldn’t decide what to do.”

Now he travels the world flying from continent to continent, country to country.

Mr Westgate will be in the region for the Wings over Wairarapa Air Festival 2017 next month. He will attempt to set a world record for a unique stunt at this year’s event in his aerobatic glider after gaining permission from Guinness World Records.

The Aerosparx glider display team will attempt a record in consecutive rolls - a stunt manoeuvre PHOTO/SUPPLIED
The Aerosparx glider display team will attempt a record in consecutive rolls – a stunt manoeuvre PHOTO/SUPPLIED

He hopes to break two records during a roll-on tow stunt, both the number of continuous rolls, while still attached to the tow plane, and the number of rolls in one flight.

Both records will be measured by the number of completed rolls without a break and be viewed by judges on the ground and recorded as proof.

The roll stunt is an aerobatic manoeuvre where the glider rolls 360 degrees around its longitudinal axis.

“We are confident the number of rolls can be in the 10s, but our target will be 100. But with a roll rate of 10 revolutions per minute, that’s a long time going around in circles.”

The attempt on the world record was raising some jitters.

“The roll-on tow is the hardest stunt we ever attempt, and I am nervous that I will fail before I have done enough.”

“It takes so much concentration, after two minutes, you just want to take a five-second break and start again, but you can’t — you have to keep going.

“It starts to hurt your hands, your head, you feel sick and giddy but you have to keep going.”

During the intensive training, he has already beaten the past record but hopes to make his attempt something special.

After finishing his university studies in engineering, he realised that it would be more exciting to fly for a living, rather than designing and fixing aircraft.

“I got lucky enough to get taken on by British Airways, and have been flying Boeings ever since, 737, 777, 747 and now the new 787 Dreamliner.

“My hobby feels like a job and some days my job takes me to a holiday destination.”

He has been UK national champion a record eight times, and pioneered several new flying stunts, including glider formation flights with skydivers, flying with fireworks and the ‘roll-on-tow’ manoeuvre.

Mr Westgate started flying in glider displays 20 years ago, after the purchase of his purpose built aerobatic glider the MDM-1 Fox, and has been developing his stunt flying ever since.

“I am the luckiest pilot at the airshow this year, as I will be flying my amazing S1 Swift glider for not only the roll-on-tow record, but also a helicopter tow, that has been on my bucket list for ever.

“I am also one of the pilots for AeroSPARX, the only team in the world to offer formation aerobatics, at night, with pyro fireworks and an LED display.”

Mr Westgate hates saying how long he has been a pilot for.

“I still think I am 22-years-old, but I will say that I have been flying for more years than I have not been flying.

“You will recognise me easily, as I will have a grin from ear to ear for the whole week I am in Masterton.”

Wings over Wairarapa is an internationally renowned show bringing more than 70 different aircraft to Masterton.

The event is held over a weekend from February 17–19 at the Hood Aerodrome in Masterton.

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