Departments | f ly b yin the I still have this feeling back of my mind like “don’t they know I’m just this hippie from Alaska?” I’ve gotten past that a little bit.
feeling in the back of my mind like “don’t they know I’m just this hippie from Alaska?” I’ve gotten past that a little bit. I think everybody longs for a place in history—they want their life to stand for something. I’ve got that and I’m really lucky, but it makes you realize you have to live up to it. It’s a huge responsibly. You can’t disappoint people and when you slip it’s a much bigger deal. PM: Is that the way you feel when you walk around the Air and Space Museum, too? Wagstaff: It’s always been really surreal for me. I’m kind of shy about it. I want to sit in a corner and watch people and see what they think. For me it’s a neat little place in history. I don’t have any kids—I think that people who have kids have a sense of history because your genetic makeup is out there. I guess in a way it’s kind of like having a kid. It’s a piece of history that you that you’re always going to have—the airplane is always going to be there. I felt really strongly about it when it first went in. Now it’s in a new location—it looks like it’s flying again.
PM: So what’s next for you? Wagstaff: I’ll see that I’ll eventually slow down with air shows-- I’m going to continue to fly, but I would like to transform into a broader area. I’d like to do some training, too—not necessarily dual instruction, but study the process of it. I’d like to know why so many women drop out and how instructors could be better. I guess that’s a little bit nebulous, but I’ve always been in places where I’ve had to create my own positions. PM: Air show flying is dangerous business and you’ve lost a lot of friends. How do you deal with that? Wagstaff: It’s really important to believe that it’s not going to happen to you. The hardest thing is when somebody who is so much better than you dies. I remember when Bob Herendeen died. He was a really fabulous air show pilot and he made a mistake when he wasn’t even flying at an air show. You start to think if they do it then of course it’s going to happen to you, but then you’re putting yourself in peril. You have to be confident 100 percent of the time.
PM: Finish the sentence. I get a rush from… Wagstaff: Flying with the Kenya Wildlife Service and seeing the animals up close. When you land you have to look around for zebras and warthogs on the runway-- there’s always something darting out. Last year we went into the brush in a Super Cub. It gets exciting! PM: There’s no way to prepare yourself for… Wagstaff: Life! When I was growing up I always dreamed of running away and joining the circus, or being a professional rider in the Olympics or an FBI agent. I didn’t know my passion was going to be aerobatics. I had never even seen aerobatics-- I didn’t go to air shows as a kid. I never thought I’d be doing it for this long either. I remember knowing people that had been doing air shows for 25 years and here I am one of them. You can’t prepare for all the things that life brings on.
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