Famed stunt pilot with Alaska roots OK after plane flips on runway - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, October 14, 2019
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Famed stunt pilot with Alaska roots OK after plane flips on runway

Patty Wagstaff, an aviation aerobatic champion who learned how to fly in Alaska, is OK after her plane flipped on the runway in St. Augustine, Fla. on Wednesday.

Wagstaff took flying lessons in Dillingham while she was working for the Bristol Bay Native Corporation starting in 1978. She began her career as a pilot in the Alaska bush. After a career in flying, she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday, the 68-year-old Wagstaff and two passengers were in a 1958 Beech K35 airplane that ran off the runway in St. Johns County, Fla., and flipped. She suffered minor injuries but was not taken to the hospital, and the others on board were also able to walk away from the wreck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Wagstaff said the plane suffered a mechanical problem.

Photo: St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

According to Wikipedia:

Wagstaff grew up in aviation, as her father was a pilot for Japan Airlines. She moved to Australia after high school, where she travelled up the coast in a single-engine boat wit no radio. Her next stop was Alaska, where she took her first flying lesson in a Cessna 185. After earning her single and multi-engine land, single engine sea and commercial and instrument ratings, she became a certified flight and instrument instructor.

Since then, she has ratings in the TBM Avenger, T-28, L-39 and Tucano.

In 1985, Wagstaff qualified for the US National Aerobatic Team and competed both nationally and internationally until 1996. She was the top U.S. medal winner, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competitions for several years. In 1991, she won her first of three US National Aerobatic Championships, the first woman to win that competition. 

She was the International Aerobatic Club champion in 1993. In 1994, her Goodrich-sponsored Extra 260 airplane was put on display next to Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

From 1988 to 1994, she won the Betty Skelton First Lady of Aerobatics award six times in a row.

In 1996, Wagstaff was the top-scoring US pilot at the World Aerobatics Championship. That year, she was also the first person to win the  Charlie Hillard Trophy, awarded to the highest scoring U.S. pilot at the World Aerobatic Championships.

In 1997, Wagstaff received her first Hall of Fame inductions, becoming inducted into both the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Aviation Hall of Fame. She was awarded the National Aeronautic Association Paul Tissandier Diploma in 1997 and won the Bill Barber Award for sportsmanship in 1998.

In 2001, Wagstaff began training pilots of the Kenya Wildlife Service in Kenya. In 2002, she won the Katherine and Marjorie Stinson Award, and in 2004, was elected into what is arguably aviation’s most prestigious hall, the National Aviation Hall of Fame. In December 2006, she was inducted into the International Council of Air Shows Foundation Hall of Fame and in 2007, the International Air and Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Based in St. Augustine, Florida, Patty Wagstaff Aviation Safety, LLC trains pilots from all over the world in aerobatics, airmanship and upset training. She continues working in the aviation field as an airshow pilot, stunt pilot for films, consultant, flight instructor, and writer.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comment

  • The plane had a “ mechanical problem” ? It looks like the Beechcraft Bonanza went off the runway, hit soft ground and the nose dug in causing the plane to go over on its back. Normally when this happens it is because the pilot is unable to keep the aircraft on the runway. It will be interesting to find out what mechanical problem Wagstaff encountered.

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