Patrick McAlee, airline pilot, airshow pilot extraordinaire and owner of Extreme Flight, experienced his first flight at the tender age of five years old when his father rented an Aeronca Champ to fly to the EAA AirVenture Fly-in at OshKosh. He did a stall, which Patrick says he still remember vividly! It both scared and hooked him at the same time!
That is when he met with and was inspired by airshow pilot Sean D. Tucker. Over the years he and his father continued to fly and Patrick continued to log hours in every single plane he could get his hands on. By the age of 12 he was determined to become a professional pilot. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Patrick was inspired by his father and uncle who were both airline pilots. He started flying every opportunity possible and by the time he was 16 Patrick was saving for his first aircraft.
“When I was about 7, I experienced my first roll in our Skybolt, and by the age of 12, I was reading flight lesson books. Dad would teach me lessons in those books, and I would apply them to the airplanes he was working on at the time,” he says.
He got his pilot’s license at the age of 17, a commercial license and flight instructor rating followed a year later. At the age of 23, Pat received his A&P license and was hired on by Republic Airlines with whom he is still flying. Patrick was upgraded to Captain within a few years on the EMB-145 and in 2013 became a captain on the EMB-170/175.
From airline pilot to aerobatics
While working at the airline, Patrick enrolled at the Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety with Sean D Tucker and started competing in aerobatics. Soon after, he transitioned his high energy routine to airshows. For five years Patrick continued to compete and worked hard; placing top-ten in the nation each and every time.
He has worked with some of the best pilots in the airshow industry and attributes his success to them
“This includes my ACE’s Skip Stewart, Greg Koontz, and Debby Rihn-Harvey. Debby helped me with my first waiver and coached me in competition. She helped me immensely during the early times when I needed to develop that precision and discipline. Then came Greg Koontz, who gave me my lower waiver and taught me a lot about the business aspect. Skip and I met during the St. Louis show years ago, and he taught me a lot about the “Showmanship” side of the business. Having this fantastic support from these industry greats, my ridiculously creative wife, and my training at Tutima Academy enabled us to put our own “attitude” on our programme and promote it with confidence”.
Shedding weight on the Blue Demon
“In 2008, I purchased my current plane. It is a highly modified Pitts S1S that we passionately call “the Blue Demon.” Weighing in at 850lbs empty weight, the plane is powered by a high compression Lycoming IO-360 engine rated at 230HP. The tail is redesigned for a larger rudder and the ailerons have a raised cord for lighter control pressure. This also eliminates the need for spades. It holds 19 gallons of fuel and has a 5 gallon smoke tank. Originally, it had a top wing tank but we removed it for reduced weight in the wing. The airplane weighed nearly 980lbs when I first purchased it and over the years we reduced over 100lbs. This was mostly achieved by using smaller components. For example we replaced the very heavy wobble fuel boost pump with a solid state formula one race car fuel pump. Additionally, we made the “plumbing” take more direct routes resulting in using less materials.”
The Italian made three-blade propeller used on the Blue Demon, is light-weight and helps hold the high pitch attitudes longer. The custom seat uses fire-retardant materials while the fabric used by Vertical Flight Suits to match a comic art piece design which also inspired the entire theme
After being offered 16 feet of carbon fiber Patrick decided that instead of just replacing on side panel with the carbon fibre, they would change all the side panels to carbon and changed the exterior colors to reflect the comic book reflective art style, specifically chrome.
Patrick began his career in aerobatic competition and crossed over to the airshow business about 10 years now, and during that time his wife, Natalia, helped him to develop a unique style.
“She has bridged her passion for pop culture into our airshow programme. As a result, the Blue Demon has gone through several ‘look’ changes.
:Here is how our ExtremeFlight Experience works. You’re sitting at an airshow with your kids. You got there early to get that good seat or space. You are hot; the kids are hungry. You look over your shoulder, and here comes a performer with a companion. You know all the superheroes because you grew up with them, and your kids are hooked on them as well. Here she is, the ‘Amazon Princess.’
“I saw your movie three times!” a little girl said at last year’s Battle Creek Airshow. As performers, we have to see our art form through the spectators’ eyes. Most people will follow along to absorb the overall impression of the show from their vantage point. But when they leave after meeting the performer and getting their picture taken with their favorite superhero, their lives are forever changed. They are inspired. They see an example of self-confidence, strength, determination, and diversity. Movies have created these powerful feelings and so have concerts. Airshows have that potential which is one of our largest missions. Therefore, our airplane is one piece to our overall business that consists of many elements brought into one programme,”says Patrick.
Patrick flies an amazing ‘to the maxi’ performance in the ‘Blue Demon,‘ the highly modified Pitts S1SS biplane. He executes manoeuvres to a choreographed music playlist; all while practicing precision, professionalism and safety. During his 15 minute routine, Patrick will experience G-Forces in excess of 8.5 positive G’s over 65 times.