Acrobatic pilot Stefan Trischuk is just one of the pilots who wood’d the crowd at the Qualicum Beach Airshow on Saturday, July 8. — Adam Kveton

Flying a plane upside down

How an aerobatic pilot in this year’s air show went underground to get up in the air

The road to becoming an aerobatic airplane pilot doesn’t always lead up.

Sometimes, you have to go down first. In Stefan Trischuk’s case, he had to go beneath the earth.

Trischuk was one of the aerobatic pilots performing in this year’s Qualicum Beach Airshow Saturday, July 8.

Originally from Saskatoon, Trischuk said he knew he wanted to fly since he was in Grade 1.

“My first school report I ever did was on airplanes,” he said.

But, even from that young age, he knew his barrier to getting into the sky was money.

“As a child I didn’t think I’d ever be able to afford to do it,” said Trischuk. “So I thought I’d have to build an airplane… that’s what my 10-year-old brain was telling me.”

And he did make many blueprints. He even tried his hand at putting together a hang glider, though it never got off the ground. “Probably a good thing,” he said.

He got into hang gliding anyway, and then started flying ultralights.

“I realized very soon that the idea of taking an airplane upside down and everything just fascinated me,” he said. “That was the direction I really wanted to go.”

It’s not something taught in standard flight training, but a acquaintance at an airshow mapped out exactly what he would have to do to accomplish that goal — what licenses he would need, what training he would require.

“I basically spent the next eight years tracing the steps of that one conversation that we had,” said Trischuk.

Fear wasn’t an issue, nor was talent, he said. But money was still a barrier.

So, ironically, Trischuk took a job underground as a miner. He spent four years working at 3,200 feet below the ground before he could do loops up in the air.

“For me, at the time, it was the most efficient way to do it, the quickest way,” he said. But it was all worth it.

His first time taking an airplane upside down was “amazing,” he said.

“I spent so much time in training flying regular airplanes and it took every bit of my patience to do that. It was the steps I needed to do to get to something like this, but what I really, really, really wanted to do with my whole heart was just to fly upside down, and it took years and years to get to that point.

“When I finally got into the point where I was doing aerobatic training, it was in an airplane that I could role upside down, I rolled it upside down, and it was like, finally! Because when you work towards something, spend so much time and effort and money to get to it, and you finally get into that pilot seat, it’s super rewarding.”

Since then, Trischuk has been trained by some of the best pilots and coaches in the industry, competed in the U.S. and Western Canada, and even had a starring role in the Discovery Channel TV show, Airshow.

Trischuk’s aim, however, has always been doing airshows, where he tries to show people — even pilots — something they never thought a plane could do.

One of those things is fly straight up and then fly the plane backward until it spins around and faces nose-down once more.

Trischuk says the way he went about becoming an aerobatic pilot is something that anyone can do. He hopes to share as much of the experience with people as possible.

“I wish I could take everybody in the cockpit with me.”