Wind beneath her wings

Wind beneath her wings

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Wind beneath her wings

Her petite frame belies the strength within. She may not be the legendary Amelia Earhart, but at 64, Radka Máchová, the leader of ‘Flying Bulls’ aerobatic team from the Czech Republic, exudes the joie-de- vivre of a 16-year-old.

She is ready for Bengaluru skies and at the ‘Aero Show 2015’, she will keep spectators on the edge, along with her team of three, with breathtaking manoeuvres. But before that, she shares her joy to be in the skies, to guide three other pilots, as they zoom past together and as close as they can get.

“I always wanted to fly,” she says animatedly. “As a kid, I was flying aircraft models or admiring aircraft in hangars. I loved the sound of aircraft and the smell of oil and fuel. My love for flying only grew with time.” As it goes, she made her first parachute jump when she was 15. “But I wanted more, I wanted to control an aircraft,” she avers.

Those were turbulent times for women. Before the Czech Revolution in 1989, one could study aviation at the military university. But the fact was women were not allowed there. “So I studied air transport operation at the University of Transport instead.” She also obtained a private piloting licence.

She admits that it is not so much the technique of flying that is challenging but the truth that she is a woman. “I started flying in 1971 but it was in 2003 that I started flying on my own. I had my challenges, managing the household, the kids and fly. The men in my family were supportive. But my mother-in-law wanted me to be in the kitchen more often,” she laughs.

With years of aerial expertise, formation aerobatics clearly is her forte. In fact, ‘Flying Bulls’, brought to the City by Red Bulls, are considered one of the world’s leading aerobatic display team. Together with her team mates Jiri Saller (60), Jirí Veprek (53) and Miroslav Krejci (56), she has  logged more than 35,000 flying hours.

She and her team do their stunts on Zlin 50LX, which is a single-engine and single-seater aircraft. The expertise, she says, comes only through flying and the practices are not done on simulators. “The oldest aircraft I have flown is Zlin 126 which is 50 years old. These aircraft are good and great for training.”

She explains the manoeuvres and elaborates on head-down formation. (Incidentally joking ‘it’s good for the back’). “You must look outside, check the weather, the elevation and the wind. For that, your mind should always be alert and fit,” adds Radka, who also takes part in air shows and ferry flying across Europe. “Ferry flying is even more challenging as the weather across Europe varies,” she explains. 

“I’ve been here for the last three shows and I love coming here. But I am here as a working woman and not as a tourist. So I get to meet women at the airforce base, milliary people, policemen and controllers. I am also surprised when I see so many women flying in India and it’s a good thing,” she says.

A mother of two sons, aged 36 and 32, she has indeed hitched her wagon to the stars but likes to be on terra firma sometime. “I want to buy a Volkswagen and drive all across Europe’,” she laughs.  As a parting shot, she adds, “When you have a dream, you have to go behind it. You have to change it to reality. I did and I will fly as long as I can.”

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