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Walter Goodrich – A pilot with an aerobatic heart

It’s a challenge to fly competitive aerobatics after a triple bypass but to win the Sportsman class at Nationals level sets Walter Goodrich apart.

With a father in the construction industry, Walter grew up in many different areas – Port Alfred, Aggeneys, Aliwal North, but mainly in East London. His school career was to a large extent nomadic, and he went to numerous schools in his junior years: Berlin Secondary School (Berlin), Queen Alexandria Secondary School (Port Alfred), Crew Primary (East London), and finally settled at Selborne College in East London for his high school career.

Walter always knew he wanted to become a pilot, but finances did not allow it. Anton Schonken took him for a fly away with the East London bunch to Inhambane in 2006 and let Walter control the plane for a short while. At first he was terrified and thought that he was going to crash the plane, but that is when he swallowed flying hook, line, and sinker. He gained a lot of experience with Ken Clark CEO of TWIZZA and decided to get his PPL.

Walter attended 47 Air School in Queenstown and got his PPL in 2007. Immediately after obtaining it, Walter flew his 182 ZS-MPY with Anton and his 182 ZS-IYC to Inhambane – with only around 50 hours at that stage. Glen Dell was a local hero of Walter’s, and he experienced his first Red Bull race in Abi Dhabi. After returning from the race, Glen had to do a display over Queens College for their 150 centenary year. He took Walter up for aerobatics the next day, and Walter was hooked on aeros from that day onwards.

He then moved from Queenstown to Bloemfontein in 2010. There he met Conrad Botha who was as passionate about aviation as he was, and who had an RV7. Walter fell in love with Conrad’s plane, and it inspired him to have his own built by Robin Coss ZU-WEG (Walter Edwin Goodrich) and took delivery of it in 2011. Walter and Conrad were interested in doing a little more than flying straight and level, so started with flying Scully’s pylon races – beginning with formation flying.

Larry Beamish tried to teach them about aerobatics when he popped into Bloemfontein, and they eventually plucked up the courage to start doing competition aerobatics. Walter says that being in Bloemfontein away from the aerobatic hub of Jo’burg, there is a lot of ‘self-teaching’, which many a time left him and Conrad looking at each other with wide-eyed amazement, but because of their excellent basic training by Charlie Marias, they somehow knew how to get out of unusual altitudes.

In 2014, while at Zebulu Airshow, Walter had what he describes as ‘a weird feeling’. He had himself checked by a doctor when he got back and found out that he had heart disease. After a triple bypass and seven months of no flying, Conrad’s nagging got him flying again. They had many a laugh at the various competitions when Walter would go off on a different tangent (hence the ‘Where’s Wally?’ term was coined). Walter is extremely grateful to the entire aerobatic fraternity for their encouragement and support, especially considering his limitations.

Walter says that he has had many mentors: Martin Venn, Larry Beamish, Conrad Botha, Gary Glasson, Eugene du Preez, Cliff Lotter, but the one that sticks out most for him is Charlie Marias who has taught him from the beginning. Walter extends his gratitude to all of them and says that they all have a special place in his aerobatic heart.

He considers his greatest accomplishment winning the Sportsman class at Malelane Nationals after having a heart operation – proof that you are limited only by your mind. Career highlights include taking the children up on ‘The Children’s Flight’, being part of the aerobatic family, and being part of the Wings Park Airshow. At the time of writing, Walter’s flying hours stand at 2 200 hrs.




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