Who is Rick Volker?
Richard C. Volker, DDS is a practicing dentist in Niagara Falls. At the age of ten, an aptitude test suggested that he would excel at dentistry and piloting due to his superior spatial skills. Like most kids, he didn’t listen to the suggestion. Springboard diving competition led to aerial ski jumping that led to hang gliding, and he soon realized a need to stay in the air while maneuvering. After having watched Patty Wagstaff fly at a local air show, his life has not been the same.
How long has Rick been flying?
Rick started flying at the age of 39 and is well known in the aviation community. His experience includes air show performances, Canadian Heritage Flight team pilot, dogfighting displays in exotic warbirds such as the Messerschmitt Bf109E, Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX and Hawker Hurricane. Rick demonstrates precision aerobatics between plus-11 and minus-9 Gs with heart-stopping gyroscopic tumbling and hovering, in the world’s premier aerobatic aircraft, the Sukhoi-26M and performs his signature rolling loop and giant cartwheel. Rick has developed a unique warbird act with a Harvard Mk 4 that demonstrates his talent for the extreme.
What is unique about Rick’s plane?
His Harvard mk 4 was an award winning restoration at OshKosh. It is completely stock. It has no inverted fuel system.
What is unique about Rick’s performance?
You will see maneuvers that are usually done by much higher performance aircraft. Maneuvers that other pilots can not do in a stock T6 or Harvard. Rick manages energy so that there is no need to interrupt his demo to climb. Hammerheads, Avalanches, hovers, vertical rolls, snap rolls, humpties, rolling turns, slow rolls, tail slides, and several other advanced aerobatic maneuvers are artfully combined to keep the Harvard in front of the crowd.
Is airshow flying safe?
Safety is relative. Everything is done to minimize the associated risk. Airshow pilots practice their maneuvers thousands of times with consistent outcomes before flying in public. As an Aerobatic Competency Evaluator, Rick understands that despite the best training and safety practices, there remains significant risk to flying at low altitudes. There are also penalties to be paid for not following our dreams.
What does it take to be an airshow performer?
This sport requires you to know your limitations, and have the ability and confidence to break through them. If a person is motivated and disciplined, they can succeed here. Good pilots are made.
How long can a pilot perform aerobatics at this level?
As long as one can stay physically fit, age is not a limitation. Rick is a former competitor in athletic events such as bicycle racing, speed skating and body building. Such is the type of conditioning required to fly at this level, as it tests the limits of human endurance. There are pilots in their seventies who compete in aerobatics and win.
What is new with this year… with the performance?
In addition to Rick’s solo performance, Rick is the first to demonstrate air to air racing, with two pilots competing against each other in a series of aerobatic maneuvers, entirely in front of the crowd.
Does Rick fly other airplanes?
Rick is one of a few pilots in the world qualified to fly the rare Messerschmitt Bf109E, the benchmark for fighter design at the beginning of World War ll. His other qualifications include the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX, the Hawker Hurricane MK XII and the Harvard IIB. He was asked by the Canadian Forces to join their exclusive Heritage Flight team where he has flown in close formation with the CF-18 fighter. Rick teaches advanced aerobatics to pilots in their own aircraft as well as warbird emergency training in the Extra 300L. He is both a warbird and High Performance Aerobatic Competency Evaluator (ACE). Rick is featured on the PBS series “The Aviators” and on The Discovery Channel “How Machines Work”.
What motivates Rick to keep flying this way?
He is an entertainer. He needs constant physical and mental challenge to stay happy. This provides it all. To add to that, he has a cause to promote that is greater than himself and he is pleased to be associated with Swift Enterprises, testing their renewable fuel, Swift Fuel.
What’s new and different about this fuel?
Swift Fuel is an unleaded ultra high performance replacement for 100 low lead gasoline that is currently being used in general aviation piston airplanes. Swift Fuel can be made as a biofuel from existing everyday materials such as waste from pulp and paper mills, sorghum, algae… the potential is enormous. The benefits are many, and include environmental, economic and sustainability. Ending dependence on foreign oil starts here. This fuel works better than our existing fuel. It is clean, renewable and stable.
Why is Swift Fuel needed?
Currently, a significant number of general aviation planes fly with aviation fuel or avgas, also known as 100 Low Lead (100LL). This fuel contains lead, as did the fuels used in automobiles until the mid 1970’s. Swift Fuel is a lead free replacement.
What are the benefits of Swift Fuel?
The price of Swift Fuel is expected to be lower than current fuel prices.
Swift Fuel provides more energy per gallon, providing more range.
Swift Fuel will have a stable price, not influenced by factors impacting current commodity pricing.
Swift Fuel will be produced in North American facilities creating a new “at home” industry.
Swift Fuel will end dependence on foreign oil.
Swift Fuel increases engine lubrication and has cleaning properties.
Takes recycling to a new level, as it can be made from commonly available materials, removes lead from the atmosphere and is 30% cleaner in its emissions than those from current gasoline.
Are there applications for Swift Fuel other than general aviation?
Yes. General aviation provides a significant stepping-stone to assist in determining the appropriate economies of scale prior to further expansion.
Will Swift Fuel run in any engine?
Yes. The testing program is designed to show that Swift Fuel will run in any engine that currently uses gasoline.
What are the challenges?
Obtaining regulatory approval is the only challenge. The process to develop and approve a new fuel has not been needed until now. This is the first time that new standards and regulations have been required. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and members of the petroleum industry are convinced in the merits of Swift Fuel and are 100% behind the project.
Why did Rick get involved?
In Rick’s words…
“It’s personal. As the father of a US Marine currently serving in Afghanistan, I want to do my part to end dependence on foreign oil. Representing Swift Fuel is not about finding a morally bankrupt widget company to support my flying habit. This is about standing for something bigger than oneself, to make a difference in the world. My own unique background and airplane provide a platform to test the fuel at the extreme performance end of the spectrum.”
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