The attention of the spectators is drawn to a thin ribbon of smoke trailing down from the blue sky, the deafening roar of a 450 horse power engine, a large black andsilver biplane comes over the threshold. Rolling to inverted flight, the pilot allows the vertical fin to sink to within 4 feet of the runway. At 185 miles per hour picks up a ribbon being held by two men, then streaks past show center still in the inverted position with the ribbon streaming from the tail. This is Jimmy Franklin.
Few men can write their own destiny. Jimmy Franklin happened to be
one of that rare breed.
Born and raised on a ranch near Lovington, New Mexico, Jimmy started learning to fly while still in diapers, sitting on his Father's lap as they flew the thirty miles between their farm and ranch. By the time he was eight years old he was capable of flying and at age twelve he snuck out and soloed himself while home alone.
Viewing his first airshow at age twelve, he began teaching himself
aerobatics from a book over the next four to five years, which laid the
foundation and development of a man far beyond his years.
At age nineteen Jimmy bought a stock 1940 Waco UPF-7 and started performing at airshows in it that very same year.
Over the next 38 years, Jimmy and his Waco would thrill and amaze not only audiences in the United States, but all over the world. He performed in Canada, Mexico, Japan, and even Australia. Jimmy's artistry can also be seen on the silver screen and countless T.V. shows, such as "Terminal Velocity", "Forever Young", "The Rocketeer", "Three Amigos" and "Choke Canyon".
During this time Jimmy introduced more then twenty new and unique airshow acts in ten different aircraft. A few of these acts include a routine with Eliot Cross called "The Dueling Wacos", duel wingwalking routines, comedy acts, and Jimmy even portrayed a comic book/spaceage character he created named "ZAR", in which he flew a black and silver, twin-engine Aerostar called the "Starship Pride."
Always a true showman, Jimmy has been recognized and honored many
times during his years as an airshow professional. He received the coveted
Bill Barber Award for Showmanship in 1989, the Clifford W. Henderson Achievement
Award in 1999, the General Aviation News and Flyer "Reader's Choice"
Award for Favorite Overall Performer and Favorite Specialty Act in 1990
and 1996 and the ICAS Foundation Airshow Hall of Fame in 2007. Jimmy was
the first person to receive the Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award
in 1986 for the act "ZAR",
and the first and only person to receive the Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship
Award twice, again in 1999 for his showmanship in the Jet Waco.
In 1999 Jimmy debuted his crowning achievement, the World's first and only Jet-powered Waco. With the help of Les Shockley, creator of the "Shock Wave" jet truck, they were able to modify Jimmy's Waco bi-plane with a CJ610 (J-85) jet engine along with the 450 horse power Pratt & Whitney radial prop engine. Weighing in at an airshow weight of 3200 pounds, with both engines turning the Jet Waco put out over 4500 pounds of thrust at over 2000 horsepower, with a vertical climb rate of over 10,000 feet per minute.
In Jimmy's hands this 1940 Waco was able to perform stunts no one has ever seen or even attempted in this type of plane. In addition he added a wingwalking act with his son Kyle, who became the world's first Jet Wingwalker.
In 2002 Jimmy, his Jet Waco, and a few of his closest airshow friends redefined the term "Airshow" by forming the infamous X-Team, which gave birth to the "Masters of Disaster" or "M.O.D". There act fastly became the wildest and most talked about airshow act in the aviation community.
Tragically, in 2005 Jimmy and longtime friend Bobby Younkin were both lost while performing the "Masters of Disaster" at a show in Canada. Jimmy was 57 years old.
Through the years Jimmy would re-invent and change airshow entertainment over and over again. Amazing and inspiring thousands of people young and old over his life long career in aviation. Saying of it all "When I was twelve years old I decided I was going to become an airshow pilot and here I am this many years later still trying to become one."
See rare videos and pictures on Jimmy's Tribute DVD in our On-Line Store