© Southwest Booster photo by Jason Kerr.
Stunt Flyer "Super Dave" Mathieson unbuckles after a successful show at the Swift Current Airport on July 10th.
When stunt pilot “Super Dave” Mathieson arrives at an airshow it’s not uncommon for people to think the nickname is simply part of his act.
Mathieson, who performs an assortment of stalls, climbs and rolls from his MX2 aircraft (one of only 10 in the world), does seem super. However, that’s not the real reason for his moniker.
He earned it early in his career while flying a Cessna 180 float plane as a commercial pilot. During his flight the plane’s control stick broke off the dashboard, leaving him several hundred feet in the air with no way to control the aircraft.
However, in a great display of ingenuity, Mathieson not only kept the plane flying for one hour, he landed it smoothly on a nearby lake. From that day on, he was “Super Dave.”
These days Mathieson, a veteran of more than 16,000 hours flying time, performs difficult stunts for amusement rather than out of necessity. Executing a series of complex aerial maneuvers gives him a feeling of freedom, not panic.
“Absolutely, especially with airshow flying,” Mathieson said after two performances at the Swift Current Airport on July 10th. “Having the plane I have, which is unbreakable in the sky, I can do anything I want.”
That’s just what he does too. Mathieson performs in 18 to 25 shows a year, from Canada to Costa Rica, and despite his one harrowing experience, he’s never looked back.
“I always wanted to do it (stunt flying), but I was always flying commercially for a living,” the Chilliwack, B.C. native explained. “Then about five years ago I just said, ‘I want to do it full time,’ and got into it.”
As a former Air Canada Jazz pilot, Mathieson is used to the fatigue caused by long flights. Even though stunt flying doesn’t take as much time, the physical effects are incredibly harsh.
“What I do is the same as eight hours of hard labour on your body, because I’m hammering up to 15 G’s at times with each pull, so it’s really demanding on you,” he said.
It’s also carefully planned out before it’s executed. Everything a stunt flyer does in the air has to be submitted to Transport Canada. Stunt flyers may get reputations for being wild, but Mathieson said actually a very disciplined art.
“We do choreographed moves, so we practice them,” he said. “The whole routine is set. We don’t change anything during the show.”
After considering the discipline, the physical strain and the amount of practice required to be a stunt pilot it’s no wonder they’re a rare breed. Even after performing twice in one day, Super Dave boards his plane once again to begin his journey home.
It won’t be a long trip, given the speed of his aircraft, but it will give him time to think about his most recent airshow in Swift Current, one he said he was glad to be a part of.
“It was great,” he said as he walked towards his MX2, which was parked near the fueling station on the edge of the runway. “It was a good turnout. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun and everyone was really friendly. It was a lot of fun.”