Matt Younkin with his Twin Beech. PHOTO BY LAURIE GOOSENS
Passionate is defined as having intense feelings, or extreme enthusiasm.
But that definition falls short of describing Matt Younkin’s passion to perform—particularly after aerial performing cost him both his father and sister: Bobby and Amanda.
Bobby died in 2005 in a midair collision with Jimmy Franklin’s plane during an air show in Canada. Wing-walking Amanda, wife of Jimmy Franklin’s son Kyle, died in May of complications from severe burns suffered in a crash during a March air show in Texas. Kyle Franklin continues his recovery from that accident.
Yet even after his sister’s accident Younkin knew he would continue performing.
“This is what I do,” he explained.
“It is what my family does. The last thing my sister would have wanted is for me to fold up my tents and get out of the business.”
Air-show performing is a privilege, Younkin said. “I get to fly my airplane in front of people who really appreciate what I am doing.
“That is an honor that is truly indescribable.”
A living reality series
Younkin said, however, that he understands the dangers of the job, especially since becoming a father to 20-month-old daughter, Kimberly, with his wife, Michelle—his high-school sweetheart.
“Having a child really makes you re-evaluate your goals and tasks at hand,” he said. “You quickly change from wanting to conquer the world to wanting to conquer the world that affects only your daughter.
“It puts life in perspective.”
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 will be the first air show that his daughter has attended where she is old enough to realize it is her father performing, he said.
“The other day I took off for an air show and I circled the house when she pointed to the plane and said, ‘Bye-bye, Daddy.’”
Kimberly, too, likely will have aviation in her blood since she received her first airplane ride in the Twin Beech when she was only 36-1/2 hours old.
“Kyle always said that he got his first airplane ride when he was 4 weeks old. We tell him we took her up on the way home from the hospital just to prove it could be done earlier.”
For the moment, Younkin is busy both booking and flying his shows—in particular, his night show, “Magic of Moonlight,” that has been growing in popularity.
He performed for AirVenture’s first crowd-pleasing night air show in 2010; he’s back and will be performing during the Wednesday and Friday air shows, as well as again Saturday night.
A difference like night and day…
Younkin said he decided to do a night show when he realized that if his Twin Beech had all the lights working that it came with from the factory, then he would be well on his way to having a night aerobatic show.
Thanks to sponsors Whelen Aviation Lighting and LoPresti, which provided the necessary lights and strobes, the only cost left to convert his airplane was that of labor and wiring. The plane is equipped with 17 spotlights and 13 strobes.
“It makes the top of the airplane appear like it’s glowing in the dark, and the bottom twinkles violently so the crowd always knows what they’re looking at,” Younkin said.
There are “night and day differences” between flying in the light or dark, he said.
“First, there are fewer options if you have problems after dark. Plus all your references change. Instead of using the horizon, you make your own horizon—like street lights or lights of cars from a nearby road—and use that to do your maneuvers.”
At certain points of his show he can also reference panel gyros if he has trouble picking out the horizon, he said.
Plus, altitude and airspeed are more critical at night, he said.
So—no surprise—he said the day show is a lot easier to do. During the day, someone on the ground takes care of the music.
At night, conversely, Younkin needs to hear the music to cue when to switch lights on and off. “There’s a box in the airplane with 24 switches that I use to control the lights during the show,” he said. “The lights need to start and finish when the music starts and finishes.”
But day or night, his favorite place to perform is Oshkosh.
“I just love it up here. I hope to continue to be invited back. Oshkosh has been a destination of my family for 25 or 30 years. My family has been coming to AirVenture since before I was around.
“It is a real privilege.”
If you’d like to donate in Amanda Franklin’s memory, Matt Younkin suggests giving money to your local humane society since Amanda loved animals.
DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3;
2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30