Pilots in Command

Photo by Martine Giroux

PIC- Marcus Paine

Following the footsteps of former Alaskan aviator legends, Alaskan Marc Paine brings the thrill of aerobatic flight to his hometown ofAnchorage, where he has lived for more than 40 years.  Raised on a homestead in Rabbit Creek, Marc has been a pilot for over 20 years and is the founder and Chief Flight Instructor of Unusual Attitudes LLC at Merrill Field, and now at Marana Regional Airport in Tucson,  a flight school that teaches Unusual Attitude Recovery, Stall/Spin Awareness and aerobatic flight.  Marc is a skilled instructor adept at teaching pilots of all skill levels new ways of thinking about the principals of flight and mastering the airplane in every attitude.  He is an FAA Safety Counselor, and a regular speaker on Stall/Spin Awareness at FAA Safety Seminars held throughout Alaska, and nationally at aviation events including Oshkosh and Sun n’ Fun.  Marc’s teaching directly targets and impacts the stall/spin fatality rate that plagues Alaskan pilots, and now is available in the Lower 48! 

Marc provides regular and recurrent training in Unusual Attitude Recovery, Stall/Spin Awareness and Tailwheel for The pilots of the U.S. Army, National Park Service, Civil Air Patrol, Alaska State Troopers, and for the Flight Inspectors of the FAA Flight Standards District Office.  He and training partner Patty Wagstaff have provided the same training in Kenya to pilots of the Kenyan Wildlife Service who daily face low altitude, high risk patrol flights in search of illegal poachers.

 He is a distinguished graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a former U.S. Army Special Forces Officer, Airborne Ranger, and Jumpmaster.  He commanded a combat dive A Team and worked projects throughout theMiddle East and South America. EMT qualified, Marc was a member and instructor with the National Ski Patrol and patrolled regularly at Alyeska during the winter months for many years while he isn’t flying and instructing.  Now he spends the winters in a satellite location for Unusual Attitudes in Arizona!

 Marc holds all airplane fixed wing ratings and endorsements and instructor certificates through Multiengine Instrument.  He is an active aerobatic performer as well with an unrestricted, surface level Aerobatic Card, and has performed aerobatic routines inAlaska at airshows throughout the state, including the Valdez Airshow and Arctic Thunder at Elmendorf AFB for the past 10 years.   Marc’s performance is one of the crowd’s favorites because of his ability to showcase the capabilities of the Super Decathlon and the Super Cub in a way that general aviation pilots and audiences can appreciate, relate to and apply to their own flying.  He is sponsored by American Champion, the factory for the Super Decathlon and flies it low and very aggressively.  And he is considered a wizard in the Super Cub!  He does  a unbelievable live in cockpit narrated stall and spin demo and never is above 500 feet! Marcus also is the primary pilot for Third Strike Wingwalking, and flies with Carol on the wing as well as solo in the 450 Stearman.  He now is flying air shows throughout the U.S. and Canada in all three airplanes.


photo by Gopro Rex Pemberton

PIC- Melissa Pemberton www.sportsgal.com

born June 22, 1984, attended several years at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University studying Aeronautical Science and Mathematics.  Melissa was a champion rock climber throughout high school, winning numerous competitions and served as the president of ERAU’s Bouldering Crew in Prescott, AZ. In her freshman year, Melissa, along with her roommate Amanda, played for the ERAU Men’s Soccer Club and subsequently started the first school-sponsored Women’s Varsity soccer team.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Melissa was introduced to aviation and aerobatics by her flying grandmother in a Cessna 150 Aerobat – the same airplane she took to EAA AirVenture as a newly minted private pilot in 2002 after learning to fly with her grandfather, Leo Janssens . During her 2003 trip to Oshkosh, Melissa saw the “Stars of Tomorrow 2003” program, sponsored by Sean D. Tucker and Mike Goulian. They mentored six future air show pilots to start the new program and introduce young talent to the Oshkosh AirVenture audience.

Inspired by the program’s outreach to young pilots, Melissa returned to Arizona with a determination to learn and compete in Aerobatics and began training with Major General Hank Canterbury. In less than one year under the coaching of Sergei Boriak and the mentoring of Wayne Handley, Melissa went from first-time Aerobatic Contestant at the Sportsman Level to Third Place Overall in Intermediate at the 2004 U.S. National Championships (1st place Unknown, 2nd place Known, 3rd place Freestyle) and began to fly her first airshows. On October 26, 2004, Sean D. Tucker invited Melissa to be one of three pilots chosen for the “Stars of Tomorrow 2005.”  

After competing at the Advanced level with her Pitts S-2C while achieving her “Building, Antenna, Span and Earth” jumps in 2005, Melissa received delivery of her new Zivco Edge 540.  In the summer of 2006 she began competing at the Unlimited level in which she placed 1st at her first competition of the season.   Melissa became the youngest female ever to be a member of the US Unlimited Aerobatic Team at the 2006 Nationals.  Instead she is spending her season touring around Australia with her Edge. Partnering with Third Strike Wingwalking has seen Melissa become the youngest wingwalk accredited pilot and the only female wing walk pilot on the North American circuit

Photo supplied by Bill Gordon

PIC- Bill Gordon

William Fairfield Gordon the 3rd doesn’t have much to say but what little he does say is completely worth listening to. Mr. Gordon joined Third Strike in 2009 and I could not have been happier. Bill’s aviation career is beyond  extensive. He is assuredly best known for his formation partnership of nearly two decades with lifelong friend, Billy Segalla. Together they are the Iron Eagles: possibly the tightest formation team on the circuit today, certainly the most entertaining.

Mr. Gordon is also a main stay performer and ride jumper at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome where he flies world war 1 replicas such as the Sopwith and the Tri- Fokker. Bill’s experience working in such under powered aircraft translates very well to the Stearman and the wingwalking seeing as how I do my level best to impede power output by being a huge airbrake. Aside from being a consummate performer, Bill is an incredibly knowledgeable airframe and powerplant technician and also has Inspection Authorization credentials. More so, he practises the art of recovering and wood repair, a talent which is quietly disappearing among airframe technicians.

Mr. Gordon is at home in almost any wood and fabric cockpit you can come by. He is equally at home at the controls of the heavy equipment that he utilized while working at  his excavation business with the help of his son: Bill #4. When he is neither flying or digging, he is riding his Harley or working to repair something. The knowledge and know how that he brings to Third Strike is a true bounty. I look forward to all that he has to teach us and to his awesome flying!