Aerobatic flying is a form of aerial artistry, controlled chaos in the sky, that few pilots can claim to master. In fact, if you ask Cameron Jaxheimer, a First Officer at Endeavor Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, an aerobatic artist’s work isn’t ever mastered, it’s only ever refined through repetition. Head-spinning, gravity-fighting, stomach-churning repetition that was something he thought he would never do. After just three years, Jaxheimer is one of the best in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to the Seattle-grown aviation addict.
Like many young pilots, Jaxheimer first fell in love with the idea of flying by playing a computer-based flight simulator. Coming from a family that worked in the aviation industry, he was exposed to actual stick and rudder flying in his early teenage years. While living in the Pacific Northwest, he took an introductory flight with the EAA Young Eagles chapter in Bend, Oregon.
From there, Jaxheimer developed a rapport with the local flight school who offered scenic flights for tourists around the Peugeot Sound. As a reward for helping out around the office, the flight instructors would allow Cameron build up credit for lessons to ride in the right seat, assisting with check lists and gaining valuable flight time that set the hook for what would become his dream career. It wasn’t until his junior year in high school that two of his three future pathways would cross on one fateful trip to Wisconsin.
While flying across the country in a small Mooney to attend EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, his flight instructor made a fuel stop in Grand Forks, North Dakota – home to the University of North Dakota – and Cameron was given a quick tour of campus and the flight school facilities.
“I never actually made an official campus visit, I just made up my mind on the spot – UND was the place for me,” Jaxheimer said. “It was a culture shock living that far away from home, but I had no apprehensions and started classes the summer right after I graduated high school.”
While at UND, Jaxheimer met some flight students who were a part of the school’s nationally-renowned aerobatics team. They invited Cameron out to watch a practice. The tumbles, rolls, loops, and hammerheads were mystifying and nerve-racking, but in true Jaxheimer fashion, he calmly and quietly climbed into the backseat of the tandem tail-dragger, an ACA Decathlon, and went for a spin – literally.
“At first, I was very apprehensive about flying upside down,” Jaxheimer admitted. “Once I was strapped in, I held onto the roll bars to keep myself in, but quickly learned that I loved it. I wanted to overcome my fear of flying upside down, and needless to say, I became addicted.”
Later that school year, a chance encounter with Sean D. Tucker – one of the most recognizable names in the aerobatic and airshow industries – helped him solidify his decision to hone his high-flying aerial skills.
“I met Sean D. Tucker while he was speaking on campus and point blank asked him if he needed an intern,” Jaxheimer recalled. “He told me that he didn’t, but that I should call him once the airshow season was over. A few months later, I was on a plane to start training at his flight school in California, and started refining my skills while he took me under his wing.”
Quickly, Tucker and his team at Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety saw something special in Jaxheimer. In his first aerobatic competition, he finished third. Not long after that, Tucker extended the opportunity for Jaxheimer to fly his media plane while touring the air show circuit, while studying the maneuvers of an iconic aerobatic pilot. In 2015, having accelerated through the ranks of aerobatic flying – Sportsman, to Intermediate, to eventually flying Advanced – Cameron found himself on a global stage, flying in the World Advanced Aerobatics Championships in the Czech Republic, where he finished fifth in the world. Just three years earlier, he was serving as Sean D. Tucker’s chauffeur in Grand Forks.
In just a few days, Jaxheimer will find himself amongst elite company – performing a competitive aerobatics routine in front of the masses at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. His routine won’t be long, nor will it upstage acts like the U.S. Navy Blue Angels or even Tucker himself. But on Sunday afternoon, for a few moments, the world’s biggest stage in aviation will cast their eyes skyward and watch as his shimmering blue and silver Extra 300LX thrashes through the sky like a carbon fiber brush painting loops and swirls on a cloud-sprinkled canvas.
Delivering a pristine performance is the goal for Jaxheimer, but it isn’t consuming him as he prepares for this moment. Jaxheimer simply wants to prove to the world that overcoming your fears while chasing your dreams is possible.
“As a kid, becoming a pilot can seem like a daunting task” Cameron concluded. “You have to dive head first into the industry and network. I’m very fortunate to have met many people along the way who not only helped me in pursuit of my dreams, but have become lifelong friends.
“I learned early on that you can’t rely on others to achieve your goals for you. When it comes to pushing your boundaries, like I did with aerobatics, face whatever obstacles are in your path and push them aside. We only get one chance to do this ‘life’ thing, so I say go do it.”
See Cameron soar and hear his story first-hand here:
To learn more about joining Cameron as a pilot at Endeavor Air, click here.