TRUCKEE, Calif. — You can hear Steve “Wild Thing” Stavrakakis’ baritone voice either on the ground or in the air.
He returns to the Truckee Tahoe AirFair & Family Festival this year on Saturday, July 6, 2013, serving as MC and airshow announcer.
Steve’s ability to convey any piece of information or trivia comes from being both an accomplished aerobatic pilot with an insatiable need for discovery and a practiced announcer with an unending encyclopedia of facts, figures and techniques to draw from.
Like so many aerobatic pilots, Steve’s interest in flying started with his dad taking him to airshows.
At home he was watching airshows on the local TV show with great interest. But he was not just watching. He was also listening — and learning.
He could draw every airplane from an airshow freehand, from memory. A pilot was born. His zest for learning anything and everything about airplanes and maneuvers gave him an accumulation of knowledge, which took him one step further: And so, an announcer was born.
When Steve was 19 years old, he took his first class, a private pilot ground school at the Modesto Junior College.
His instructor, Otis Mercer, saw the great potential in Steve and his passion for learning. He offered Steve an aerobatic trainer, but the airplane was in pieces.
Steve had to learn fast how to build it into flying condition. This first build also gave him a deeper, truly intimate, understanding of the intricacies of airplane construction and aerodynamics.
Once finished, Steve began to learn to perform even the most complex maneuvers. He was fearless. He continued reading every book on aerobatics and then would try them out. He never stopped trying, learning, and improving.
He earned his license to perform professionally and entered the airshow industry as an aerobatic pilot.
Steve Stavrakakis, so hard to pronounce, was instead called the “Greek Air Force.” His daredevil maneuvers in high performance aircrafts eventually earned him the name “Wild Thing.”
Paralleling his aerobatic performances, Steve was asked by the Stockton Airshow producers to announce their show.
Since then, Steve has flown and announced for over 27 years. In his words: “I have done more than I could imagine. I have been featured on magazine covers, I never could have guessed. I have performed in almost every major air show, I could have dreamt of. And I feel I have only just started.”
Steve is self-educated. His curiosity has never stopped and likely never will.
He wants to understand everything about flying, planes, performances, performers, acts and maneuvers. He reads and listens to everything related to airshows, aviation, and aerobatics.
With the ability to retain all the information he acquires, he turns that knowledge into entertainment.
Being both a performer and an announcer, Steve fills the breaks between routines with interesting facts and engaging stories.
For the pilots in the crowd, he gives them something else to think about, yet by keeping it simple and easy to understand he also entertains the spectators.
“I want to bring the crowd into the cockpit with the pilot,” he said.
As a professional announcer he believes in the highest level of preparedness.
Before each air show he collects all the information in advance, attends briefings to know the performers and their acts.
For an airshow like San Francisco Fleet Week he collects information on everything else that is part of the event.
Due to this dedication and his commitment to being well versed, well educated and well informed, Steve has earned the admiration, respect and loyalty of air show producers across the country.
They seek him out as a favorite and as their primary choice for their announcer or flying performance, or both.
During his daredevil days Steve’s aerobatic acts were described as unique, thrilling, and unbelievable.
Today his performances are a “Tribute to the American Vet.” His performances are described as moving, heart wrenching, and graceful.
He flies a vintage Romanian trainer, the IAR-823 with elegance and still a touch of danger: pyrotechnics. Ribbons of colored smoke fill the sky during day shows while sparkling fireworks fill the night sky during night shows.
While you are listening to Steve guiding you through the Truckee Tahoe AirFair & Family Festival events on July 6 at the Truckee Tahoe Airport, his IAR-823 will be on static display.
The 2013 Truckee Tahoe AirFair & Family Festival, offering free admission, is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 6, at Truckee Tahoe Airport. Visit www.truckeetahoeairfair.com for information.