Rick Brickert, National Champion Air Racer, can't remember a time when aviation wasn't a major part of his life. The son of an airline pilot, he grew up near San Francisco, watched his first Reno Air Race at age 12, soloed a Cessna 150 at age 16, and earned his private pilot's license on his 17th birthday. To gain experience, he used his father's airline pass privileges to fly to Texas and ferried new airplanes back to California. A wrecked Stolp Starduster was his ticket into sport aviation. He rebuilt the single-engine biplane in the family garage and began flying--a lot. From friends, he learned aerobatics and flew a variety of aircraft over the next few years, including the B-25 Mitchell, F-417 Wildcat, P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang, T-6 Texan, and even a MiG-15.
At age 22, with over 3,000 flying hours, he was hired by Western Airlines as a Boeing 727 flight engineer and later transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. He first competed at the Reno National Air Races in 1980 when he talked a friend into letting him fly Mustang Fever, a stock P-51. In 1982, Brickert took leave from the airlines and racing to enter the Air National Guard. He completed Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) as a distinguished graduate and was recognized both as the best aviator and all-around officer in his class when he received the class flying award and Commander's Trophy. Brickert went on to fly A-7s with the Iowa Air National Guard. In 1983, 1984, and 1985 he returned to racing and became a top qualifier in the Reno National Air Races flying the modified Mustang, Dago Red.
During the 1984 race, a piston rod suddenly burst through the side of his engine, crippling the aircraft as he maneuvered dangerously close to the ground. In a superb feat of airmanship, Brickert skillfully made an emergency landing as fire streamed into the cockpit. Although disappointed with the final result, he managed to "ride it in" and walk away with only a sooty flight suit and a melted helmet visor. The next year, a low oil pressure light forced him to hold back, but he successfully held on to third place. The year 1986 proved more fruitful as Brickert won the National Championship in the Unlimited Class flying the Super Sea Fury Dreadnought. Brickert now flies for Delta Air Lines and, in his spare time, performs for the Screen Actors Guild in commercials and feature presentations. He also performs at air shows around the country flying a variety of vintage and modern aircraft, including his spectacular Lockheed T-33 Warbird.
It was "Super Sunday," but it didn't begin that way for Rick Brickert. His Super Sea Fury, Dreadnought, had trouble starting and backfired on takeoff. Magically, his fortune changed when those famous words, "Gentlemen, you have a race," rang out, and Brickert pushed his plane to its limits. Challenging the leader, he flew wing-tip-to-wing-tip at over 450 mph, less than 500 feet above the ground. Suddenly, the other pilot declared "Mayday" as his engine started smoking and burning oil. Brickert took the lead and easily outpaced his competitors to win the 1986 National Championship.