Back in August 2008 I saw an aerobatic display team that caught my attention.... two Cap 10b's with a very nice color scheme. I saw a very tight formation display. It made me curious to know who flew those planes. So I had a little chat with them.
The Captens is formed by a couple, Marianne Maire-Shaw and Adam Shaw. Marianne is from France and 7 time national French aerobatic champion, has 17 European and World Championship medals. Logged 5000 hours of flight time and is aerobatics instructor, glider, mountain and glacier certified. Adam is from the US and has 4750 hours of flight time and is aerobatic, multi-Engine, IFR, seaplane, instructor-Pilot, mountain, glacier, helicopter, glider qualified. Both Marianne and Adam have written books, Adam has written SOUND OF IMPACT “The Legacy of TWA Flight 514” and Marianne JEUDI 12, Une Vie a l’Envers. Adam has also been a foreign correspondent and staff reporter for the UPI and the Washington Post.
Journalism is a totally different thing than flying. Don't you miss writing Adam?
Adam: “By now, the Mainstream media is mercilessly controlled by big-business trusts in every country. Any attempt at the truth now has to come from outside the usual major newspapers and TV networks. Thank God for Michael Moore, the Internet... and formation aerobatics.”
What might have caught your interest is, she is from France and he from America, now how does a girl from France end up with a guy from the USA?
Marianne: “In November 1993, I came to Florida with part of the French National team to fly in the Breitling Masters at Pompano Beach. Daniel and Montaine, of "French Connection" fame, owned Mudry Aviation up in Flagler. Adam was teaching aerobatics there. We were married in France three months later. Voila!”
The Captens were born in December 2006 through an idea that came from Adam. Why start an aerobatics team after all those flight hours one might ask.
Marianne: “The challenge was enticing to us both.”
Adam: “Why not? More seriously, formation aerobatics, particularly in the mountains, is a Doctorate of aviation. Keeps you sharp.”
The name CAPTENS is of course derived from the plane the Mudry Cap 10b ,a two-seat aerobatic trainer. What is so special about the Cap 10b, since it is a very popular trainer worldwide?
Marianne: “Living in France the CAP is in a way, unavoidable. I learned aerobatics in a Stampe, then quickly progressed to the CAP10b. Later, while on the French team, I flew the best French planes of that era, and then returned, with pleasure, to the CAP 10b for our display team.”
Adam: “I was lucky to learn aerobatics in a CAP 10b at the hands of one of the old "masters," Marcel Charollais. Having instructed other akro planes, I still believe the CAP 10b remains the most demonstrative plane for teaching basics. While utterly safe, it will show a student the fine points -- and mistakes -- of poor coordinatiton, and energy management a lot faster than a quicker-rolling, and more powerful, Pitts or Extra. Plus, 600NM range at 125 Knots, and the ability to land in high-mountain grass strips are pretty impressive for 1960s design!”
The CAPTENS are clearly recognisable by an excellent paint scheme. It is one of the more important aspects of flying airshows in terms of recognisability. The CAPTENS have repainted their Cap10's with an excellent scheme. Who designed this excellent paint scheme?
Marianne: "My youngest brother, Sylvain, a real artist, whom I taught to fly more than 30 years ago."
Seeing a team like the Captens fly a display it seems like they've been doing it forever, but ofcourse it had to start somewhere. What got you two into flying and of course, into aerobatics?
Marianne: “Age 16, I won a demo flight by winning a ski race. That's where the idea first came from. Aerobatics quickly followed.”
Adam: “About 20 minutes into my first flight lesson I discovered that Straight and Level -- like kissing your sister, or skiing on the piste -- was pretty dull.”
The team is based at Annecy airport, close to the Alps and beautiful lake Lac d'Annecy an ideal location for practice. Unfortunately local politics closed down the aerobatic box they had above the airfield, so now they have to go as far as Italy, which includes flying over the Alps. The team explains this decision.
Marianne: “The practice sessions I used to fly here in the past were one of the excuses local politicians used to close the aerobatic box. The official reason was noise 365 days a year.... when I used to fly aboutdays a year.”
Adam: “Many of the local politicos have been "influenced" (I remain polite...) by powerful housing developers. The airport sits on many, many acres of flat land in a mountainous region.”
Talking about practice, I wondered what goes into preparing for an airshow season?
Marianne: “The first year we needed more than 50 hours of practice to begin to even imagine flying a show. Patrick Paris, world aerobatic champion and ex-military pilot, drilled us in the fundamentals. Since then, as soon as one season ends, we begin thinking of how to improve for the following year. During the winter, like musicians, we do "scales," and practice our basic formation maneuvers. In early Spring we fly to St.Yan, France legendary aviation center, where we finalize our routine under the watchful eye of Jacques Aboulin, SEFA Director, but also ex world gliding champion.”
Who is the one that looks up to see if the sky looks good from the ground?
Adam: "We train in airshow conditions under the watchful and innovative eye of our "coach" Jacques... glider guru, warbird demo pilot, ILS-callibrator and all around bird-man.""
The Captens have been doing shows all over Europe, including Switzerland, The Netherlands and ofcourse France. As I said before, the team hasn´t been around for that long, what could be the secret of your success?
Marianne: "The CAP 10b has become a sort of legend, the planes have great markings, and we're a man and a woman."
Adam: "If I had to guess: a woman leader, tight and rythmic display, great smoke and good music... without a lot of time spent regrouping away from show center"
As seen in some of your videos, you ofcourse practice and do displays between the mountains. What is the extra difficulty?
Marianne: "Mountain airfield close formation take offs and landings. To my knowledge no other team in the world does it."
Adam: "Density Altitude turbulence, and no sky-line horizon. For example, our brave 180hp Lycomings actually put out 110 HP when we fly the show at l'Alpe d'Huez on a hot summer day. The lack of emergency landing options is also... interesting."
So it seems that flying between the mountains never gets boring?
Marianne: "Never. It's a bit like the ocean. The sights change every day, as does the weather and the difficulties."
Adam: "Only on February 30th."
The display consists of loops, cloverleafs, stall turns, close passes and a great break, how many G's do you experience during the display?
"Not much because of very careful energy management: +4.5 and -2."
Marianne has 2 daughters who love flying too, what if they decided to start an aerobatics team?
Marianne: "I'd be very proud! For the time being only Caroline has soloed in a CAP 10. We'll therefore have to wait a bit. Remembering how I felt when I taught her to fly, and the day of her solo, I'd be proud but -- to be honest -- also a bit worried."
The 2010 display season has almost started what's in store for the spectators at airshows?
Marianne: "A slightly improved series and, we hope, original music composed by a friend."
Adam: "About 20 shows including ones in Holland, perhaps Luxembourg, Italy, and Swizterland."
Like every team the Captens see it's fair share of airshows, besides performing yourselfs you must see some memorable stuff. What are some of your more memorable moments?
Marianne: "A specially-equipped Pitts landing inverted at Oshkosh. And our demonstration flight in Geneva last summer before crowd of more than 100.000 people in the heart of a city where I'd lived and worked."
Adam: "Sean Tucker when he first started, Jurgis Kairis and Xavier de Lapparent anytime. Impromptu formation of Fred Acari in his Sea Fury and a Swiss Hunter jet at Annemasse in 2008."
Having seen the Captens display on numerous occasions I can tell you that the flying is very tight, you see the experience when they fly. If you have the chance to go see them please do as not only they give a great display but are also very kind people. Do wave or applaud after they landed as pilots do appreciate it when you appreciated their display. Do watch the video at the bottom, it gives a good insight into what the Captens display looks like from the ground and in the air.
One last question, despite all the experience and all those hours. Do you still learn from others?
Adam: "Every day."
Marianne: "The day you stop learning from others you become dangerous."
A big thanks to the Captens team for taking the time to do this interview, below you will find a video the team made. Please visit their website for more info on the team and a display schedule for 2010. http://www.captens.fr