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Aerobatic competition enhances father-son bond January 11, 2013

Editor’s Note: The Arizona Republic’s Chandler edition in 2007 published an article about my Dad, Pat Murphree, and brother, Curt. It’s about their aerobatic flying written by Jim Walters. Since this week I’ve been talking about Dad’s flying adventures in Julie’s Fresh Air, I republish this story here. Currently, he trains young aspiring pilots to get their wings. He’s still in the mortgage business. If you need help in that area call Curt at 602.989.0787.


Aerobatic competition enhances father-son bond  


Mar. 16, 2007 12:00 AM

By Jim Walters 

Curt Murphree spends his weekdays helping people reach their dreams of home ownership. On weekends, his own dreams carry him on the wind to the freedom of a world above the horizon.The 37-year-old Chandler mortgage banker never had a chance when it came to falling in love with aviation. 

His dad, Pat Murphree, used to strap him in as a young boy when the pair would take the family plane to look over their cotton farm in Maricopa. Most of the growers in those days were pilots. 


Pat was fascinated by the maneuverability it took to command a plane and it led him to become a founding member of the Phoenix Aerobatic Club.Aerobatic flight is described by the Federal Aviation Administration as any maneuver not necessary for “normal” flight. In many cases it involves learning ways to get out of trouble if you get into it.

Pilots learn basics like the slow roll, inverted flight, the hammerhead turn, the inside loop and the spin. Most are flown near full power while on the edge of a stall.

“It’s made me a better and safer pilot,” Curt said. “It’s not stunt flying. It involves a lot of precision and focus.

“That’s the environment I grew up in. I am an aviation fanatic for sure.”

He earned his private license at age 18 and a year later was competing against his father and others in aerobatic competitions similar to the Copperstate Championships that start today at the Coolidge Municipal Airport.

The competitions used to be at the Chandler Airport but moved out as more residents have moved in. The airport still continues to be one of the most active aerobatic and sport plane training facilities in the world.

Curt keeps his pride and joy, a Pitts performance aircraft, at one of the airport hangars only three miles from his home. Having a Pitts is similar to owning an Aston Martin; it provides the high performance a skilled pilot needs for more difficult maneuvers.

Curt and his dad still kibitz about the times in the late 1980s and early ’90s when the youngster regularly beat his dad in the sky wars.

Pilots earn points from judges for their ability to follow the lines of what is called “The Box” (a course map on the ground). Having a top ‘critiquer’ as a partner can be crucial.

“When you’re practicing, you need to have someone critiquing you from the ground,” Curt said. “My dad would critique me and I would critique him.”

“I was the best ‘critiquer’,” Pat said with the hint of a good-natured jab at his son.

“He tells everybody that,” Curt said. “I got pretty spoiled beating him most of the time, but I always gave him that.”

Curt talks about possibly returning to competition, but for now he’s happy just to soar like a bird.

“I mean, how cool is this?” he said. “Being able to just point your plane up into the air and then go into a loop. Talk about the freedom of flight. It kind of gets in your blood.”

Or in Curt’s case, you might say it’s in the genes and in the jeans.

Jim Walters has had ties to Valley sports since 1978. He can be reached at email hidden; JavaScript is required.



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