From flying fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force to performing for millions at airshows, Ed Hamill’s aviation journey has come full circle. At the heart of it all is his passion for honoring the sacrifice of our nation’s heroes and supporting their families.
In an interview with Hartzell Propeller, Col Ed “Hamster” Hamill, USAF (ret) said his interest in aviation was sparked from an early age. His grandfather was a military and corporate pilot, and his grandmother was one of the original 99s. He was inspired to pursue a career in aviation when he heard the roar of a fighter jet at the Chicago Air and Water Show. “From that point forward, the fire was lit,” said Ed. “I knew I wanted to become a fighter pilot.”
Ed earned his PPL and logged a few hundred hours of general aviation flight time before joining the Air Force ROTC in college. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force, where he immediately went into pilot training and was tracked to fly F-16 fighter jets, which he flew for the majority of his 30-year military career.
After two operational tours flying the F-16 in Korea and Germany, Ed returned to the States to instruct pilots in the F-16. During that time, Ed revisited a dream he had put on the back burner: flying in airshows.
“I always knew in the back of my mind that after being a fighter pilot, I wanted to be an air show pilot — and I wanted to fly in a biplane,” Ed said.
So, Ed connected with airshow legend Sean D. Tucker, who became his friend and mentor.
“I remember when I first told Sean I wanted to become an air show pilot,” said Ed. “He told me, ‘No, you don’t. This life is too tough.’ It took about three months of convincing him I was serious, but then he took me under his wing.”
With Sean’s guidance, Ed learned how to skydance and fly competition aerobatics. In the meantime, Ed joined the Air Force Reserve and got back into flying F-16s part-time. This led to a sponsorship opportunity with the Air Force Reserve recruiting service, and soon, Ed was inspiring millions flying his Pitts S-2C biplane at airshows coast-to-coast — including Hartzell’s friends and family airshow.
After seven years of performing professionally, Ed took a step back from airshows while staying active in ICAS as an aerobatic evaluator and show organizer.
“When I sold my biplane, I thought I was done with airshows,” Ed said. “But then I got my airplane back, and the opportunity arose for a partnership that was the right fit at the right time.”
Ed now flies the Folds of Honor Biplane, raising awareness and funds for the charity’s mission to provide educational scholarships to the spouses and children of fallen or disabled military and first responders. Since 2007, Folds of Honor has provided over 44,000 scholarships worth more than $220 million.
“My whole mission is about raising awareness, giving back to the military community, and honoring the American family,” shared Ed. “I use my performance as an opportunity to tell a powerful story and pay tribute to friends of mine who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Hartzell Propeller is proud to support this mission and sponsor Ed Hamill, who chooses to fly behind the aerobatic Claw propeller in his Folds of Honor Biplane.
“No matter what kind of tumbles or gyroscopic maneuvers I do in the biplane, I don’t have to think twice about the reliability and durability of my propeller,” said Ed. “It’s just rock solid.”
You can see Ed and the Folds of Honor Biplane in action at the Bethpage Airshow at Jones Beach, New York, from May 27–28, 2023. Ed is also scheduled to perform at the Gary Airshow and Chicago Air and Water Show later this summer.
In the meantime, be sure to follow along on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook!
Header image: L Grace Aviation Photography