Most air show performers today thrill crowds by pushing their robust, high-powered aerobatic airplanes through dynamic, tumbling routines pumped up on noise and smoke. And then there is Randy Henderson and his Texas T-Cart, a modified 1946 Taylorcraft. Its 180-hp engine hums as smoke traces his graceful aerial ballet, a performance that hews to the golden era of air shows that finessed the exchange of altitude and airspeed.
One of his inspirations was the late Duane Cole, an iconic air show performer and aerobatic pilot, who became his mentor. Cole also flew a modified Taylorcraft, and when he retired from the sky, he bequeathed his famous dead-stick performance to Henderson; it starts at altitude by shutting down the engine.
Based at the Cotton Patch Aerodrome in Frisco, Texas, Henderson earned his private pilot’s license, while stationed in England as an Air Force medic. Pursuing aviation as a career after discharge, he started by flying cargo in another iconic airplane, the Douglas DC-3. Ultimately, he captioned Boeing 737s for Southwest. For fun, he started flying aerobatics in the 1980s, entering and winning a number of International Aerobatic Club competitions.
Henderson spent two years modifying his stock side-by-side two-seater. It became the Texas T-Cart after he trimmed the wingspan by 8 feet and replaced its stock 65-hp engine. Drawing on 180-hp and the faster roll rate with the 28-foot wing, Henderson developed the signature maneuvers in his performance the crowd will see at Kaboom Town!
The Texas Two-Step is a fishtail hammerhead, a 180-degree turn on the vertical line with the airplane’s nose pointed toward the heavens. The Texas Turn is a 360-degree horizontal circle made without banking the wings. With the smoke system blowing billowing clouds, Randy concludes his performance with the Texas Touchdown, a one-wheel landing.