Education: Economics and management, Sevastopol National Technical University
Profession: Aerobatic pilot, financier
Did you know? At the age of 14, he was given an award by a Swedish princess in an international contest for constructing a water desalination device.
When Timur Fatkullin saw an aerobatic plane for the first time, the scene was so magnetic, it was better than the movies, he says. At the age of 11, he was participating in a rock-climbing contest in his native Crimea when he noticed an aircraft gliding between the mountains.
“Who is this person sitting inside?” Fatkullin asked himself.
In the years to come, not only would he meet that exact pilot, who turned out to be a teacher of Fatkullin’s future instructor, but also learn how to fly himself.
Fatkullin’s hometown of Chornomorske didn’t even have a runway. In Sevastopol city, where he moved to study economics at the age of 16, pilot lessons were too costly. So his dream was put on hold until Fatkullin traveled in the United States as a student and visited local aerodromes.
“Aviation is way more accessible there. Many young people fly,” he says.
The experience reignited his interest and, upon his return to Ukraine, Fatkullin enrolled in a private pilot school in Kyiv. After hours of theory and training, he was finally holding a control wheel for the first time.
“The level of freedom and fun is so high,” he says. “The whole space is yours.”
He planned to fly between Kyiv and Crimea, but Russia’s occupation of the peninsula since 2014 ruined his plans. Eager to continue flying, Fatkullin stayed in Kyiv and shifted to aerobatics, quickly mastering some of the most complex maneuvers.
At his first contest, Ukraine’s aerobatics championship in 2017, Fatkullin won silver in the intermediate category. A year later, he was second again in the higher advanced category.
In 2019, Fatkullin, along with his three-member team, represented Ukraine at the World Intermediate Aerobatic Championship in the Czech Republic. In one of the programs called “free unknown,” where a pilot has to perform a set of given maneuvers without preparation, Fatkullin dared to make an unconventional move. He started with one of the hardest maneuvers, flying upside down, and performed remarkably, which won him the title of world champion. In the overall table, Fatkullin scored fourth, while his team won the gold.
After his impressive performance, Fatkullin became the first Ukrainian invited to participate in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, one of the most influential and spectacular aerobatic events. Because of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the contest has been delayed. Still, in 2020, he wasted no time and topped up his qualifications, becoming a licensed instructor and giving private lessons.
Aerobatic pilots get little if any state funding in Ukraine. Equipment and contest fees are often financed by sponsors. The local pilot community mostly consists of older people who can afford the hobby. But Fatkullin dreams of making the sport more accessible and popular. He started by promoting it through Instagram with breathtaking videos of him flying around picturesque Ukraine. Later, he wants to launch his own school, so that other young Ukrainians dreaming of soaring the skies don’t have to struggle with funding but focus on sports. “An athlete has to be an athlete,” he says.
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