Imagine a beautiful August summer day. You’re sitting on a comfy blanket, surrounded by the emerald green grass. The sun glistens off the concrete tarmac before you. Your family sits with you, looking up with a big grin. A cool breeze blows on your face and makes your hair flutter. The ambient noise of the other families giggling around you fills the air.
Their laughter is swiftly cut off by the whir of a pair of airplanes racing through the sky right above you!
These planes belong to Stephen Christopher and Todd Rudberg, two incredibly talented pilots who make up Undaunted Airshows. But how did these two daredevils become renowned airshow pilots? We’ll explore the thrilling tale of Undaunted Airshows below.
Todd Rudberg was born into aviation. “My dad had a private pilot’s licence and wanted to become a certified flight instructor. He bought a Taylorcraft and got stuck babysitting me, so I would sit in the back seat as an infant,” explains Todd. “The first thing a duckling sees it loves and follows,” he continues, “I’ve loved aviation from the beginning.”
Stephen’s love of flight was also instilled in him early on. “I lived not too far from a grass strip. I would see the airplanes flying overhead, and my curiosity overwhelmed me. I got on my bicycle and chased them down until I ended up at the grass strip. I spent that first summer day watching the airplanes come and go,” explains Stephen, who was instantly inspired by the magic of flight. “From that day forward, if I hear an airplane, I look for an airplane.”
Stephen and Todd met through Blackjack Squadron. “Doing some of the air-to-air and dogfighting was where Todd and I spent a lot of time together,” tells Stephen.
Stephen describes that before the COVID-19 pandemic, he had a “pretty active airshow schedule.” The pandemic gave both pilots a lot of idle time where the idea to do an airshow together was born. “Todd gave me a phone call and said he wanted to pursue doing some loops and rolls, some formation stuff, and that he’d like to develop that into an airshow,” explains Stephen. “We spent that COVID summer working to develop our profiles, loops, rolls, and separations, and we put together the makings of an airshow.”
Stephen recounts, “we worked with Ross Granley, who was a Royal Canadian Armed Forces Snowbird pilot, and he mentored us. By the end of the summer, we had gotten our certifications, and we were fortunate enough to get one of the very few shows that happened that year.”
The pilots settled on a name for their show based on one of Todd’s defining experiences. Todd remembers landing on a small asphalt strip with vast forests on either side. As he landed, he looked to his left to see an elk running parallel to his airplane.
“As soon as I saw her, we made eye contact, and she cut straight across the runway! Time slowed down, and I literally went through every control and every lever in the airplane, and the only thing I could think of was to pin it. The plane lifted up just enough that I only hit the elk with my prop and my left gear. The engine felt like it was going to come off! I cut the power and started relanding it,” explains Todd, thinking he had saved the airplane. “But I look again, and there’s another elk!”
“This time, a giant bull hit me right on the wing tip. It destroyed that airplane, but neither my friend nor I suffered a single scratch. It was my birthday shortly after that, and my friend gave me two bottles of wine,” Todd continues. “She said I could drink them both when I finished building my next airplane. One bottle had a picture of an elk on it, and it said undaunted on the label, so we decided to name my next airplane Undaunted.”
When it was time to name their airshow, Todd suggested calling it Undaunted Airshows, which Stephen loved.
Stephen always wants to captivate the younger aviation enthusiasts. “We’re performing for the entire audience, but we hope to inspire the kids and show them the wonders of flight. It’s an inspirational opportunity for kids to look up, see, wonder, and then pursue; it’s great fun.”
Todd has a similar outlook. A pilot named Bud Granley (a noted airshow performer and the father of Ross Granley) was a massive inspiration to Todd when he was young, and he wants to encourage the next generation. “These poor kids are just staring at their boxes all day long, and if they could get their heads out of their screens and see that there’s a real world out there and it’s way more fun to interact physically than virtually, yeah, that’d be cool.”
Undaunted Airshows is thrilled to join us at the 2023 Alberta International Airshow! “Alberta’s motto is Fortis et Liber which I think is super cool,” explains Todd. Fortis et Liber is Latin meaning strong and free. “We think the same way, and we’re really stoked to be a part of the show.”
Don’t miss Stephen and Todd’s thrilling performance on August 5th and 6th at the Villeneuve Airport!