Bill Adams was raised on a farm near Watertown, Wisconsin, where he was born on October 11, 1925. His interest in aviation began at an early age. He was working as a crop duster when, in 1948, he saw the famous Cole Brothers Air Show. Watching them inspired him to strive to become an air show pilot. He modified a stock Stearman with a 450-horsepower engine and became a regular performer with the Cole Brothers between 1952 and 1962 before going out on his own. His excellence in precision aerobatics won him the Colonel Joe Mackey Trophy in 1959.
Bill Adams possessed a unique combination of talents that helped him to become the country’s top air show performer throughout much of the 1950s and 1960s. He had the swagger and flair of a natural-born showman, effortless and engaging charm, superior airmanship, and an inherent ability to generate abundant and positive media coverage. He had the full package.
During his fifteen-year air show career, he also helped to professionalize the business. He was among the first to land a national sponsor and flew to each air show site with multiple aircraft and a full team of support professionals. A thoughtful and astute businessman, he embraced a philosophy that allowed performers to both pursue their passion for air show flying and make a decent living at it.
His legacy lives on with the dazzling showmanship of air show pilots who his performances have inspired, and some of the maneuvers he became known for are part of many present-day aerobatic routines. Following his induction into the IGAS Air Show Hall of Fame in 2012, Bill Adams was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013, and the International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame in 2013.
Bill Adam’s was inducted into the Florida Air Museum’s Airshow Pioneers and Innovators in 2012.
–Biography courtesy of the Florida Air Museum