More than one broker has glanced out his window, seen an Air Force jet roar overhead and thought, “If things had worked out a little differently, I could prove that I have the ‘right stuff.’”
Usually, the daydreaming broker just blinks, takes a deep breath and goes back to trading, prospecting and dealing with clients.
Well, Tom Wade is different. The Salomon Smith Barney broker in Newport Beach, Calif., deals daily with the wild fluctuations of the market and has had the thrill of flying Air Force jets — for more than 2,000 hours.
Wade spent 10 years in the Air Force, and the love of flying is still in his blood. In fact, Wade's hobby is high-performance flying in his single-seat, 1,200-pound, 330-horsepower Edge 540 airplane at air shows around the country.
Wade is a three-time California and two-time Arizona aerobatic champion. His specialty is his signature maneuver, The T Tumble, a move in which he calmly cartwheels his plane in front of an audience. He says his roll rate of 450 degrees a second is the fastest on the circuit.
He is also the defending international champion in the unlimited category for the International Aerobatic Club. And that designation means he's the best pilot in the country.
Wade learned to pilot a plane before he could drive a car. He had his first solo flight at age 15 and attended the University of Tennessee on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. He served in bases around the globe and was an F-111 instructor pilot at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico from 1987 to 1992.
His most harrowing experience took place during a mission in Spain (one of 26 countries he has touched down in). While returning from a target run, Wade was informed that his plane was trailing white smoke. His hydraulic pressure was gone, and the plane was running on backup. If the second gauge hit zero, he would have to “punch out” and ditch the plane.
“We kept an eye on the gauge, got the plane back and didn't have to bail,” he says.
Obviously, a guy maneuvering a high-performance plane, with its hydraulic system running on fumes, has the nerves to handle the pitch and roll of the volatile stock market. But don't look for Wade to invite high-net-worth prospects to go for a flight in an effort to earn their business.
“As a broker, I steer away from that,” he says. “They're two separate worlds. I don't like to promote myself that way. I'll admit I've had some associations through what I do, but I don't use it to grow the business.”
Why fly in air shows?
“It's really exciting,” Wade says. “It's quite fantastic. It's something I've wanted to be involved in since I was a teenager.”