Steven’s dad, Steve Hinton (left), is a veteran race pilot, world speed record holder, and movie pilot with a warbird restoration business. He previously
held the title of youngest pilot to win a national championship, until his son claimed the title in 2009.
got to know Steven better as well. So when summer rolled around,
L.D. asked Steven if he’d like to be part of the plane’s race crew at
Reno that year. It was a volunteer position, but Steven was ecstatic.
“The whole time, flying back to Chino, I was elated,” Steven says
with a grin. “And that first year, we ended up having to change a
radiator and two engines in six days. So I learned a lot.”
Over the next four years, Steven alternated between working on
a bachelor’s degree at California State Polytechnic University and
volunteering at Bakersfield. And he went from a neophyte to one of
the most talented mechanics on the crew.
“I started going up there more and more,” he says. “Then, after I
In December, Tiger called Steven’s dad and invited him up to
worked with Mike Nixon that summer [in his engine shop], I kind
of became the assistant engine guy. I stayed with L.D. and his wife
when I was up in Bakersfield, and a lot of times, it was just L.D. and
me working together. So my friendship with him
got really tight, and he came to trust me a lot.”
Steven’s flying skills were also advancing dra-
matically. By 2007, Steven was flying up to
Bakersfield in a T- 6. Tiger also owned a T- 6, and
sometimes L.D. and Steven would fly formation
together, which increased L.D.’s trust in Steven as
a pilot. Steven soon transitioned to flying a
Mustang, and by the end of the year, he had about
50 hours of Mustang time.
fly Strega–and told him he wanted Steven to have a chance to fly
it, as well.
“Tiger knew he wanted to retire from racing,” Steven says, “so
they were looking for another pilot about the time I started flying
the Mustang up there. And when Tiger asked L.D. who he wanted
to have fly the plane, L.D. said, ‘I want Steven to fly it. He does
things our way, he’s worked with us, and his personality fits well
with the team.’ So I think Tiger wanted my dad to fly it first, so he’d
feel more comfortable about me flying it.”
That was, in fact, Tiger’s strategy. But he
also knew that getting Steven’s dad on board
was only half the battle.
“I want Steven
to fly it. He does
things our way.”