All posts tagged 'Airshow'

The Aerobatic Experience of a Lifetime

There is great excitement around Louisville right now. Last weekend Thunder Over Louisville came to our charming little city. Thousands of people gathered around the Ohio River to watch the Blue Angels, Lima Lima Flight team, Trojan Horsemen, Team AeroDynamix, and several other big names in airshow entertainment. It was a sunny day with a slight breeze, the perfect setting for the 25th anniversary of the airshow.

One of these Thunder performers was John Klatt. He is an Air National Guard pilot who proudly flies the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" and C-130 "Hercules" aircraft on combat, air support, and humanitarian missions. In addition to all of this, he is an airshow performer extraordinaire with over 10 years’ experience flying for millions of spectators. In his current routine he flies his MXS in a plethora of twists, turns, and flips at stunning speeds.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to ride along with John and his flight crew for some practice before the big event. I strapped on my parachute and climbed into the front seat of their 300 horsepower Extra 300L. I had not experienced aerobatics previously, so as they secured me with the abundance of harnesses and safety straps I had a brief moment where I was questioning what I was getting myself into. Being born a thrill seeker, I gave a thumbs up to the crew and braced myself for the adventure that awaited us.

After an incredibly speedy liftoff, we flew in close proximity behind John in his single seat MXS. When we reached the practice area he headed north of the Ohio river and we headed south to do maneuvers. We started out simple, with just a dive from 5000’ to gain airspeed and roll into some steep turns. After this we did a hammerhead, loop, and barrel roll. I tried to play it cool but every moment I lost sight of the ground I couldn’t help but grin.

Flying aerobatics is what I believe to be one of the fundamentals of aviation. Humans have always been seeking out the biggest thrills. We question how fast something can go, how high we can fly. Part of human nature is pushing the limits and finding new ways of controlling our surroundings. For years we have been building faster and better aircraft in this pursuit of maximizing our abilities. Maybe I am getting too philosophical with this, but the entire concept of aerobatics beautifully demonstrates the human spirit. Airshows are built around this human adoration of pushing boundaries. The fact that we have created machines capable of such breathtaking feats is worth celebration enough. Add in the remarkable skill and talent of pilots like John Klatt, and you have a perfect display of human intellect and liveliness.

After I hopped out of the Extra 300L, I felt like my eyes had been opened to a whole new world of flying capabilities. The sheer power and agility of the plane shocked me. This truly was an unforgettable experience and I want to thank John Klatt and his team for this opportunity.

Your Guide to Summer Aviation Fun

After months of freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and grounded airplanes it’s nice to finally have some warm weather in the forecast. What better way to embrace the end of winter than to begin planning for summer aviation activities? The number of events that await your attendance this summer is both exciting and a little overwhelming. I hope to help give you a quick reminder of the major events, as well as introduce you to some that are lesser-known but well worth looking into.

Airshows

There is nothing better on a warm summer day than to go to an airshow. You can grab a cold drink, wear a sun-blocking hat, and watch beautiful aircraft dazzle you from the flight line. Listening to the buzz of the engines and hearing the enthusiastic announcer awakens the love of aviation that is inside all of us. Last year was a difficult one for the Airshow industry, but thankfully things are looking hopeful for 2014.

The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels are back in action, ready to woo audiences in their tours around America. The patriotic and awe-inspiring pilots will be at several locations during the spring and summer, so visit their websites to get more information on this can’t-miss show.

Classic airshows for summer fun are being held at AirVenture and SUN 'n FUN. However, most states host at least one local airshow during the year, several hosting more.  The Globalair.com Aviation Events calendar can help you find your nearest show, and give you an idea of what is going on around the world.

Fly-Ins

For pilots who are itching for a change of scenery, a fly-in is a great option. Many airports and aviation organizations host fly-ins, which usually involve great food. Most EAA Chapters host monthly pancake breakfasts which are open to the public and feature speakers or activities that are of interest to aviators. These events are great for meeting other friendly pilots, and enjoying a relaxing summer’s Saturday.

I have recently come across a couple of truly unique fly-ins that would be unforgettable to attend. The International Seaplane Fly-In in Greenville, Maine is designed specifically for those with an interest in seaplane operations. Beautiful Moosehead Lake is the setting for the graceful seaplanes and visitors are close enough to town to explore the unique shops and restaurants of Maine. The Cessna 150-152 Fly-In in Iowa celebrates the most loved basic training aircraft. The small Cessna has been the starting point of a life in aviation for nearly 60 years. Over 100 of the aircraft will be flying into the heartland of America for this event.

Conferences

If the weather gets too hot for you, there are plenty of indoor conferences going on this summer. The Ninety-Nines are hosting their annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana during the month of June. The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering is happening the first week in May. If there is an area of aviation that you find particularly interesting, there’s very likely a conference happening which covers it. There is even a NBAA Business Aviation Taxes Seminar happening in May. These seminars and conferences offer the perfect environment to learn new skills, network within your industry, and have a great time.

Other Happenings

In addition to all of the fun events already covered, there are plenty of unique activities going on if you know where to look. The 6th Annual 1940’s WWII Era Ball is happening June 14th in Colorado. Visiting this amazing ball has always been on my bucket list. For pilots who want a good challenge this summer, the Arizona Rumble in the Desert is a self-proclaimed “back country Olympics.” Competitions include short field landing, short field takeoff, power off approach, spot landing, and flour bombing.

Last but not least, there are always aviation summer camps. Many are available for all ages, but I cannot think of a more perfect way to introduce today’s youth to aerospace than a fun week of learning. These can get a little expensive, but there are scholarship opportunities available for most. AOPA has compiled a good list, but doing some quick Google searches around your area may help find one that is not listed.

Hopefully this quick list has helped you get excited for all the events happening this summer. It’s almost time to shake the ice off, pack some snacks, and enjoy beautiful summer weather!

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