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.