KENNEWICK -- Lt. Col. John Klatt makes his aerobatic plane zoom like a toy in a child's hand.
Again and again, he rotates the blue and white Air National Guard plane through the air as a trail of smoke draws a pattern of his movements across the sky.
On Wednesday, Klatt guided his Panzl S-330 stunt plane into a tumble, the plane rotating tail over nose. The 43-year-old pilot said that's his favorite stunt.
Klatt's performance is one of six scheduled during the Hapo Over the River Air Show during Tri-City Water Follies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
He was putting the new Panzl through its tricks on Wednesday, although it's not the one people will see him fly in the show. It was just delivered a week ago and Klatt said he's still learning all the plane's idiosyncrasies.
Instead, Klatt, one of the top aerobatic pilots in the country, will fly an Air Guard Staudacher S-300D for the air show, which is very similar to the Panzl.
Both can go up to 250 mph, have a wingspan of about 24 feet and weigh about 1,250 pounds.
That means the plane weighs less than a Honda Civic, Klatt said.
But in the air, he makes it look weightless.
Klatt is a professional aerobatic performer and has competed in unlimited class aerobatics, the highest difficulty level. While he said he hasn't competed lately, he's been thinking about starting again.
Klatt does 20 air shows a year with his Air National Guard team. He also flies an F-16 Fighting Falcon for the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn., and works for a commercial airline.
Aerobatic planes are made for entertainment, while F-16s are built for military missions, Klatt said. He flew F-16s during three tours in Iraq, in 2005, 2007 and 2009 for several months each. He also flew C-130 military transports during Operation Desert Storm in 1990.
Klatt joined the Air National Guard 21 years ago because he's been interested in airplanes since childhood when his father, an aircraft mechanic, took him to air shows.
One of those was a show that pilot Greg Poe put on near Klamath Falls, Ore. Klatt said the grace, beauty, music and smoke of the performance made it stand out.
Klatt already had his pilot, flight instructor and commercial pilot licenses before he joined the Air Guard, a reserve of the Air Force.
He believes his aerobatic team has made a difference in recruiting and retention for the Air Guard.
In addition to this weekend's performances, the Air Guard will have a flight simulator at Columbia Park in Kennewick. And information will be available about the Air Guard, which includes almost 200 careers.
The air show will run from 11 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday during breaks in the unlimited hydroplane boat racing.
Klatt's performance, scheduled for 3 p.m. each day, will include 21 maneuvers done anywhere from 10 to 3,000 feet from the ground.
Scott Meyer, Water Follies air show director, said, "It's the best air show we've had in recent history."
He said the best viewing places will be in Columbia Park on the Kennewick side and across the Columbia River in Pasco between Roads 49 and 54.
In addition to Klatt's plane, the show will feature Air Force F-16s, Navy F-18s and a T-33 jet from the Korean War-era, he said.
Other performers include Bill Stein in his Edge 540, and Noel Jones flying Bad Yak, a modified Russian-built Yak 52. There also will be a B-2 Stealth bomber fly-by.
Klatt said performing offers a chance to express himself and his love for flying. He hopes children in the audience and those with a passion for flight will connect with it.
And they may find themselves watching in amazement as Klatt files upside-down, with the Staudacher's belly pointed at the sky.
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; email@example.com