It takes special talent to fly upside down. And Lt. Col. John Klatt of the Air National Guard will do that — and more — as he performs during the HAPO Over the River Air Show today through Sunday as part of Tri-City Water Follies.
The three-day event features two days of hydroplane river racing and air show aerobatics.
The Air National Guard MX-S that Klatt will fly is ultra-maneuverable, made all from carbon fiber. That means it can roll 500 degrees per second, Klatt said.
It requires a delicate touch with the super-responsive throttle for the moves he'll perform during his 12-minute dance through the sky.
Klatt, a professional aerobatics performer, said he's added some new maneuvers to his show, including an inside tumble and a cobra, in which Klatt stops the plane while flying 100 knots so it pinwheels through the sky.
He'll go from flying backward at 60 mph to flying 250 mph, depending on the move. Maneuvers are performed as high up as 3,000 feet and as low as 5 feet, all over the Columbia River.
Klatt said always makes sure he eats something before he performs. He said he doesn't get sick, but he does remember feeling queasy after his first aerobatics lesson. But he said he's used to the motion.
That doesn't mean he hasn't had some scary moments. Klatt has had an aileron -- important in flight control -- come off mid-flight and catastrophic engine failure another time. But he said in both cases, thanks to training and planning, he was able to land the plane.
But that is very rare with high performance airplanes, he said. He has a skilled team, including a mechanic. And his planes are inspected top to bottom daily.
On Thursday afternoon, Klatt got up to have some play time in the one-seater MX-S to find ways to make the air show more entertaining and to perfect new moves.
He does new tricks about 4,000 to 5,000 feet up so there is plenty of extra room if the trick doesn't behave quite right.
That's part of the fun, because there is always something new. "It's pretty limitless," he said.
Video taken during the flight helps him analyze his performance.
Klatt said he's found his niche flying air shows. He serves as a part-time Guardsman in the Minnesota Air National Guard.
Part of his role is promoting the Air National Guard and trying to share the excitement he has about his 24-year career. The Air National Guard is primarily a volunteer force and historically has been able to staff units to deploy with all volunteers, 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 said serving in Iraq gave him a chance to work closely with members from all the branches of the armed services.
But his job now is the fun part -- inspiring the next generation, Klatt said. In addition to the air show each day, he will spend time at the Air National Guard Mobile Experience. The mobile training center is at the east end of Columbia Park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
Klatt will take to the skies about 1:20 p.m. each day of the air show. He's performed during Water Follies several times since 2010.
Joining Klatt will be the four-person Yellow Jackets, a skydiving team performing for the first year.
Members Marshall Scalisi and Darren Johnson are the swoopers, who do high performance canopy parachute landing. They also will create a tunnel of smoke while flying.
Amanda Scheffler and Josh Sheppard will be wearing wing suits, which will allow them to go forward at 90 miles per hour. Scheffler said the suits have wings from the arms to the legs and a leg wing. There are channels sewed with inlets, so when she flies, it is pressurized and creates semi-rigid wings.
"They are going to be covering some ground," Scalisi said.
It will be about a minute before they will open their parachutes, Scheffler said.
They all will be trailing smoke, so "everybody should be able to see us pretty clearly," said Scheffler, the team leader for the Misty Blues, an all-woman skydiving team that previously has performed at Water Follies.
The Yellow Jackets will perform about 11:30 a.m. today through Sunday.
Other air show participants this year are Douglas DC-3 Historic Flight Foundation, Mark Peterson in his Alpha Jet, Gregory Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star, Mark Peterson in his TF-51 Mustang and Renny Price in his Sukhoi-29.
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org