Flying a plane might sound difficult for those who don't fly, let alone piloting one at high speed upside down, but for Lt. Col. John Klatt it seems to be, well, easy.
Flipping his blue, two-seater stunt plane over on its top, at 1,500 feet above the ground Thursday in Fort Wayne, he waves to the chase plane beside him. A white plume of smoke billows out behind him. Flipping back over he proceeds to execute a series of barrel rolls. Pulling out of it he waves. His passenger, a young National Guard recruiter, has lost his broad grin and now has a strained smile on his face.
Klatt, who will perform in this weekend's Fort Wayne Air Show at the 122nd Air National Guard Base, started flying when he was 18 and has made it his profession.
A pilot with the Minnesota Air National Guard, the Air National Guard sponsors him, but he runs his air shows as a private citizen.
Traveling across the United States, he and his team of eight do around 18 shows a year. Klatt is also a pilot for United Airlines, but currently is on leave from his job to pursue his precision power aerobatics.
With 25 years of experience, Klatt has flown aircraft ranging from a C-130 Hercules transport to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, he radiates an air of quiet confidence as he talks about flying his Extra 300L aerobatic aircraft. Hours of planning go into the choreography of his 12-minute flight shows. Flying below 1,500 feet, which is the FAA regulation level, Klatt will be maneuvering his monoplane through a series of aerobatics at speeds ranging from 220 mph on the dives to 180 mph on the level.
“I really like doing these shows to encourage young people to learn to fly and because it's good, inexpensive family fun, and these days that's hard to find,” Klatt said.
When the team isn't on the road performing they live in the Twin Cities area.