Arlington’s all topsy-turvy

ARLINGTON – Superman might be soaring at the box office, but some real-life superheroes were going up, up and away Friday.

A nonstop flock of small planes whizzed, whirled, and circled not so high over the Arlington Airport.

“I enjoy being totally out-of-control and then being back in control,” stunt pilot and air-show performer Kathy Hirtz said.

Hirtz flies her custom-built Wolf Pitts S-1 biplane at air shows throughout the Northwest and always kicks off the season at the Arlington Fly-In, the largest such event west of the Mississippi.

“I have a unique ability,” she said. “I’ve never been airsick and I enjoy being upside down. It comes natural to me.”

Hirtz is one of about a dozen daredevils who perform at the Arlington show, which continues today and tomorrow.

She said she does “wild and crazy” stuff, pushing her airplane and her body to the limits.

The 53-year-old Creswell, Ore., doctor was inspired to get into flying when she saw the Navy Blue Angels perform in 1974.

At the time, the other pilots told her that women don’t fly jets.

She put her high-flying dreams aside, went to medical school and only a few years ago got a pilot’s license.

Fifteen months later, she was performing for audiences.

Now, she climbs to about 3,500 feet in her plane, then turns its nose to the ground.

“It feels like all the blood is going to your brain and your eyes are going to pop out,” she said.

Her derring-do might just inspire a new generation of pilots.

Sitting in the shade of an airplane wing, Noah Klimisch, 12, of Redmond looked skyward to watch the afternoon air show.

“It’s pretty,” he said. “I like the loop-de-loops.”

Although he said he might be scared to fly upside down, he thought learning to fly would be “pretty cool.”

Dylan Leith, 13, of Gresham, Ore., doesn’t mind flying topside down, in circles or in a barrel roll, corkscrewing through the sky.

In fact, he likes it.

“They’re awesome,” he said. “It’s a rush.”

Leith is co-pilot to family friend Greg Mayotte. The two flew to Arlington in Mayotte’s Aeroduster II biplane.

Like Hirtz, Mayotte pilots his plane through various stunts.

He said he plans to become certified to perform professionally.

In the meantime, he’s content to show up at fly-ins like Arlington’s.

For event organizers, Friday’s blue skies and warm temperatures were welcomed.

The bad weather earlier in the week had clogged airports in Eastern Washington where small planes waited for good weather before crossing the Cascades, event manager Jim Scott said.

He said about 2,000 small planes will touch down in Arlington.

So many were flying in Friday morning, he said, they were landing two at a time.

No one was hurt when a plane crashed near the runway Friday morning, Arlington Fire Chief Jim Rankin said.

Two people got out of the plane and had walked away from the crash by the time rescue crews arrived.

Friday afternoon, as the smell of engine exhaust mixed with the scent of kettle corn, it seemed the most pressing safety concern was sunscreen.

Canyon Ashley, 4, of Meridian, Idaho, piloted a toy airplane around the kid’s play area.

He flew in his father’s Cessna to the event.

“I like airplanes because they go upside down,” Canyon said.

His father even let him steer the plane for a little while on the ride west.

Upside down?

“Thank heavens, no,” Canyon’s mom, Jan, said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

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