In the air for Seafair

SEATTLE — Eat a banana. Or maybe a few Hershey’s Kisses before you get to the airport.

It tastes the same going up as it does going down.

That’s the advice I received before going on the wildest ride of my life at 1,000-feet in the air.

I didn’t eat for 18 hours prior to the flight, just to be safe.

My ride was with Air National Guard Lt. Col. John Klatt earlier this week, as he was getting ready to perform stunts for Seafair starting today in the skies above Seattle.
Klatt plans to fly a total of 20 minutes in aerobatic routines daily at Seattle’s Seafair air show, said Rebecca Brosemer, spokeswoman for the Air National Guard. This is Klatt’s seventh year doing the event.

Klatt began taking flying lessons at 17, then joined the Air National Guard training school in Alabama. As an Air National Guard pilot, he flew combat air patrols over Washington, D.C., and New York for two years after the Sept. 11 attacks and served in three combat deployments in the Middle East.

“It’s great to be back at Seafair,” said Klatt, who now lives in Minnesota.

As crew member Todd Kurth assisted me into the front cockpit of the Air National Guard Extra 300L, reality struck.

He recited a set of safety precautions and evacuation procedures. Those included unlatching my safety belts, jumping into the sky over Seattle and pulling the cord to release my parachute.

“But it won’t happen, so don’t worry,” he said.

The phrase “window seat” took on a new meaning.

I could see all of Seattle from the air and recognized familiar places that we flew over — Puget Sound, the Space Needle and the University of Washington.

A small red button on the plane’s panel piece allows passengers to communicate, and I pushed it to ask Klatt why people compared this, so far peaceful ride, to a roller-coaster.

His laugh echoed through the headphones.

“You might not feel the same pretty soon here,” he said. “Ready to get started?”

My answer was yes, but I think it was a rhetorical question.

Torque rolls, inverted formation, hammerhead turn-around, loops and rolls. We attempted all of them. Surprisingly, none of them required me to use the small, white bag to my right.

For periods of time we flew upside down.

It was a better view of the city, Klatt explained.

G-forces made it difficult to move much, and my body felt heavy, the pressure keeping me locked into my seat.

After a few maneuvers, Klatt asked if I could handle more. Actually it was more of a challenge. We ended with what he called a medium finish.

The Air National Guard crew members seemed impressed as I rambled about the adrenaline rush and the stunts I had survived.

The aerobatics are commonly known stunts in the field and some are Klatt’s personal creations.

“We were flying through our own smoke,” he said.

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