Friday, June 8, 2012

Let's fly, let's fly away

John Klatt, Jeff Boerboon and Free Press reporter Robb Murray.
It's weeks like this one that make me miss my flying days.

The last entry in my flight log book was a long time ago, but spending time around the pilots and aircraft at the Mankato Regional Airport this week as they get ready for the Minnesota Air Spectacular has made it seem like it was just yesterday. I spent plenty of time around airplanes in high school, working as a ramp guy refueling and cleaning flight school aircraft at a small southern Wisconsin airport as an after school job. It was fun and I learned a lot. I even got my private pilot's license and instrument rating while working at the Dodge County Airport in Juneau, Wis. It was great during the week of the EAA air show in Oshkosh, as we were only 26 miles south of it and saw a lot of air show traffic.

I'm not a pilot anymore. I gave up that dream to take pictures for a living. In the end I made the right choice, but weekends like this one make me wish I still had a current flight medical certificate!

Free Press reporter Robb Murray and I went up for a flight with John Klatt and Jeff Boerboon of the Air National Guard aerobatics team Thursday for some aerial photo work and a few aerobatic maneuvers. Well, Robb got to do the aerobatics (but only a few, as his column in today's paper explains). I got to hang out the open back doors of a Beechcraft Bonanza, strapped in with a safety harness, and shoot pictures of Klatt and Boerboon putting their aircraft through its paces. It was a fun experience for me, not quite as much for Robb, even though he had the flying bug for a while in college too.

The Blue Angels arrive in Mankato.
The Blue Angels will get much of the attention this weekend with their F/A-18 jets and impressive aerobatics. But there will be other pilots showing off their skills this weekend that are just as impressive. The Air National Guard team, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and the Oracle team, just to name a few, can precisely control their aircraft and make them do things that I can only watch and appreciate. I look forward to taking pictures of them this weekend.

For both Robb and I the dream of being pilots is long gone. I get to step back into that world once in a while and enjoy what pilots like Klatt and Boerboon can do with an airplane, and appreciate just how difficult it is.

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