Belle Chasse, La. -- The Screamin’ Sasquatch is one of the main features in the New Orleans Air Show, but I got to go up in the Extra 300L to test-out some of the same maneuvers that the pilots will perform in the Jack Link's Jet Waco this weekend.
The day started by meeting my pilot, Lieutenant Colonel John Klatt (ret.), a veteran of 3 combat tours in Iraq flying F-16s
“It’s been a unique transition for sure," Klatt said. "I’ve kind of been doing them both at the same time for almost my entire flying career.”
With 20 years of air show experience flying aerobatic planes on top of his military experience, I knew I was in good hands.
"We need to talk call signs," I said. "Do you have one?”
“I do, I do," Klatt said. "My call sign is ‘Switch,’ John ‘Switch’ Klatt.”
As I requested a call sign for myself, John explained that they don't just hand those out-- that I needed to earn it. He told me we'd see how the flight went if I would be able to get one at the end.
Now it was time to buckle-up and fit my 5-foot-10-inch frame inside the tiny plane.
The first few minutes we spent climbing to the necessary altitude to perform some tricks, between 1,500 and 3,000 feet, then it was time for the real fun to begin. John began by doing a "seat belt check," or basically inverting the plane as a warm-up. Once he made sure I was OK, we did circles around our chase plane, aileron rolls, snap rolls and a few other maneuvers which he performed with ease. He even let me perform a maneuver on my own, which I reluctantly took the controls on with his encouragement.
“Go, go, go, you can do it," Klatt said, "My hands are up! Keep going. Now bring the nose back up.”
Certainly not your average morning, but it’s all in a day’s work for Klatt, who will perform many of these same maneuvers above the crowds at the New Orleans Air Show this weekend. And as promised, I did get a call sign.
Karen “Stinger” Loftus signing off.