Move over, baseball.
If you ask Lt. Col. John Klatt, America’s “greatest pastime” is the high-flying antics of air shows.
Or so he told this reporter as we were thousands of feet in the air, just minutes after doing rolls and spins.
Klatt will join dozens of other pilots, including the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, at the Chippewa Valley Air Show this weekend. The air show starts Saturday and Sunday, with gates opening at 8:30 a.m. and shows kicking off at noon. Friday has smaller events and tours as the show gears up for its annual fun at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.
“I think the air show is going to be fantastic; they’ve got the Blue Angels, looks like wonderful weather…,” Klatt said. “Really, it’s America’s greatest pastime. It’s a great opportunity to come out, spend time with your families, very affordable for the kind of entertainment that you get.”
Aboard the Jack Link’s Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco, spectators can catch a glimpse of Klatt as he rolls, flips, dips and even hangs in the air motionless — a trick that is one of his favorite moves in an airplane he has the opportunity to fly thanks to support from Jack Link’s.
The Link family traces its lineage back to western Wisconsin, when Jack Link’s great grandfather brought over family sausage recipes.
Now the family name flies through the air while Klatt, a veteran with three tours in Iraq flying F-16s, shows off a talent he’s been perfecting since he was 18 years old.
“(It) takes care of people, supports the military, they do the right thing,” Klatt said about Jack Link’s and the company support.
While aboard the Jack Link’s Extra 300L aerobatic aircraft, Klatt showed this reporter a front-seat view of some of the tricks he will be performing this weekend.
While blood rushed to the top of my head, I watched the Chippewa Valley Thursday morning as farmers tended to their precisely plowed fields, residents made their way to work and the stillness of the morning wilderness as it woke up, all from a bird’s – albeit upside-down – point of view.
I can even say I’ve flown an airplane, as Klatt handed me the controls momentarily and walked me through flipping the aircraft in midair.
The vantage point was a spectacular scene that only lasted a few brief, heart-pounding minutes.
It’s a job Klatt has gotten to do for more than 30 years — and one he’s excited to show off to the Chippewa Valley this weekend.
“The best part is the flexibility to do different things,” Klatt said about his work as a pilot. “To meet different people, go travel all around the world, you know, I really enjoy that freedom.”
Meghan Kulig, who does marketing and production for the Chippewa Valley Air Show, encouraged families to bring thier dads to celebrate Father’s Day at the air show.
“It’s really family fun at its best… It celebrates our military, it celebrates our country and it just celebrates aviation,” Kulig said. “Whether you’ve been to 25 air shows or this is your first one – there is so much excitement and it really will leave you with your mouth open.”
Kids ages 12 and under can enter the show for free, as sponsored by CCF Bank, Kulig said, and general admission tickets are $30 before the event and $40 at the gate. The show also has some reserve and presidential seating options available, cost $60 per day and $125 per day, respectively.
For those who prefer to keep their viewing firmly planted on the ground, the air show will also feature static displays, including one of two actively flying B-29 planes left in commission. Attendees can tour the cockpit of the plane for $20, and all funds from the tours will go toward continued care and restoration.
The B-29 is offering pre-reserved rides on Friday and Saturday evening, which Kulig said has been popular among veterans.
That desire to be among the clouds isn’t lost on Klatt.
“I bet you never grow tired of that,” I said to Klatt after our first flip, hanging in the air for seconds that felt like hours.
“Never,” he said.
Chippewa Valley residents can anticipate road closures around the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport throughout the weekend. For more information or for questions regarding the show, visit the air shows website and Facebook page.